U.S. NRC Blog

Transparent, Participate, and Collaborate

NRC in Communication with Japanese Regulators

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission continues to monitor the unfolding developments in Japan in the aftermath of Friday’s earthquake/tsunami and problems at a nuclear power complex. It is a serious and very fluid situation that is being watched by a variety of government agencies who can provide assistance. The NRC is prepared to provide reactor experts should a request be made. In our communications with the Japanese government both the NRC and other elements of the U.S. government have offered our condolences to the Japanese people over the tragedy that has occurred.

The NRC’s Rockville, Md., headquarters Operations Center is operating on an around-the-clock basis.

The NRC is not in a position to confirm reports that come from Japan on a minute by minute basis and it would be irresponsible of the agency to speculate on a crisis unfolding half a world away. We will provide information we consider pertinent domestically when necessary.

Nuclear power plants are built to withstand environmental hazards, including earthquakes. Even those plants that are located outside areas with extensive seismic activity are designed for safety in the event of such a natural disaster.

The NRC requires that safety-significant structures, systems, and components be designed to take into account the most severe natural phenomena historically reported for the site and surrounding area. The NRC then adds a margin for error to account for the historical data’s limited accuracy. In other words, U.S. nuclear power plants are designed to be safe based on historical data from the area’s maximum credible earthquake.

One of the items we have been asked about is how does a boiling water reactor operate. For background information on generic operations at a  boiling water reactor, including an animated graphic, visit the NRC’s website at www.nrc.gov .

Eliot Brenner
Office of Public Affairs Director

10 responses to “NRC in Communication with Japanese Regulators

  1. Chuck Hoffheiser March 13, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    This may be an absolutely crazy and unworkable idea, but given the seriousness of the reactor situation in Japan, I’ll offer it to the experts trying to cool off and shut down the reactors. If it has any merit, and if someone at NRC is monitoring this blog today, perhaps you could transmit my idea to the NRC experts in Japan.

    Could we outfit helicopters with the fire-fighting water carrying devices often used in wildfires in the US? Is there any way these “water-helicopters” could be used to slowly release water into the reactor containment structures? Various reports say Japanese crews are pumping seawater into the structures, and maybe this is a way to supplement the amount of water and add it more quickly. Additionally, if there are any mid-air refueling Air Force planes close-by, could they be filled with water rather than jet fuel, then used for the same purpose?

    Naturally, the crews would have to be outfitted with complete radiation protection, and that might make this idea unworkable. And the aircraft could be contaminated with radiation, making them unuseable for a long time, another reason this idea isn’t workable.

    Thanks for keeping us informed. (Personal information removed by moderator)

    • Moderator March 13, 2011 at 3:23 pm

      The NRC is willing to offer our advice and guidance to the Japanese authorities and we stand by ready to assist should that be requested.

  2. Carl Paperiello March 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Thanks for the nice BWR diagrams. I also used your search line to get an NRC reactor concepts manual. As a former NRC staffer, I find myself explaining this event to neoghbors and people at church.

    I would classify this event as INES-5 not 4. Site doses appear to be somewhat higher than I recall from TMI and I do not recall seeing Cs-137. Also, from the reports I am seeing,I am not sure if the secondary containment building, the reactor building, was really damaged or just the blow out panels went.

    Good luck and my prayers to those working this situation and the Japanese.

  3. Scott Brooks March 13, 2011 at 10:34 am

    There has been reports on radiation levels by the media that has described levels of radiation. However, I have not seen the data that shows the actual radiation levels using any type of unit of measurements. Nor has there been information on radiation levels in respect to location. Who is responsible to show this information, since it seems that this is the important information and it bypasses any subjectivity on radiation levels.

    • Moderator March 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm

      This situation is an ongoing crisis for the Japanese authorities, who have primary responsibility for handling it. Importantly, though, all available information at this time indicates that no harmful levels of radiation from the damaged Japanese nuclear plants is expected to reach the U.S.

      • Scott Brooks March 13, 2011 at 7:39 pm

        Thank you for the quick response. Is the information that you are referencing about radiation levels available to the general public? If so, where or how can others locate this information?

  4. Greg Yuhas March 12, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    The amount of miss-information being provided by media experts is of concern. What is NRC doing to encourage the IAEA to explaing the situation at Japan’s reactors in the context of the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES)?

    • Moderator March 12, 2011 at 9:09 pm

      The NRC has been in contact with IAEA throughout the events and earthquake aftermath in Japan. Via IAEA communication, NRC has received information and reports from Japan. IAEA and Japan are exchanging information and it is up to them to develop INES information and communicate it to the public.

%d bloggers like this: