NRC panel recommends regulatory overhaul

July 13, 2011 at 3:10 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 13 (UPI) -- A federal task force Wednesday recommended replacing what it calls a patchwork of regulatory requirements covering the U.S. nuclear power industry.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Japan Task Force proposes improving nuclear reactor safety by putting in place a "logical, systematic and coherent regulatory framework" to replace the regulations enacted "piece-by-piece over the decades."

The panel, created following Japan's nuclear crisis caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, urges improvements to deal with issues such as loss of power, earthquakes, flooding, spent fuel pools, venting and preparedness.

While calling for the regulatory makeover, the task force said "a sequence of events like the Fukushima accident is unlikely to occur in the United States" and plants can be operated safely.

Its dozen short- and long-term recommendations will be presented to the commission Tuesday and a public hearing will follow July 28. Task force members will appear before the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards Aug. 17, the NRC said in a statement on its Web site.

"Our recommendations are grouped into four areas beyond the overarching suggestion to clarify the agency's regulatory framework," said Charles Miller, the longtime NRC staffer who led the review team. "We looked at ensuring protection, enhancing accident mitigation, strengthening emergency preparedness and improving the efficiency of NRC programs."

Tony Pietrangelo, senior vice president at the Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear industry lobbying group, noted in a release on its Web site that the task force report "is a first step" in the regulatory review process.

"The task force report does not cite significant data from the Fukushima accident to support many of its recommendations," he said. "Given the mammoth challenge it faced in gathering and evaluating the still-incomplete information from Japan, the agency should seek broader engagement with stakeholders on the task force report to ensure that its decisions are informed by the best information possible."

He said the U.S. industry has "undertaken significant work in the past 90 days to examine our facilities and take the steps necessary to enhance safety" and "we look forward to participating in a broad stakeholder dialogue on the task force report."

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