* NRC head Jaczko wants new safety rules within 5 years
* Station blackout rule making by April 2014
Oct 20 The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
will immediately begin implementing seven safety
recommendations from an agency task force that developed them
after studying Japan's Fukushima reactor disaster, the NRC
said on Thursday.
The seven recommendations are among 12 presented by the
task force in July, the NRC said in a release on Thursday.
"My colleagues and I expect that within five years, and
significantly sooner in some cases, the staff will have
enhanced our already robust safety standards by carrying out
these recommendations," NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said in the
Post-Fukushima upgrades and regulatory changes are expected
to add costs for existing and new reactors so NRC action is
being closely watched by Exelon , Entergy Corp
and merger partners Duke Energy and Progress Energy .
If the Duke-Progress merger is completed, Duke will rank as
the second-largest U.S. nuclear operator behind Exelon.
NRC staff reviewed the task force report and selected seven
recommendations as most appropriate for immediate action, the
The recommendations cover issues including the loss of all
electrical power at a reactor, known as a "station blackout",
reviews of seismic and flooding hazards, emergency equipment
and plant staff training.
In March, an earthquake and tsunami left the Fukushima
Daiichi nuclear plant without power. Operators were unable to
cool the fuel in the reactors, resulting in fuel meltdowns and
the release of radioactive material into the environment.
A spokesman for the industry trade group, Nuclear Energy
Institute, said the NRC's "performance-based, flexible
approach" to address varying conditions at different nuclear
sites would ensure that implementation of Fukushima-related
changes is effective and efficient.
"Both industry and the NRC should focus on those matters
that have the greatest safety significance and benefit," said
Steve Kerekes of NEI.
The commission said it set a goal of completing the rule
making process for station blackouts by April 2014.
"The station blackout rule making is an achievable goal,"
Jaczko said. "Addressing station blackout is a high priority."
"It's a good first step," said Edwin Lyman of the Union of
Concerned Scientists, a group that advocates for nuclear
safety. "The unanimous vote shows there is strong support on
However, Lyman said the UCS is concerned that changes made
to emergency measures may be so general that they are
"We encourage them to make sure they consider and think
through a range of scenarios -- from beginning to end -- to
make sure equipment and procedures put into place will be
available and can be used," Lyman said.
Operators at Fukushima, had emergency plans, Lyman said,
but aftershocks, explosions, debris and high radiation wound up
"making it impossible to carry out the things they thought they
would be able to do."
The NEI said the post-Fukushima changes should not prevent
the NRC from work on other "high-priority" issues, including
emergency preparedness requirements, seismic reviews and
licensing activities for new and existing reactors.