Writing Rules on Lessons Learned From Fukushima

Timothy Reed
Project Manager
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation

The NRC is moving forward in making permanent some of the lessons we’ve learned from the Fukushima nuclear accident. The Commission has directed the staff to seek public comments on a draft proposed rule for mitigating “beyond-design-basis events,” which can be stronger than a plant’s design anticipates.

The Commission made a few changes to the proposed rule, which consolidates several of the most safety significant recommendations of the NRC’s task force report from shortly after the events at Fukushima.

One of the Commission’s changes involves Severe Accident Management Guidelines, or SAMGs, which a plant would use in responding to very unlikely accidents. The Commission directed that the plants will continue implementing those guidelines voluntarily. Each plant will document a commitment to keep their SAMGs up to date and integrate SAMGs with other emergency response guidelines.  The NRC will provide periodic oversight of SAMGs through its Reactor Oversight Process. Another Commission change to the proposed rule removes proposed design requirements for new reactor applicants. Instead, the new reactors would be subject to the same performance-based criteria that applies to the currently-licensed fleet.

The proposed rule would apply the requirements of two existing orders, Mitigation Strategies (EA-12-049) and Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation (EA-12-051), to any operating or future U.S. nuclear power plant. The Mitigation Strategies Order ensures that if a plant loses power, it will have sufficient procedures, strategies, and equipment to indefinitely cool the reactor core and spent fuel, as well as protect the reactor’s containment. The Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation Order requires the plants to ensure they can monitor spent fuel pool water levels. These two orders are already being implemented across the nuclear fleet.

The proposed rule addresses other task force recommendations by:

  • Establishing standards that ensure plants smoothly transition between different emergency procedures, keeping the plants’ overall strategies coherent and comprehensive;
  • Enhancing emergency response requirements so sites can address events involving more than one reactor or a reactor and spent fuel pool;
  • Requiring training, drills and exercises on the new capabilities;
  • Improving onsite and offsite communication, and
  • Ensuring sites have enough staff to address a multi-reactor event

The rule also incorporates information from the plants’ reevaluated earthquake and flooding hazards. Each plant’s mitigation strategies used to meet the rule’s requirements must remain available in the face of the reevaluated hazards.

The staff expects to provide a proposed final rule to the Commission in December 2016.  The NRC staff expects the rule, if approved, would be effective approximately two years later, with the exact date varying from plant to plant. Although that may seem far away, keep in mind much of the rule is already required by the two orders. Nearly all U.S. plants will comply with those orders by the end of 2016. Safety is being enhanced well before the final rule.

The public can comment on the draft proposed rule until Feb. 11, 2016. To view the proposed rule or submit comments, go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2-14-0240. You may also e-mail comments to Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov. The staff is also planning a public meeting during the comment period, and we’ll post the meeting notice on our public website. We look forward to hearing from you. (Just a note, comments to this blog post are not considered official NRC communication. Please use the other methods above if you wish your comments to be formally considered.)

Author: Moderator

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

8 thoughts on “Writing Rules on Lessons Learned From Fukushima”

  1. It’s the way of government to only be REACTIVE and not PROACTIVE. This holds true to most major catastrophes can otherwise be avoided. Our govt had intel on both 9/11 and Boston Marathon attacks, and they did NOTHING until after the fact. Kind of does warrant the question, “whose side are they on??”

  2. In August 2015 by not codifying the requirement into law by a rulemaking and disapproving alternative 2 & 3 to Order EA-13-109 *, the Commission effectively drove a nail into the usefulness of the JLD task force. The draft rule is such a farce and a sad ending to a Fukushima SAGA. I laud the staff’s valiant efforts to date in implementing JLD task force report recommendations through enforcement actions, field walk downs and ongoing staff oversights. But all that now is in vain, when the NRC as a champion of world Nuclear Safety, waffles in not implementing all that in a final rule for perpetuity. Alas, all the ongoing horror that unfolded over that week in March 2011 will fall wayside similar to TMI and Chernobyl, when world witnessed four butler buildings blow off in clockwork precision. The Rule is a sad post script that the NRC as a regulator failed to write, and thus force a firm regulatory hand on action on the one action that mattered most – to remedy a weak cinder block containment. And yet, we have 22 of those vintage museum pieces still operating with impunity without a fix. Indeed, we do have abundant band aid fixes in what remains in this rule, no doubt, and we threw the baby with the bath water!!!

    So then, the two enforcement orders which the agency is generically attempting to implement through this Rule is hardly a rule and not worth commenting and Tim’s Blog would have been just sufficient.

    At least the rule acknowledges that the health and safety benefit to the public is minimal, meaning implementing the Rule is not going to reduce the risk or according to the pundits is indeterminate!!!

    * Interim Staff Guidance JLD-ISG-2015-01, remedies to Hardened Vents and Filtration for accident mitigation for BWR containment following Fukushima type accident here in the U.S.

  3. NRC please be open & honest w us! Tell us the the things you have refused to do to protect us Americans from a Fukushima-type disaster in this country. Examples,

    You have bowed to the nuclear industry in that you are not requiring nuclear power plants to implement measures to prevent a Fukushima accident here but to only better mitigate one when it occurs. After the TMI disaster in this country you required extensive measures to prevent such an accident in the future. I guess accidents have to happen here for you to get serious about protecting us.

    Japanese officials required that a filtered, hardened vent be installed on nuclear plants there to reduce the amount of radioactivity released to the public in an accident before any plant there could be restarted. Again bowing to the US nuclear industry you required no such modifications to susceptible plants here.

    You have taken no action to reduce the amount of spent fuel stored at over 90 sites in the US. Fortunately the Japanese did not overload their storage pools like we have in the US or that accident would have been even worse.

    Finally NRC, just one question. Whose side are you on?!

  4. The NRC should be wise to the shenanagins of stock and CaptD, two hardened antinukes. These questions posed by these posers are inane.

  5. Ya, Captain, I hear they want to leave those casks on the ocean edge, that seems very irresponsible. But coming from the company of “like for like” I can believe it.

  6. The High Burn Up fuel has no approved casks as yet and is a perfect example of the NRC “putting the cart before the horse” since the NRC has OK’d their use in order to increase the power from Utility reactors (along with their profits) before there is an approved waste cask for them, which is now causing a problems with San Onofre’s decommissioning, since the Operator wants to use unapproved casks that are guaranteed to last.

    See more about High Burn-Up fuels and the problems generated by allowing its use:

    ☢ Issues with dry cask storage for San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station – Donna Gilmore 

  7. The NRC’s regulations include protections against inadvertent criticalities, not only in operating reactors and spent fuel pools (General Design Criteria in Appendix A to 10 CFR Part 50), but also fuel cycle facilities (Subpart H to 10 CFR Part 70) and dry cask storage.

    All U.S. nuclear power plants are only loaded with enriched uranium fuel.

    Scott Burnell

  8. Has the NRC adopted any rules to mitigate the chances of a Prompt Moderated Criticality?

    For example, outlawing the use of MOX plutonium fuel

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