Nuclear Safety Plan May Cost $100 Million, Industry Says

The U.S. nuclear-power industry will spend about $100 million to install emergency equipment, including portable generators and pumps, at power plants, an industry official said.

The industry’s strategy to deal with power failures, similar to those that crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant a year ago, may cost an average of $1 million or more for the 104 U.S. operating reactors, Charles Pardee, chairman of the Washington-based industry group committee studying the response to the disaster, said.

The proposal by reactor owners provided the “greatest safety benefit in the shortest amount of time,” Tony Pietrangelo, senior vice president for the Nuclear Energy Institute, said today at a press conference in Washington. The cost would be “in the ballpark” of $100 million, he said.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week may issue its first orders to improve reactor safety in response to the meltdown of three reactors in Japan, triggered by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. One of the orders will require reactor owners including Exelon Corp. and Southern Co. to have a strategy in place for handling power failures.

A draft of the NRC’s order mirrors the proposal, Pietrangelo said. Reactor owners would place commercial-grade equipment at plants and rely on several “regional centers” to provide back-up assistance in an emergency, according to Pardee, also chief operating officer for Exelon subsidiary Exelon Generation Co. A cost-sharing agreement among owners would cover costs, he said.

The industry is “working in concert” with the NRC, though it is “not waiting” on safety rules from regulators to take action, Pardee said.

Reactor-owners have obtained or ordered more than 300 pieces of equipment, according to a statement released today.

Though the NRC may impose additional safety requirements at plants, the investment in emergency equipment is a “financial risk worth taking,” he said.

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