Fukushima disaster not "unforeseen"-NRC commissioner

Wed Aug 3, 2011 3:17pm EDT

Related Topics

 * Japan nuclear disaster not "unthinkable"-Apostolakis
 * Fukushima not designed to withstand historical tsunamis
 * "We have time to think and be methodical"
 * Wants senior staff to evaluate options in 45 days
 * NRC could still meet Chairman Jaczko's 90-day goal
 By Roberta Rampton
 WASHINGTON, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Japan's nuclear disaster was
not the kind of "unforeseen" event that would require a radical
overhaul of safety rules for U.S. plants, a commissioner at the
U.S. nuclear regulatory agency said on Wednesday.
 Emerging evidence shows that a tsunami like the one that
overwhelmed the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March could happen
once every 1,000 years or less, said George Apostolakis, one of
three Democrats on the five-member Nuclear Regulatory
 That kind of frequency would be unacceptable for U.S.
plants not to be prepared for and it showed the plant was not
adequately designed to protect against events that were within
the realm of probability, Apostolakis said.
 "This focus on the unthinkable is really misplaced. It was
not unthinkable at all," Apostolakis said in a speech at the
Bipartisan Policy Center.
 He said not enough people have yet acknowledged the issue
that the plant should been better secured. "This is the kind of
secret that everybody knows but nobody wants to say anything
 The U.S. regulator should now reconfirm that the country's
fleet of 104 nuclear reactors owned by some of the country's
biggest utilities are designed to withstand disasters within
historical probabilities. But the NRC would have had a much
bigger task if Fukushima's disaster truly was "unthinkable,"
Apostolakis said.
 "If it was really unthinkable, there would be great
urgency, it seems to me, to really try to think about these
kind of unlikely events and how we can protect the plants," he
  FACTBOX-What's in the task force report?  [ID:nN1E76C176]
  REPORT-Engineers knew tsunami risk        [ID:nL3E7ET2D1]
  Q+A-What's going on at Fukushima?         [ID:nL3E7J115U]
  TAKE A LOOK-US maps out nuclear reforms     [ID:nNUKEUSA]
 A task force of six senior NRC staff examining lessons from
Fukushima said that there is no imminent risk that a similar
disaster could unfold in the United States.
 "That means we have time to think and be methodical,"
Apostolakis said.
 Last month, the task force released a report with a series
of recommendations, some of which would force plants to plan
for catastrophes beyond what they were originally designed to
withstand, potentially adding millions in costs for operators
like Exelon (EXC.N), Entergy (ETR.N), and PG&E (PCG.N).
 The NRC has not yet decided how to move forward.
 Chairman Gregory Jaczko wants commissioners to rule on each
task force recommendation within 90 days, with a goal for
completing and implementing new rules within five years -- an
expedited timetable for the agency.
 Jaczko has not formally voted on how to move forward. But
the four other commissioners including Apostolakis have
advocated an alternate approach.
 The commissioners said they want top NRC operations staff
to develop a schedule within 45 days to evaluate the task force
ideas and gather input from the public and industry.
 "There is a systematic way of processing things through the
agency," Apostolakis said.
 "It's the normal way the commission makes decisions," he
told reporters.
 Under this approach, Apostolakis said the NRC could still
make key decisions in 90 days, as advocated by Jaczko.
 (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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Comments (3)
JackTruth wrote:
I am a Professional Geotechnical Engineer. The tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima nuclear power plant was predictable, frequent and guaranteed. The record of previous events was easily checked by local geology and subsurface investigation. The Japanese failed to meet nature’s requirements. The resulting nuclear disaster was due entirely to human folly. Putting a nuclear plant near the tectonic plate ring of fire was the ultimate in arrogance, stupidity and corruption.

Aug 04, 2011 3:38pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Observero0 wrote:
[...potentially adding millions in costs for operators
like Exelon (EXC.N), Entergy (ETR.N), and PG&E (PCG.N).] =====================================

Please complete “the rest of the story” (i.e., and potentially adding significantly to electric power costs to consumers). Companies don’t generate monies out of thin air; their monies come from customers.

Aug 04, 2011 7:30pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
If the NRC task force of six really said “there is no imminint risk” then they should all resign or be sacked. The risks may be very small, but they are constant and enduring! This is probability theory 101. Any spent fuel pool can be hit by a terror attack or a meteorite at any time, but the risk is there constantly. Now that we have spent fuel pools littering the landscape, we really rely on “luck” or in other words we can only sleep at night if we suppress conscious thought of a direct hit by a terrorist or meteorite.

Aug 04, 2011 8:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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