EXCERPT - Nuclear safety: Staying ahead of challenges in the U.S.

NRC nuclear power plants U.S. safety Union of Concerned Scientists

In early March of this year, two studies were released on the same subject with findings that could not have been more divergent.

On March 7, 2013, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a report stating that nearly all—99 out of 104—of the commercial nuclear reactors in the United States received passing grades on nuclear safety, and 81 out of the 99 passed with flying colors, meeting every “safety and security performance objective.” Three of the worst performing reactors were found to have a “degraded level of performance” requiring additional NRC oversight, and just one had “a safety finding of high significance” requiring yet more oversight and corrective actions. The NRC report seemed to confirm unequivocally that America’s nuclear power plants are operating safely.

Just days later, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released its own study titled “Tolerating the Intolerable,” in which 14 nuclear plants were found to have experienced “near miss” scenarios in the last year, in which the risk of a meltdown increased by at least a factor of 10.

The media had a field day with the second report, the Atlantic releasing online “A Map of All the U.S. Nuclear Plants That Almost Melted Down in 2012.” One can be forgiven for wondering what’s going on here. Two years after the world’s worst nuclear disaster in decades, is the U.S. nuclear fleet taking reasonable security and safety precautions? Or are Americans narrowly avoiding Fukushimas at a rate of more than once a month?

Read the full story in the upcoming May issue of Power Engineering magazine

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