Transcripts Provide Unique Glimpse of an Agency in Action

The NRC today has made available about 3,000 pages of transcribed conversations from the agency’s emergency operations center representing much of our communications over the first 10 days of the Fukushima reactor crisis in Japan in March 2011.

These documents provide a rare look inside the workings of the agency’s crisis center as the men and women of the NRC worked 24/7 to find ways to help Americans in Japan, the Japanese government and the firm that owns the Fukushima reactors.

It is up close and personal, gritty and unvarnished. It lays out the very human stories of staffers working with little rest, talking to counterparts half a world away while at the same time conversing with other agencies in the executive branch, our armed forces and the domestic nuclear industry.

This is a historical record of what went down in those early days.

As you read these transcripts – partially redacted and produced at substantial cost over nine months in response to Freedom of Information Act requests — you’ll see that the first days were very hectic. There wasn’t a lot of information. There was confusion and communication problems.

But the NRC staff quickly settled into a rhythm after the first alert – long hours, little rest, bad food – and important handoffs between shifts, regular communications with our teams in Japan, and in time working directly with the Japanese and TEPCO, the plant owner. And there was steady communication with the American public and the news media. In fact, this blog became a primary communications tool and readership greatly exceeded our expectations.

The situation appears stable now, but it was far from it in the early days as staff experts, under the direction of Chairman Jaczko, made tough and sometimes controversial recommendations.

Today, the NRC is working to implement lessons our experts have culled from what happened at Fukushima.

We invite you to read these transcripts to see an agency hard at work in the name of safety.

Eliot Brenner
Director, Office of Public Affairs

NRC Talking Research Next Week in Virginia, Pennsylvania

We recently issued the draft report summarizing several years’ worth of detailed research and analyses into what might happen during an accident at a nuclear power plant. Now we’re heading to the two plants we analyzed — one in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania — to discuss the results with the surrounding communities.

The project, called the State-of-the-Art Reactor Consequence Analyses, or SOARCA, looked at situations that could disable a reactor’s normal safety systems. The project used powerful computer programs to predict the plants’ behavior based on decades of real-world experiments into issues such as how reactor fuel responds during the extreme temperatures expected during these accidents. SOARCA then plugged up-to-date information about the plants, including the latest updates to plant systems and operations, into the programs and examined how an accident might unfold.

SOARCA found that additional equipment the NRC required after the 9/11 attacks can, if used according to plan, help prevent a reactor accident from affecting public health. Even if accidents can’t be controlled with the new equipment, the research came to three basic conclusions:

• Accidents occur much more slowly than we originally thought;

• Accidents release much less radioactive material that we originally thought; and

• The emergency plans every U.S. reactor has in place can keep people safe.

The project came to some more specific conclusions about accident effects around the two plants, Surry (southeast of Richmond, Va.), and Peach Bottom (southeast of Lancaster, Pa.). For example, the slowly developing nature of the accidents and the existing emergency plans would keep everyone safe, even during uncontrolled accidents.

Some of the NRC staff involved in SOARCA will discuss the project on Feb. 21 in Surry, Va., and then on Feb. 22 in Delta, Pa. Details are available in the press release .

If you have comments on the draft report, you have until March 1 to send them in. The best way to comment is through regulations.gov , using Docket ID NRC-2012-0022. You can also mail comments (referencing the Docket ID) to Cindy Bladey, Chief, Rules, Announcements, and Directives Branch (RADB), Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWB-05-B01M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001. Comments can also be faxed to 301-492-3446, referencing the Docket ID.

If you submit comments in writing or in electronic form, they will be posted on the NRC website and on regulations.gov. The NRC will not edit or remove any identifying or contact information; please don’t include any information you wish to keep private.

Scott Burnell
Public Affairs Officer