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No Imminent Risk a Similar Disaster Could Unfold in the US

Susanne Gerber

04.08.2011

WASHINGTON – Japan’s nuclear disaster was not the kind of “unforeseen” event that would require a radical overhaul of safety rules for US plants, a commissioner at the US nuclear regulatory agency said yesterday. Emerging evidence shows a tsunami like the one that overwhelmed the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March could happen once every 1,000 years or less, said George Apostolakis, one of three Democrats on the five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That kind of frequency would be unacceptable for US plants not to be prepared for and it showed the plant was not adequately designed to protect against events within the realm of probability, he said. “This focus on the unthinkable is really misplaced. It was not unthinkable at all,” Mr Apostolakis said in a speech at the Bipartisan Policy Centre. He said not enough people have acknowledged that the plant should have been better secured. “This is the kind of secret that everybody knows but nobody wants to say anything about.” The US regulator should now reconfirm the 104 nuclear reactors owned by some of the country’s biggest utilities are designed to withstand disasters within historical probabilities. But the commission would have had a much bigger task if Fukushima’s disaster truly was “unthinkable”, he said. “If it was really unthinkable, there would be great urgency, it seems to me, to really try to think about these kind of unlikely events and how we can protect the plants,” he said. A task force of six senior commission staff examining lessons from Fukushima said there was no imminent risk a similar disaster could unfold in the US. “That means we have time to think and be methodical,” Mr Apostolakis said. Last month, the task force released a report with recommendations, some of which would force plants to plan for catastrophes beyond those they were designed to withstand, potentially adding millions in costs for operators like Exelon, Entergy, and PGE. The NRC has not yet decided how to move forward. Chairman Gregory Jaczko wants commissioners to rule on each task force recommendation within 90 days, with a goal of implementing new rules within five years. Mr Jaczko has not formally voted on how to move forward. But the other commissioners including Mr Apostolakis have advocated an alternate approach. The commissioners said they want top NRC operations staff to develop a schedule within 45 days to evaluate the task force ideas and gather input from the public and industry. Under this approach, Mr Apostolakis said the NRC could still make key decisions in 90 days, as advocated by Mr Jaczko. – (Reuters)

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2011/0804/1224301822664.html

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Einsortiert unter:Danger, Politics

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