NRC Asks Nuclear Reactor Owners for Damage-Plan Information

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is asking reactor owners for additional information on their preparations for dealing with disasters, agency Chairman Gregory Jaczko said.

The NRC wants to know more about how the plants will “deal with the potential damage of large areas of the plant,” Jaczko said today at a nuclear-energy conference in Washington. Such plans are required by regulations adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he said.

U.S. regulators and lawmakers are examining the safety of nation’s 104 nuclear reactors after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The natural disaster destroyed power lines and flooded emergency diesel generators at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant.

The NRC request for information is “part of our overall review triggered by Fukushima,” Eliot Brenner, an agency spokesman, told reporters today.

The agency is expanding oversight beyond the strategies themselves to training, maintenance and availability of machinery and staff to carry out the plans, according to a statement.

Fuel rods at the stricken Fukushima plant overheated when electricity to run cooling systems was disrupted. The fires, explosions and radiation leaks that followed set off the world’s worst nuclear incident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Equipment and Workers

U.S. plant operators must confirm to the NRC by June 10 that they have equipment and workers in place and available to carry out their disaster plans, according to the statement. By July 11, they must explain their testing procedures and how they re-evaluate their strategies when plant configurations or conditions change, as well as how they coordinate with local emergency responders.

In March, the NRC started a 90-day safety review after the disaster at the Fukushima plant, about 135 miles (217 kilometers) north of Tokyo.

Jaczko said last month that changes might be needed at U.S. plants so they’re better prepared for a “station blackout,” when cooling systems are cut off from the power grid and diesel generators fail.

The industry’s own checks found some plants aren’t fully prepared for an aircraft hitting their reactors, Nuclear Energy Institute Chief Executive Officer Marvin Fertel said yesterday.

The inspections, which were independent of the NRC’s review, detected a few instances where equipment was stored in the wrong location and workers hadn’t received updated training, Fertel said. The institute is a trade group representing reactor operators.

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