A divided NRC under fire from lawmakers over post-Fukushima rule changes

Members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission received tongue lashings from legislators Thursday over a set of proposed rule changes made in response to the Fukushima meltdown. The testifying commissioners received criticism from both sides of the issue, including warnings about the cost of new regulations and rebukes about the delays in implementing them, The Hill reports.

After the Fukushima meltdown a U.S. taskforce made recommendations on measures to be taken to improve safety at U.S. nuclear facilities. The NRC has subsequently proposed three new key regulatory changes, including requiring water-level indicators in on-site spent fuel pools, mandating core cool-down strategies in case of emergency, and, most controversially, requiring new vent filters on the 31 boiling water reactors in the U.S.

Democrats criticized the NRC for dragging its feet in implementing the new rules, which are slated to go into effect by 2016.

“That’s more than five years after the Fukushima accident,” said Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.). Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif) joined the critique, saying “safety should be the commission’s top priority,” according to The Hill.

Republican legislators in turn have joined the nuclear industry and the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), an advocacy group, in calling for a case-by-case implementation of the regulation requiring all BWRs to install radiation vent filters, which the NEI says could cost up to $45 million each.

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