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NRC May Urge Swift Action on Reactor Quake, Flood Safeguards

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission may require power-plant owners to act quickly to re-evaluate safeguards against earthquakes and floods.

The agency’s staff discussed with industry and environmental officials today six recommendations of an NRC task force to improve safety. Among proposals being considered “without unnecessary delay” are disaster safety and a requirement for sturdier venting systems at aging reactors, according to a document distributed at the meeting.

The NRC may adopt rules after an earthquake and tsunami in March led to meltdowns and radiation leaks at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. An NRC task force in July recommended taking steps at U.S. reactors, including improving the ability of plants to handle natural disasters and power losses. A 5.8-magnitude temblor near Dominion Resources Inc.’s North Anna plant in Virginia on Aug. 23 may have caused ground motion that exceeded the station’s design, the NRC said Aug. 29.

“Our goal is to get the task force recommendations into our normal regulatory processes,” Eric Leeds, the NRC’s director of the office of nuclear reactor regulation, said at the meeting held in agency headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.

The NRC’s staff will notify the commission by Sept. 9 which task force recommendations the agency should consider without delay. By Oct. 3, the staff is to set a priority for action.

The Nuclear Energy Institute wouldn’t support a task-force recommendation to re-evaluate seismic and flooding protections every 10 years, said Adrian Heymer, director of strategic programs at the Washington-based industry group.

“We don’t think you should wait 10 years,” he told NRC officials. “If you get new information you should act on it and move ahead.”

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