Taking an Updated Look at a Potential Accident’s Economic Consequences

Rich Correia
Director, Division of Risk Analysis
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research

The NRC’s review of new reactor licenses, renewal of existing licenses or major changes to our safety regulations involves an analysis of the impacts of potential accidents. Long before the 2011 accident at Fukushima, these analyses included the possibility of radioactive contamination causing economic harm, such as by making land unusable. Now, the Commission — after considering recommendations from the agency’s technical and legal staff — has directed the NRC staff to update our guidance on considering economic consequences.

Property damage, business losses and other accident effects were a regular part of our public conversations last year as the NRC began implementing the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. Subsequently, we decided to review the agency’s current economic consequence analysis and consider options for possibly changing the process.

In following this Commission-directed update, the agency will examine the information used in comparing the costs and benefits of a potential safety rule change or nuclear power plant modification. For example, we’ll revise the costs of replacing a damaged reactor’s electricity output, since generation and transmission markets have been deregulated in some cases. We’ll also consider how changes in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rules have affected transmission costs. We’ll revise our guidance for economic consequences costs based on up-to-date data and what we’ve learned from recent and ongoing accident analysis (such as last year’s State-of-the-art Reactor Consequences Analyses).

Following the Commission’s direction, we’re going to develop a follow-on paper that describes and assesses for Commission consideration potential changes to our cost-benefit analysis guidance. We’ll be holding a public meeting in the near future as part of this process, so members of the public and other interested parties can hear the staff’s plans, ask questions and provide comments to the staff.

The Commissioners’ individual votes on this decision are available on the NRC website.