NRC Revising Approach to Japan Lessons-Learned Recommendations

Recent developments have given us the opportunity to improve on our goal of implementing the agency’s Japan Near-Term Task Force recommendations by 2016. You can get an up-close view of a meeting Friday between senior NRC managers and industry executives as we lay out the NRC’s new implementation approach.

When Congress passed a bill funding the NRC through fiscal 2012, it added specific instructions regarding the task force recommendations. Our task force focused primarily on earthquake and flooding concerns, but Congress required us to consider all kinds of “external hazards” in directing U.S. nuclear power plants to review their ability to meet our requirements, “as expeditiously as possible.” Congress also directed the NRC to implement the eight “Tier I,” or top priority, recommendations at least as quickly as the schedule described in the staff’s Oct. 3, 2011 paper to the Commission.

Last month the Nuclear Energy Institute laid out the nuclear power industry’s “FLEX” approach to addressing several recommendations. “FLEX” would create a diverse, flexible set of strategies for counteracting the effects of severe natural events that could exceed a plant’s design limits.

The NRC staff believes this approach is a reasonable starting point, although more work is needed on defining these strategies. We also must ensure the NRC can inspect how plants put the strategies in place and that we can hold plants accountable for keeping those strategies ready and available.

The bottom line is that we believe these combined developments may enhance the agency’s approach to implementing the recommendations. The NRC Steering Committee overseeing the implementation effort will lay out our new approach to members of the industry’s Steering Committee on Jan. 13 from 9 a.m. to noon at NRC Headquarters in Rockville, Md. This meeting will also lay the foundation for more detailed, recommendation-specific discussions next week.

The meeting will be webcast and a teleconference will also be available. The NRC has also set up the e-mail address for public comment on the recommendations and their ongoing implementation. We hope you’ll take the time to learn more about our new approach and come back to the blog and our website as more information becomes available.

Scott Burnell
Public Affairs Officer

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

15 thoughts on “NRC Revising Approach to Japan Lessons-Learned Recommendations”

  1. I found two key issues to rise regarding the severe accident phenomena.
    1. NRC is obsessed with post fuel damage phenomena and a lack of effort to avoid the damage to the fuel is evident.
    2. The operators are not dealt with the deserved respect and do not have necessary means for interfering with the progression of a severe accident.
    It is necessary to revise the regulatory environment and correct it on the knowledge basis, including the zirconium firestorm in the steam as the leading severe accident phenomenon.
    Doing that will require the addition of a vent-depressurization line from the top of reactor of PWR type and the rerouting to the atmosphere of an alternate relief line from the turbine driven emergency cooling pumps of BWR reactors, which are left to be operated without any power source directly by the operators. It will add a shortcut pathway for energy release directly from the reactor into the atmosphere, operated by the operators in case of a severe accident. With sufficient gravity (staged pre-charged) water reserves it will avoid the zirconium firestorm in the core and the fuel damage.

  2. I’m glad to see steps are moving forward to ensure our safety but why does a tragic episode like that in Japan force us to deal with these issues? Shouldn’t have this been thought of before? I’m eager to see the outcome of these proposed strategies.
    Thank you,

  3. Even though the “Flex” approach is only a starting point, you can always add to it and make changes to it as you go along.

  4. After watching what took place in Japan and seeing how little time it took for the media to stop covering it here in the US, it makes me wonder if we can even afford the necessary retrofits for all of the places that require updates and changes. Whether it be generator systems, passive systems that require no operator input to self correct, or whatever the answer is – flat out I don’t think anyone wants to foot the bill for the changes. It almost seems like we have to guard against the risks the best we can, and incorporate design changes into new plants as we go forward.

  5. This is definetly something that needs to be addressed. Im sure we would all hate to see another castastrophy again. Build them bigger and stronger.

  6. “Congress also directed the NRC to implement the eight “Tier I,” or top priority, recommendations at least as quickly as the schedule described in the staff’s Oct. 3, 2011 paper to the Commission.”

    I think the dates and details mentioned in the paper provide a substantial amount of confidence in attaining the results.

  7. You ought to address a much more basic problem: IF nuclear power was to be safe, THEN a balance sheet of a manufacturer of, or a utility running, nuclear power stations could surely afford to have provisions for damages that would be so contained or unlikely to occur, that the balance sheet would not be in dripping red. If, on the other hand, one cannot exclude a scenario, as yet unknown but nevertheless possible, to ever occur, that is not containable, then you must draw the conclusion that nuclear power generation is irresponsible and needs to be discontinued immediately. Then why does every regulator insist on scenarios that are of minimal import and fails o discuss the big picture – the cause and terrible effects of accidents that have not even thought through yet because human understanding is limited while the possibilities for failure are infinite?

  8. I am not entirely sure i agree with the task force recommendations made, yet, I cannot come up with anything better personally. So, who am I to refute it? lol

  9. The population of U.S. nuclear plants with emergency AC power sources in the basement of the turbine building is zero. Weak and complacent? NRC? NRC has a host of severe accident regulations upon which to build useful inspection programs that would independently assure adequate risk mitigation equipment, procedures, and operator training. It is unlikely that additional regulation in this context would improve the margin of safety or defense in depth already in-place inadvertently from previous over-reach.

  10. Once identified, a successful intervention could be performed: rapid depressurization by venting the steam from the top of reactor vessel and staged passive boron containing water injection all the way to gravity reserves

  11. It is well overdue to identify the key process in the severe accident progression: the stagnant steam volume forming, covering the upper part of the fuel in the core, which leads to the fiery zirc-water reaction.
    Once identified, a successful intervention could be performed: rapid depressurization by venting the steam from the top of reactor vessel and staged passive boron containing water injection all the way to gravity reserves.
    Designing and adding a dedicated severe accident response system as described is a must.

  12. Congress, in the 2012 Budget, took NRC to task and demanded NRC implement staff recommendations to expedite the process of Lessons-Learned Fukushima instead of the commissioner’s vote and demanded NRC expand their process to include much more than just seismic and flooding problems.
    They also required the National Academy of Sciences to produce an additional report on Lessons-Learned.
    Sounds like the NRC took it on the chin.
    Congress stepped up to the plate and chastised NRC for being too weak and complacent on Fukushima lessons.
    About time.

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