ANS flooding and seismic consensus standards assist the NRC and DOE in buttressing nuclear facility safety policies
A map of Japan highlighting the Fukushima prefecture.
March 11 will mark the 10-year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi event, when a 45-foot tsunami, caused by the 9.0-magnitude Great Tohoku Earthquake, significantly damaged the reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In response to this event, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission took actions to evaluate and mitigate beyond-design-basis events, including a new requirement for the staging of so-called Flex equipment, as well as changes to containment venting and improvements to emergency preparedness. The U.S. Department of Energy also addressed beyond-design-basis events in its documented safety analyses.
Rethinking seismic design may be key for making nuclear plant construction affordable.
Nuclear power plants not only provide the nation’s largest source of carbon-free electricity, they also can operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to augment intermittent renewables such as wind and solar. Further, studies show that nuclear energy is among the safest forms of energy production, especially when considering factors such as industrial accidents and disease associated with fossil fuel emissions. All said, nuclear has the potential to play a key role in the world’s energy future. Before nuclear can realize that potential, however, researchers and industry must overcome one big challenge: cost.
A team at Idaho National Laboratory is collaborating with experts around the nation to tackle a major piece of the infrastructure equation: earthquake resilience. INL’s Facility Risk Group is taking a multipronged approach to reduce the amount of concrete, rebar, and other infrastructure needed to improve the seismic safety of advanced reactors while also substantially reducing capital costs. The effort is part of a collaboration between INL, industry, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), and the State University of New York–Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo).
The American Nuclear Society's President Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar and CEO Craig Piercy comment on the announced departure of Chairman Svinicki
On behalf of America’s nuclear professionals, we thank Chairman Kristine Svinicki for her service and leadership at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The Operations Center at NRC headquarters in Rockville, Md., is put to the test during exercises designed to prove and improve U.S. nuclear emergency preparedness and incident response capabilities.
One essential lesson from the events at Three Mile Island-2 in March 1979 can be summed up in three words: Preparedness takes practice. The emergency response capacity of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and nuclear plant operators is more than just a set of procedures. Active training and evaluation are required to coordinate effectively with local and state authorities and protect the public in the event of an off-site radiological release.
The NRC’s emergency preparedness and incident response teams work in the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response (NSIR) to support licensees’ mandated emergency preparedness programs. The Operations Center at NRC headquarters is staffed around-the-clock with NSIR officers who can respond to technical questions and evaluate licensee event reports, yet most of its infrastructure typically stands vacant, awaiting activation for an incident or a planned exercise. With full activation of the NRC’s incident response program, the Operations Center comes to life, and teams of staff populate workstations. That process is regularly tested during exercises that involve NRC licensees, state and local responders, and similar incident response centers at each of the NRC’s four regional offices.
No two exercises are the same. Not only is every exercise dependent on variable human performance and every plant located in a unique community, but emergency preparedness benchmarks continually evolve with advancements in technologies and procedures.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has studied issues and has written many new relevant documents to prepare for potential application submissions for non-LWRs.
A cutaway view of EBR-1
Over the past several years there has been renewed interest in the development and licensing of advanced reactors that will be very different from the light-water reactors that are currently used to generate electricity in the United States. For example, some advanced reactors will use gas, liquid metal, or molten salt as a coolant, some will have a fast neutron spectrum, and some will be much smaller in size than current generation LWRs. The many possible applications for these reactors include electricity production, process heat, research and testing, isotope generation, and space applications.
To prepare for potential non-LWR application submittals, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has studied the issues and written many new relevant documents. In addition, there is a long history of the NRC regulating non-LWRs that might be useful to study to help in addressing new submittals. To some extent, this has been chronicled in general histories of the NRC. Our objective herein is to describe the NRC’s history specifically with the licensing of non-LWRs and to explain some of the most salient regulatory and licensing issues.