Available Information Points to No Radiation Risk to U.S. From Damaged Japanese Plants

We are working with other U.S. government agencies to monitor the situation in Japan — and to monitor for radioactive releases and to be prepared to predict their path. Fortunately, all the available information at this time indicates weather conditions have taken the small releases from the Fukushima reactors out to sea away from the population.

And, importantly, given the thousands of miles between Japan and us – including Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. territories and the U.S. West Coast – we are not expecting to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity here. We would like to repeat — we are not expecting to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity here.

As expected, we are getting a lot of questions from people who are seeking information about developments at Japanese reactors. We understand the need for information, but we are not able to comment on the situation. It is an ongoing crisis for the Japanese and they have primary responsibility for handling it and communicating about it. But please stay tuned to this blog for the latest information we can provide.

Thank you for reading our blog. Remember to look at yesterday’s post about how you can help Japan in this crisis with donations.

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director

How Can You Help?

The NRC is getting questions from people who want to know how they can help the Japanese people affected by the earthquake and tsunami. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is encouraging those who wish to help Japanese residents to do so with cash donations to reputable organizations working in the affected areas.

USAID is directing individuals to www.interaction.org for a list of non-governmental NRC staff in HQ Operations Centerorganizations that are responding to humanitarian needs.

In addition, the American Red Cross has established operations to receive donations through text message. Individuals can contribute by texting “redcross” to 90999.”

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director


Photo: NRC staff work in the agency’s HQ Operations Center in the days following the Japanese event.

Where to Get Accurate Information on the Japanese Situation

Two NRC officials with expertise in boiling water nuclear reactors have deployed to Japan as part of a U.S. International Agency for International Development (USAID) team. USAID is the federal government agency primarily responsible for providing assistance to countries recovering from disaster.

Even with “boots on the ground” in Japan it’s not appropriate for us to provide information on the status of that country’s nuclear power plants. Check back to this blog or www.nrc.gov for updates on what actions we’re taking. Other good sources of information are:

USAID — http://www.usaid.gov/

U.S. Dept. of State — http://www.state.gov/

FEMA — www.fema.gov

White House — www.whitehouse.gov

Nuclear Energy Institute — www.nei.org

International Atomic Energy Agency — www.iaea.org/press/

For those calling to offer your advice or guidance on how this situation should be handled, rest assured that some of the most expert people in this field in the world work for the NRC and we are here to help if asked.

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director

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

NRC Offers Condolences to Japan

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko offered his condolences to all those in Japan affected by the tragic earthquake and tsunami today and stated that the agency “is ready to provide whatever assistance we can to our Japanese counterparts should there be a specific request.”

The NRC continues to monitor events and coordinate with other federal agencies. The declaration of an “unusual event” at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in California due to a tsunami risk remains in effect and the NRC’s regional office in Texas continues to monitor the situation.

More information on the status of the Japanese nuclear power plants is available through the website of the International Atomic Energy Agency, an arm of the United Nations.

The NRC will continue to provide information about its actions here and on the NRC website, as appropriate. Please note, we will not be posting comments to our blog that speculate about the nuclear power plant emergency in Japan.

Eliot Brenner
Office of Public Affairs Director

NRC Monitoring Earthquake and Tsunami

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, other top officials and nuclear experts at the NRC headquarters office and the Incident Response Center in our regional office in Texas are closely monitoring the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Chairman Jaczko said this: “The NRC resident inspectors who work at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo, Calif., are at the plant and working closely with plant personnel as they take appropriate precautions.”

Although not in a location that would likely be directly impacted by a possible tsunami, the NRC is also monitoring the San Onofre nuclear power plant, the Humboldt Bay spent fuel storage site and NRC-regulated nuclear materials sites in Hawaii and Alaska. All the sites tell the NRC they are prepared for possible tsunami effects.

The nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon, operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., did declare an “unusual event,” this morning — a designated based on NRC event classification requirements. The plant operators report that the facility is stable. And the plant is well protected against tsunami conditions as required by NRC regulations.

In fact, all nuclear power plants are built to withstand environmental hazards, including earthquakes. Even those plants that are located outside of 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.

More information about seismic protections at nuclear power plants can be found here: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/fs-seismic-issues.html.

Eliot Brenner
Office of Public Affairs Director

Easier, More Comprehensive Search Available on NRC Website

Ever since the NRC introduced the Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS), the improvement most often requested has been the ability to easily search everything that’s publicly available from one simple search string.

We heard you. And now you can retrieve documents, news, and other information from the NRC’s entire public web site, including the documents in ADAMS, with a single search. Providing this simplified search is one of many things we are doing as part of our Open Government Plan to increase transparency, participation, and collaboration.

To use this new search capability, you simply enter one or more words in the “Google Custom Search” box located in the upper-right corner of each NRC Web page, and click the Search button.

Your search results will include not just Web pages but also relevant documents in the large collection of more than 665,000 publicly available ADAMS documents. Also included in the search are more than 2 million bibliographic citations (some with abstracts and full text) from the older Public Legacy Library collection. Search Help is located at the top of your NRC Search Results page to help you search effectively.

In addition, the NRC has also introduced new versions of both the simple and advanced search options dedicated solely to ADAMS documents. Particularly valuable for advanced searching, the new ADAMS search tool lets you refine your search selections to include or omit ADAMS documents containing specific words or phrases or matching specific properties (author, document type, docket/license number, date ranges, etc.).

If you have questions about any of the new search features or you need help to develop an effective search, the reference librarians in our Public Document Room are available to assist.

We hope you find the new search capabilities easier to use and we welcome your feedback via comments to this post.

Margie Janney
Deputy Director, Information and Records Services Division