US nuclear confidence should not be undermined

A federal task force looking into safety issues related to U.S. commercial nuclear reactors has so far found no issues that undermine confidence in the continued safety and emergency planning of U.S. plants.

The task force chairman, Dr. Charles Miller, head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) Office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management Programs, said he expects the group to recommend actions to enhance safety and preparedness. Initially, the task force will identify potential near-term actions involving spent fuel pools. Areas to be reviewed include station blackout, external events that could lead to a prolonged loss of cooling, plant capabilities for preventing or dealing with such circumstances and emergency preparedness. The task force will brief the NRC in public meetings again on June 15. A final briefing on near–term findings is expected to take place on July 19.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said he fully expects there will be lessons learned from the events in Japan and said the time is of importance in how they make changes, if needed. “We have to put these issues to rest as soon as possible,” he said.

In April, the NRC named six senior managers and staff to its task force that will conduct a near-term review and identify topics for assessment for a longer term review. Miller said the team brings a total of 150 years of regulatory experience to the review effort.

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