Nuclear regulator wants new earthquake reviews

WASHINGTON Thu Aug 25, 2011 1:55pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The nuclear regulator said on Thursday that it will require operators of the nation's 104 nuclear reactors to review their earthquake risks as part of an ongoing update of seismic hazards for power plants.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it will provide existing plants with a seismic analysis tool later this year that will allow plants to perform "an updated review."

The agency began studying the earthquake risks of the central and eastern regions of the country after new information became available about the area, but all plants across the country will have to undertake the new review, a spokesman said.

Since it began the review, Japan's nuclear crisis and this week's historic east coast earthquake have raised new concerns from critics and some lawmakers about whether the nation's plants would be able to withstand a major earthquake.

But the NRC said plants' seismic designs are adequate based on their study so far.

"The staff at this point expects that the analyses that will be done starting next year ... could show areas where plants can improve what is already an acceptable seismic design," said Scott Burnell, an NRC spokesman.

The analytical tool used to evaluate the plants will be similar to what is used in applications to build new nuclear power plants, the agency said.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; editing by Jim Marshall)

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