NRC implements Fukushima 'lessons learned'

Tuesday - 10/25/2011, 11:16am EDT

Eric Leeds, director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, NRC

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By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has studied lessons learned from the reactor accident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant and is now seeking to channel them into action.

NRC's Near-Term Task Force presented a report to the commission in July focusing on 12 comprehensive safety recommendations. NRC has zeroed in on seven of them for now.

Eric Leeds

Eric Leeds, the director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation at the NRC, told the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris the initial list represents "some of the most significant learnings that we've had, so far, from the Fukushima event."

The recommendations include how to deal with the loss of all A/C electrical power at a reactor — known as a "station blackout" — as well as seismic and flooding hazards, emergency equipment and staff training.

The day of the Japanese quake, NRC activated its operations center to monitor the event and put agency personnel on a plane to Japan just hours after the March 11 quake, Leeds said.

"The big lesson learned that we're taking out of Fukushima is that you have to be prepared for the unexpected," he said.

The nuclear crisis there was a "beyond-design-basis accident," Leeds said, meaning engineers never thought such an outcome would happen so it wasn't taken into consideration during the plant's design and construction.

NRC began preparing for the unexpected, so to speak, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The nation's nuclear energy plants were seen as potential targets for future attacks, so NRC put security measures in place to protect them, Leeds said.

Those measures mean the United States is likely better prepared for a catastrophe at one of its plants, Leeds said.

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