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NRC May Defer Fukushima Safety Action After Ostendorff’s Vote

Nuclear Regulatory Commission member William Ostendorff opposed acting within 90 days on recommendations by an agency task force for a new regulatory framework in response to Japan’s nuclear disaster.

Acting now to revamp the agency’s approach to rule-making “will distract the NRC from timely and responsive action on” other recommendations “that would enhance safety in the near term and are ripe for execution,” Ostendorff said.

Ostendorff said in a statement released today that he had “significant reservations” about moving forward too quickly. Gregory Jaczko, the commission’s chairman, called on July 18 for the commission to consider by mid-October which recommendations to consider. Ostendorff’s vote may have established a majority to block Jaczko’s timetable.

Commissioners William Magwood and Kristine Svinicki already had said they had reservations about moving too quickly on the task force report, dated July 12, that encouraged an increase in oversight of safety procedures at 104 commercial U.S. plants. The agency is reviewing reactor safety after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, triggering meltdowns and radiation releases.

Jaczko has urged implementing new regulations within five years.

Magwood, Ostendorff and Svinicki “have done this country a tremendous disservice in their collective votes to ensure that the NRC will not lead efforts to ensure the safety of the nuclear industry sector,” Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a statement today.

Congress should act to ensure that nuclear plants take action to protect against floods, recover from on-site blackouts and ensure that some older reactors have hardened venting systems, Senator Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, told a meeting of the task force at NRC headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, today.

“Should the NRC delay, I would urge the Congress to take action,” he said.

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