A Commissioner from the Atomic Energy Commission (NRC’s predecessor agency) is seen here standing with a model of an inexpensive sub-critical assembly unit showing detailed technical information on its design, fabrication and operating characteristics. The presentation ceremony of the model took place in 1964 at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria.
Can anyone name the AEC Commissioner? Hint: he is on the far left. Bonus points if you can name the IAEA Director General next to him.
Photo credit: IAEA
Senior Project Manager
Japan Lessons Learned Division
Ever since the March 2011 nuclear accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, regulators around the world have asked “what have we learned?” The Fukushima accident led the nuclear power industry worldwide to reconsider how we approached nuclear safety in the case of extreme natural events. Regulators and the nuclear industry have put a high priority on addressing the accident’s lessons and implementing safety enhancements.
Last year, the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, issued a report that took another look at the accident and detailed what was learned. The NRC has reviewed the report to see if it might lead us to additional actions here in the United States.
At this point, we see that either the NRC, the U.S. government, or the nuclear industry are already addressing the IAEA report’s lessons. U.S. actions on these lessons are consistent with the international community’s approach to the issues. A more detailed comparison of the report’s recommendations with relevant U.S. actions is available here.
Reviews of the accident have focused on the effects of earthquakes and floods, as well as positioning plants to deal safely with a complete loss of off-site and back-up power. Nuclear power plants worldwide are addressing these issues with steps that include:
- re-examining external hazards,
- improving electrical systems,
- adding ways to cool the fuel in the reactor core,
- protecting the reactor containment,
- adding ways to cool the spent fuel in storage pools, and
- developing capabilities to quickly provide equipment and assistance from on-site or off-site emergency preparedness facilities.
The NRC and our international counterparts have compared our post-Fukushima approaches before. In 2014, an IAEA team report looked at several of the lessons the NRC has learned from the accident. The report, after examining our efforts at that time, concluded the NRC has “acted promptly and effectively.” The team also said the NRC’s inspections on Fukushima-related issues were “exemplary.”
As the NRC continues reviewing the IAEA 2015 report in detail, we are heartened that our international counterparts are all addressing the same concerns. Our collective actions are enhancing safety worldwide.
More information on the NRC’s response to the Fukushima accident can be found on NRC’s Japan Lessons Learned website. A description of the accident is available here.