Oil Report

New US nuclear plants may have to be aircrash-safe

LOS ANGELES, Oct 3 (Reuters) - New U.S. nuclear power plants may have to be built to withstand air crashes including attacks and the impact of large commercial airplanes, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Wednesday.

The requirement, if adopted, would affect the rush of new reactors expected in the next decade in what the NRC says may be a revival for nuclear power in the United States.

The builders of nuclear power plants are not likely to be required to mount defenses that would ward off an air attack, but the NRC said they should plan so a new plant “would be better able to withstand such a crash.”

The NRC will take public comment on the proposed rule for about 2-1/2 months.

“The proposal would require applicants for new reactors to assess the level of built-in protection a particular design has to avoid or mitigate the effects of a large commercial aircraft impact, reducing the need for human intervention to protect public health and safety,” the NRC said.

The NRC said it “works closely with other federal agencies such as the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Federal Aviation Administration and the intelligence community to provide layered protection against such a threat.

“The agency expects these efforts would effectively preclude an aircraft attack from occurring.”

Last month the NRC received the first new-reactor license application in 30 years. The NRC expects companies to apply in the next decade to build about three dozen new reactors.

The NRC has not granted a new license to build a new reactor since the mid-1970s.

Currently, the 104 U.S. nuclear units in operation have a capacity to make about 100,000 megawatts of electricity and contribute about 20 percent of the nation’s power. The new reactors expected to be applied for in the next decade would increase that output by about 33,000 megawatts, the NRC has said.

A megawatt can power about 800 homes on average in the United States. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall)