Coordinated US industry response to Fukushima

10 June 2011

Three electricity industry organizations have joined forces to integrate and coordinate the US nuclear industry's response to the Fukushima accident in Japan. Meanwhile, a poll indicates that worldwide public support for nuclear energy remains high despite the accident.


The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) and the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) announced that they have established a Fukushima Response Steering Committee to coordinate and oversee the industry's response activities. This, the groups said, "will ensure that lessons learned are identified and well understood, and that response actions are effectively coordinated and implemented throughout the industry."


Global support remains

A "global snap poll" of more than 34,000 people in 47 countries around the world indicates that those in support of nuclear energy still outnumber those opposed, despite the Fukushima accident.


The poll - conducted by WIN-Gallup International between 21 March and 10 April 2011 - asked respondents about their attitude to nuclear energy, both before and after the accident. Prior to the 11 March earthquake and tsunami, some 57% said they held favourable views on nuclear energy, while 32% held unfavourable views. Following the accident, 49% of people said they favoured nuclear energy, while those opposing it numbered 43%.


Unsurprisingly, Japan saw the biggest drop in support for nuclear energy, with the number of people in favour dropping from 62% before the accident to 39% afterwards. Meanwhile, those saying they were opposed to nuclear increased from 28% to 47%.


A document giving a strategic overview of the model stated: "A comprehensive investigation of the events at Fukushima Daiichi will take considerable time. Yet there is also a need to act in a deliberate, decisive manner. The industry's response is structured to ensure that emergency response strategies are updated based on new information and insights learned during subsequent event review."


The leadership model is organized around seven so-called 'building blocks' – temporary organizations created to develop and execute action plans in specified areas of focus. These blocks will address: maintaining focus on excellence in existing plant performance; developing and issuing lessons learned from Fukushima events; improving the effectiveness of US industry response capability to global nuclear events; developing and implementing a strategic communications plan; developing and implementing the industry's regulatory response; participating and coordinating with international organizations; and, providing technical support and R&D coordination. Each building block will be supported by nuclear and, in specific instances, non-nuclear industry organizations and companies, where specific technical, operational or other expertise is needed.


Technical areas that will be the areas of focus under the response effort include: the nuclear workforce; total loss of on-site and off-site electrical power power; the severe accident management guidelines that the industry established voluntarily in the early 1990s to provide another layer of protection above and beyond federal regulatory requirements; used fuel pool cooling; and proactive strategies for containment structures.


"The leadership of the US commercial nuclear industry is dedicated to gaining a deep understanding of the events at Fukushima Daiichi and to taking the necessary actions to improve safety and emergency preparedness at America's nuclear energy facilities," said Charles Pardee, chief operating officer for Exelon Generation, who chairs the Fukushima Response Steering Committee.


"An important and integral aspect of the industry's response is the awareness and involvement of the industry's many stakeholders, including industry vendors, architect-engineering companies, industry owners' groups and national consensus nuclear standards organizations. This will ensure that the interests of each stakeholder group are considered, understood and communicated to the public and policymakers."


Separately, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is conducting an independent assessment of the Fukushima accident and will consider actions to ensure that its regulations reflect lessons learned from it.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News


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