Nuclear Energy Institute Report on Japan’s Nuclear Reactors, March 12, 2012

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–March 12, 2012. 

US NRC Issues Orders to Enhance Post-Fukushima Nuclear Safety


  • The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission last Friday approved the issuance of orders and information request letters for the U.S. nuclear industry to implement enhanced safety measures based on lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. The orders require industry to establish a mitigation strategy for beyond-design-basis external events as well as enhancements for used fuel pool instrumentation and venting systems for Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors. The letters request information on flooding and seismic hazard re-evaluations, emergency response communications and staffing for accidents involving plants with multiple reactors.
  • Commemorating the first anniversary of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, Emperor Akihito thanked workers and volunteers who have been working to stabilize the Fukushima Daiichi plant after the accident, including those who provided support from overseas. Visiting the Fukushima Daiichi facility on the anniversary, Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Toshio Nishizawa pledged to address the decommissioning of the plant. Nishizawa and 200 employees observed a minute of silence at 2:46 p.m., the exact time the earthquake struck northeastern Japan.
  • International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano said the IAEA will continue to actively support decontamination efforts in Japan to enable evacuees to return home as soon as possible. He noted that nuclear safety has been heightened by all countries that use nuclear power thanks to measures implemented based on lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.
  • The Japanese government has begun decontaminating access roads inside some evacuation zones around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility in an effort to allow some evacuees to return to their homes. Local media were invited to view workers using water jets on a road near Naraha Town Hall and checking radiation levels on an expressway. Decontamination of private homes is expected to begin in the summer.
  • At the request of Tokyo Electric Power Co., a Japanese firm has developed a robot that can negotiate steep stairs and small spaces, enabling it to investigate the interior of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor buildings. The robot has five cameras and a dosimeter that can continually monitor radiation levels.

Media Highlights

  • The New Scientist, reporting on the effect on carbon emissions of the shutdown of Germany and Japan’s nuclear reactors, says, “Additional German emissions alone could … virtually cancel out the savings intended to be achieved in the entire European Union by the 2011 energy efficiency directive.”
  • Among many articles examining the continuing prospects for nuclear energy on the anniversary of the Fukushima accident are pieces in The Economist, Nuclear Power Daily, Time, and the Wall Street Journal. Editorials on nuclear energy included commentary from Newsday in New York and the San Diego Union-Tribune.
  • An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times by radiation health experts Robert Gale and Owen Hoffman explains how the small increase in Fukushima-related cancer risk is dwarfed by public fears and asks for scientists and experts to help people understand relative risk better.
  • Marvin Fertel, NEI’s president and CEO, and Ellen Vancko of the Union of Concerned Scientists discussed the industry response to Fukushima on Platts Energy Week on the anniversary of the accident.

New Products

  • New items on NEI’s Safety First website include findings by radiation health physics experts that the radiological health effects of the Fukushima accident will be negligible. An article explains the industry’s diverse, flexible (“FLEX”) approach to enhance safety based on lessons learned from the accident. Another article describes the global response to enhance the safety of nuclear facilities in individual countries and among international nuclear agencies.

Upcoming Meetings

  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission holds its 24th annual Regulatory Information Conference this week, March 13 to 15.
  • Former NRC Chairman Nils Diaz will present the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Fukushima recommendations report, “Forging a New Nuclear Safety Construct,” at the Bethesda North Marriott on March 14.
  • All five NRC commissioners are to testify at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on “Lessons from Fukushima One Year Later: NRC’s Implementation of Recommendations for Enhancing Nuclear Reactor Safety in the 21st Century,” at 10 a.m., March 15.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency will convene an international experts’ meeting on reactor and spent fuel safety in light of the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Vienna, March 19-22.