A special task force of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, brought together after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, has just released their recommendations for the continued production of nuclear power in the United States in a safe manner. The task force was asked to look at how the disaster in Japan relates to the state of nuclear power production in the United States, and if the government requires further safety improvements of plants to help prevent a similar incident. The task force returned to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with a laundry list of measures needed to prevent a future disaster.
Complicating the task force’s job was the fact that information on what exactly happened in Japan is, “unavailable, unreliable or ambiguous because of damage to equipment at the site and because the Japanese response continues to focus on actions to stop the ongoing radioactive release.”
The few things they know for sure about the Fukushima Daiichi accident is that hardened vents on the reactors were difficult to operate causing buildup of hydrogen gas that eventually led to explosions at the reactors. The disaster also brought to light the issue of spent fuel pools — the spent fuel at a nuclear power plant usually accounts for more radioactive material than is in the reactors. At Fukushima Daiichi, their water flow was insufficient and they had a hard time keeping that spent fuel cool and stable. Also, it was noticed that many plants lack a clear safety plan in case of a complex disaster.
As with the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the gulf, this task force finished their mission with a poor review of government inspections and regulation of safety measures at nuclear plants. Luckily though, in this case, a disaster could be prevented on our country’s soil if new regulations are written and followed. In addition to recommending the strengthening of safety measures that should already be in place, the task force has pointed out the necessity for designing better water flow systems, operational vents for hydrogen release and plans for simultaneous problems at adjacent reactors. A five-member commission will take a look at this report early next week — which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission sees as a quick first look at our nuclear situation — to decide on what steps to take to ensure that nuclear power generation in the United States stays as safe as possible.