Japan Task Force Report Now Public

While finding that events like the Fukushima accident are unlikely at U.S. reactors and U.S. reactors can be operated safely, the NRC’s Japan Task Force report made public today proposed improvements in a variety of areas, including “loss of power” response, spent fuel pools and preparedness for natural events.

The report has been given to the Commissioners, who will be formally briefed on it next Tuesday. On July 28, the task force will hold a public meeting on the report, and members will appear before the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards on Aug. 17. Additional meetings may be scheduled to seek public input on the recommendations. Any action on the report’s recommendations is up to the Commission.

The report, which noted that over the years “patchwork of regulatory requirements” developed and suggested it be replaced with a more logical, systematic and coherent regulatory framework, was produced by team of in-house experts who collectively had over 130 years of reactor regulatory experience. This report will be followed about six months later by a more in-depth report as additional information about the Fukushima reactors becomes available.

Other highlights from the report:

The current NRC approach to regulation includes requirements for protection and mitigation of design-basis events, requirements for some “beyond-design-basis” events through regulations, and voluntary industry initiatives to address severe accident issues. “Consistent with the NRC’s organizational value of excellence, the Task Force believes that improving the NRC’s regulatory framework is an appropriate, realistic and achievable goal.”

Continued operation and continued licensing activities do not pose an imminent risk to public health and safety, the report added.

The report, among other things, recommends:

• Requiring plants to reevaluate and upgrade as necessary their design-basis seismic and flooding protection of structures, systems and components for each operating reactor and reconfirm that design basis every 10 years;

• Strengthening Station Black Out (SBO) mitigation capability for existing and new reactors for design-basis and beyond-design-basis natural events – such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes or tsunamis – with a rule to set minimum coping time without offsite or onsite AC power at 8 hours; establishing equipment, procedures and training to keep the core and spent fuel pool cool at least 72 hours; and preplanning and pre-staging offsite resources to be delivered to the site to support uninterrupted core and pool cooling and coolant system and containment integrity as needed;

• Requiring that facility emergency plans address prolonged station blackouts and events involving multiple reactors;

• Requiring additional instrumentation and seismically protected systems to provide additional cooling water to spent fuel pools if necessary; and requiring at least one system of electrical power to operate spent fuel pool instrumentation and pumps at all times. The Task Force noted it will take some time for a full understanding of the sequence of events and condition of the spent fuel pools. The report said based on information available to date the two most cogent insights related to the availability of pool instrumentation and the plant’s capability for cooling and water inventory management;

• Requiring reliable hardened vent designs in boiling water reactors (BWRs) with Mark I and Mark II containments;

• Strengthening and integrating onsite emergency response capabilities such as emergency operating procedures, severe accident management guidelines and extensive damage mitigation guidelines.

The full report can be found here: http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1118/ML111861807.pdf. Broad recommendations are contained in the Executive Summary, and details on recommendations can be found in Appendix A.

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director