When America’s fleet of nuclear reactors was designed some four-plus decades ago, few people had ever heard the phrase “climate change.” Today, the global threats of worsening weather patterns and natural disasters are well recognized, commanding concern and responses across the board. Except, apparently, at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In late January, by a 3-to-2 vote, NRC commissioners rejected a recommendation from their own senior staff to require reactor owners to recognize new climate reality and fortify their plants against real-world natural hazards such as flooding and seismic events. Most, if not all, of those reactors were engineered, built and maintained with highly optimistic assumptions rooted in the late 1960s and 1970s. For those keeping tabs, March is nuclear accident month. Three Mile Island occurred 40 years ago; Fukushima Daiichi, eight. In the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima disaster, the NRC asked its staff to scrutinize U.S. reactor operations and identify ways to prevent a similar accident. The experts crafted a list of 12 sweeping recommendations. The underlying theme: Prepare for the unexpected. High on the list was a recommendation that plant owners be required to reevaluate the seismic and flooding hazards at their sites “consistent with the current state of knowledge and analytical methods,” and update buildings and equipment to reflect actual risks — not projections formulated back when “Laugh-In” was must-see TV. The 12 recommendations were delivered to the NRC commissioners in July 2011. A draft of new rules implementing the recommendations was finally hammered out in 2016. Lobbyists for the industry pushed back, arguing existing rules provide adequate protection. That’s not surprising. After the Three Mile Island accident, when safety enhancements were ordered, the price tag was steep. The industry set out to ensure that didn’t happen again.
Twin Cities 17th March 2019 read more »
A powerful, late-winter “bomb cyclone” storm pushed into the U.S. Midwest and the Great Lakes region on Friday, causing flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, stranding herds of cattle and raising alarms at a Nebraska nuclear power plant.
Reuters 15th March 2019 read more »