NRC to consider solar flare nuclear safety petition

A petition requesting that nuclear plants be required to maintain backup spent fuel cooling systems capable of operating autonomously for two years without refueling will receive full consideration, the NRC announced this week.

The petition contends that “a massive solar flare could potentially disable large portions of the US electrical grid for an extended period of time,” according to a statement from the NRC. Such a blackout, the petition states, could leave nuclear plants without an offsite energy source to power cooling systems for spent fuel pools.

The petition was filed in March of 2011 by Thomas Popik, founder and sole media contact for the Foundation for Resilient Societies, “a committee of engineers dedicated to protecting technologically-advanced societies from natural disasters,” according to the foundation’s website.

The NRC took comments from the public on the petition before determining that it would give Popik’s concerns further examination. Moving forward, the NRC will monitor the progress of activities being undertaken in response to Fukushima, and, if those measures are deemed inadequate, the regulator will work to develop a technical basis for the suggested rule change.

"If such a basis cannot be established," the NRC said in its statement, "the NRC will update the public on why the petition’s suggestions were not adopted."

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