A Bit of NRC Myth Busting — Part I

Eric Stahl
Acting Public Affairs Officer

Facebook1We’ve taken a few of the interesting comments we’ve received on our Facebook page and posed them to our experts for their take on the question, suggestion or assertion. Here are their responses.

One Facebook user suggested that nuclear waste could be “encased in thick high strength concrete, then dropped into a churning volcano. It would sink into the magma and over a time it would disperse.” (We took the liberty of cleaning up the typos.)

Spent fuel must be handled and stored with care due to its radioactivity. The only way radioactive waste becomes harmless is through decay, which can take hundreds of thousands of years. As a result, the waste must be stored and disposed of in a way that provides protection to the public for a very long time.

PrintDropping spent fuel into an active volcano would run counter to this idea. Radioactive material could be released into the atmosphere, causing a hazard to people and the environment.

Another Facebook user, on our post about renewing licenses for nuclear power plants beyond the original license renewal, wrote this: “Beyond 60 years They are about to blow now you idiots.”

Contrary to what Hollywood often presents in television and movies, U.S. nuclear reactors are designed with numerous safety features, including containment buildings that continue to protect people and the environment. The nuclear fuel can’t explode, and many reinforcing safety systems would prevent or control the buildup of flammable gases during an accident.

NRC inspectors spend more than 6,000 hours (on average) performing inspection-related activities at each reactor site. In addition, the NRC has a robust aging management program to ensure that the country’s oldest reactors continue to operate safely. Keep in mind that regardless of the age of any reactor, the NRC has authority to address safety issues at any time.

Another Facebook commenter had concerns about the current dry cask storage system. He writes: “All that nuclear waste is being stored in the ground in what is supposed to be 5000 year containers, what if an earthquake hit the storage facility?”

All nuclear waste storage containers, known as “casks,” that are used to store spent fuel in the United States undergo a thorough safety review by the NRC before they’re certified for use. All casks licensed by the NRC must demonstrate their ability to withstand earthquakes and other natural hazards. Once the casks are put into use, they’re continuously monitored for leaks and periodically inspected by the NRC.

Come back tomorrow for Part II!

 

Celebrating a Facebook Milestone

Stephanie West
Public Affairs Specialist for Social Media

Facebook1Now we can start measuring the life of our official NRC Facebook page in years. One year ago we published our very first Facebook post. In that welcome message we said we were excited about using our new platform to enhance interaction with the public. We think we’ve had some success in this area. Our posts are certainly viewed and shared by the Facebook community, our links are clicked, and some of our posts prompt comments.

So far, about 1,900 people have liked our page, and more than 17,000 have engaged with our content in some way.

Though some ideas for content have been less popular than others, we’re enjoying the process of learning what our audience finds most interesting. For example, we’ve discovered that people are most engaged with our Facebook posts that highlight and link back to this blog. That’s important to us because we see that our strategy to cross-pollinate our social media platforms is effective. It broadens our audience. After all, we want to reach as many people as possible.

Also well-received are posts that leverage the popularity of social media trends like Throwback Thursday and those that shine a spotlight on the people who make up our organization. We’re learning that our audience is best served by a mix of content that covers both the serious and complex nature of our mission, and which allows us to be a little more lighthearted. Check out the post we published on July 15 recognizing National Ice Cream Month, and how the NRC has a hand in making this delicious treat.

We’ve been using social media for several years now, but we are just getting our feet wet with social networking. So we’ll keep plugging away trying to refine our communications on Facebook and our other platforms to best inform, engage and expand our community.