July 15, 2024

Task Force Recommends Improvements for Nuclear Plants

The task force recommendations were to be released Wednesday, but a copy of the summary was obtained Tuesday evening by The New York Times.

It lays out numerous areas for improvement, based on the experience in Japan after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. American plants need to plan for simultaneous accidents at adjacent reactors, something they have never done, the task force said.

They also need to make sure that the “hardened vents” added to reactors over the years to prevent hydrogen explosions would actually work in an emergency, the report said, and determine where hydrogen, which is produced by overheated fuel, might flow. Japanese operators had trouble using the vents, resulting in the explosions in the secondary containments.

Some of the improvements the industry voluntarily adopted after the Sept. 11 attacks have not been regularly inspected or maintained, the report said. Those should be inspected using the more “formal” procedures that are in place for the plants’ original safety equipment, the task force recommended.

And plants should have a better way to add water to spent fuel pools and monitor conditions in those pools, the task force said.

Fukushima focused new attention on spent fuel pools, which usually have more radioactive materials in them than the reactors do. In desperation, the Japanese used water cannons to refill them.

Even now, the task force wrote, there was uncertainty about what happened at Fukushima, and information was “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 five-member commission is scheduled to meet next week to consider the work of the task force, which it considers a quick, first look at the Fukushima disaster’s relevance to reactors in the United States.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c69f27c51604a2969758878bdc24701d

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