Five Questions with Rick Hasselberg

Rick Hasselberg is a Senior Emergency Response Coordinator with the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response.

  1. How would you briefly describe your role at the NRC?

5 questions_9with boxI manage the NRC’s Reactor Safety Team. If an emergency occurs at a nuclear power plant, my team is responsible for assessing nuclear facility conditions, predicting future conditions, and recommending actions the NRC might take to help protect public health and safety. I am responsible for recruiting, training, and continuously challenging the expertise and response readiness of one of the most respected emergency response organizations in the world.  What could be better than that?

  1. What is your foremost responsibility at work?

I think about emergencies. While 99 percent of the people working at the NRC are working hard to ensure that appropriate safety measures are in place, I work under the assumption that any of those safety measures could possible fail and that it’s time to get busy.  (The more I think about the things that might happen, the less surprised I will be if they do.

  1. What is your most significant challenge in the workplace?

rickh_fixedI struggle with competing demand for the agency’s best and brightest employees.  I must ensure that NRC will able to maintain a pool of experienced, qualified response team members who can be pulled away from their regular duties to train, exercise and, if ever needed, to respond to an actual emergency event.

  1. What do you consider one of your most notable accomplishments at the NRC?

I joined the NRC in late 1979, in the months following the Three Mile Island Accident. During that period, the NRC was under considerable pressure to improve both its internal training programs and its external public information (outreach) programs. I contributed significantly to both programs, introducing multimedia production techniques (film, video, and 35mm slides) for improving internal technical training, and I created and presented a highly acclaimed, day-long Nuclear Power and Radiation seminar that NRC presented to news media representatives throughout the United States. I was credited with helping to re-establish NRC credibility with the news media.

  1. What is one quality of the NRC that more people should know?

This agency has a lot of very smart, very talented people who really care about their role in serving the nation. I’m very proud to serve with them.

Five Questions is an occasional series in which we pose the same questions to different NRC staff members.

 

 

Chernobyl – Thirty Years Ago Today

2015-6-4 Chornobyl (59)On April 26, 1986, a sudden surge of power during a reactor systems test destroyed Unit 4 of the nuclear power station at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union. The accident and the fire that followed released massive amounts of radioactive material into the environment.

So starts the NRC backgrounder on accident. Today, exactly three decades later, it’s still an event worth recalling.

Last year, NRC Commissioner William Ostendorff and several NRC staffers, (photo above right) visited the site and saw the progress for containment and decommissioning first hand.

Said Commissioner Ostendorff of his visit: “I was struck by the impact of this tragic accident in 1986, especially by the visit to the abandoned city of Pripyat. I saw first-hand the detailed work underway to more 2015-6-4 Chornobyl (35)permanently contain the damaged reactor for coming generations. I am grateful for the international support to fund the construction of the New Safe Confinement structure.”

The New Safe Confinement construction site can be seen in the photo to the left. The Commissioner’s visit included the construction site for the Dry Type Storage facility. The final completion date for this project is 2064.

As part of their tour, the Commissioner and NRC staff visited the abandoned city of Pripyat, home to an amusement park originally scheduled to open one week after the accident. (see photo below right)

After the accident, 2015-6-4 Prypiat (39)ferriswheelofficials closed off the area within 18 miles of the plant, except for those with official business at the plant and those people dealing with the consequences of the accident and operating the undamaged reactors. The Soviet (and later on, Russian) government evacuated about 115,000 people from the most heavily contaminated areas in 1986, and another 220,000 people in subsequent years.

For more information on the accident, check out this blog post or take a look at this video.

 

NRC Actions Stack up Well Against International Reviews

William Orders
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.

JLD vertical CReviews 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.