Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials have "a high degree of confidence" in existing American nuclear reactors
The nuclear crisis is Japan, while severe, does not warrant any immediate changes in the U.S, a top U.S. nuclear official said Monday.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s executive director for operations, Bill Borchardt, said officials have “a high degree of confidence” that operations at the 104 nuclear reactors in 31 states are safe. He said inspectors at each of the plants have redoubled efforts to guard against any safety breaches.
Borchardt gave NRC commissioners a detailed look at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plan, damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the U.S. response thus far.
Borchardt told commissioners that Units 1, 2 and 3 at the crippled Fukushima plant have some core damage, but that containment for those three reactors has not been breached.
“I would say optimistically that things appear to be on the verge of stabilizing,” he said.
The Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the troubled plant, has been able to bring offsite power onto the site from a nearby transmission line, Borchardt said, the first sign of progress at the plant in recent days. Water is being injected into the reactor vessels in Units 1, 2 and 3, and containment in all three units appears to be functional, he said.
The five-member commission was reviewing the Japanese crisis — it is the worst nuclear disaster in a quarter-century — and was set to approve a 90-day safety review of operations at the U.S. nuclear fleet to comply with a call last week by President Barack Obama.
NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said his agency has a responsibility to the American people to undertake “a systematic and methodical review of the safety of our own domestic nuclear facilities,” in light of the Japanese disaster.
The nuclear plant’s cooling systems were wrecked by the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan on March 11. Since then, conditions at the plant have been volatile; a plume of smoke rose from two reactor units Monday, prompting workers to evacuate.
As work at the plant continues, U.S. officials will look to see whether information from Japan can be applied in the United States to ensure U. S. reactors remain safe, Jaczko said.
But even some of his fellow commissioners had questions about the U.S. response.
Commissioner George Apostolakis wondered why the NRC did not close some older nuclear plants, as Germany did.
“Are we less prudent than the Germans?” Apostolakis asked.
Borchardt replied that officials “asked ourselves the question every single day, ‘Should we take a regulatory action based upon the latest information?’” Each time, he said, the answer was no.
“I’m 100 percent confident in the review that we’ve done and we continue to do every single day that we have a sufficient basis to … conclude that the U.S. plants continue to operate safely,” he said.
Borchardt also defended the commission’s recommendation that U.S. citizens stay at least 50 miles away from the troubled Fukushima plant. Current U.S. guidelines call for a 10-mile evacuation zone around all U.S. nuclear plants, and some critics have suggested that the NRC was imposing a stricter standard on Japan than on U.S. nuclear reactors.
Borchardt said the recommendation about Japan was made based on conditions at the plant — namely that there were degraded conditions in two spent-fuel pools at the site and likely damage to three of the reactor cores.
If the same conditions occurred in the United States, he added, “we would have done the same analysis and gone through the same thought process,” and likely would have extended the evacuation zone and taken others steps to protect the public.
A spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group, said U.S. officials acted appropriately in recommending the 50-mile evacuation zone for U.S. citizens in Japan.
“They acted cautiously based on the uncertainty of what the radiation exposures are at the plant,” spokesman Steve Kerekes said.
NRC staff and other U.S. experts have been in Tokyo for more than a week conferring with Japanese government and industry officials on the disaster. A second wave of NRC employees is heading to Japan this week, in many cases replacing workers who are already there.
More Related Stories
- Illinois' fracking and coal rush is a national crisis
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Kaitlyn Hunt refuses plea offer, will go to court over high school relationship
- DHS admits "impossible" to control 3D-printed guns
- Journalists file suit against Manning trial secrecy
- Russia: Syrian regime ready to talk peace
- Report: Nearly a quarter of all Americans struggle to afford food
- Ted Cruz against the world
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- 2 men arrested for endangering commercial aircraft
- Oversized load blamed for bridge collapse
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Iran hackers aiming at U.S. energy firms
- Lawyers release data in attempt to discredit Trayvon Martin
- Anonymous rallies behind Kaitlyn Hunt
- Bridge collapse: Part of "aging infrastructure"
- Mistrial in penalty phase of Arias case
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Interstate 5 bridge collapses north of Seattle
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11