Some of the nation’s nuclear powerplants are not prepared to deal with potential station blackouts that could result from a severe event like the simultaneous earthquake and tsunami that struck Fukushima Daiichi, officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on June 14.
Officials from the task force established to inspect and evaluate the safety of the nation’s fleet of powerplants said in their 60-day report that some of the powerplants in the United States are not prepared to cope with a total station blackout—with a loss of both power from the electrical grid as well as from emergency generators-- that could last for days, as was the case at the Japanese plant. “NRC inspectors revealed deficiencies at some plants,” said the task force’s chairman, Charlie Miller.
The task force also found that different powerplants have different levels of protection, based on when they were licensed. “The plants in the U.S. as well as in all countries have evolved over time,” Miller said. The level of protections “is variable across the spectrum of the plants, depending on their vintage,” he said.
The task force is preparing to make recommendations in its 90-day report, to be released July 19, then will launch a longer-term investigation that will include input from stakeholder groups and the public, said the NRC’s executive director of operations Bill Borchardt.
At June 16 Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko acknowledged that the potential for total station blackouts “is an area where we will have to make some recommendations” for regulatory changes. But he added that the likelihood of something like the Japanese disaster happening in the United States is still very low.
Sean Garren, Environment America’s Clean Energy advocate, said in a statement that the NRC’s findings point to “many gaping holes” in the safety of the nation’s nuclear powerplants, and that “at this juncture, we should ensure the relative safety of existing plants, put a moratorium on any new plants, and begin to phase out our use of nuclear power.”