Power Engineering

Nuclear Safety is Making Headlines

By Brian Wheeler, Associate Editor

Nuclear power safety is still making news headlines as Japan’s crisis continues to unfold. Yes, the situation there is very serious and a review of nuclear power plants is the next move to make, as is being done in the United States.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission named a task force to conduct a near-term review to indentify topics for a longer review. At the time of publication, the short-term review was not yet complete. NRC said a written report was expected to be made public 90 days after the start of the review, which was in April. The task force is made up of senior NRC managers and staff who will identify potential near-term actions that affect U.S. power reactors, including their spent fuel pools. Areas to be reviewed include loss of all AC power for a reactor, external events that could lead to a prolonged loss of cooling, plant capabilities for preventing or dealing with such circumstances and emergency preparedness.

Early last month, the Department of Energy (DOE) dedicated the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL), a research facility DOE said will accelerate the advancement of nuclear reactor technology. Researchers will use “supercomputers” to study the performance of light water reactors and also develop models to help accelerate upgrades to the existing U.S. nuclear power fleet.

The facility, located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, brings together four national labs, three industry partners and three universities in an effort to develop tools that will advance new generations of nuclear reactors and safely extend the life and reliability of existing plants.

“Work done at this facility will help make our fleet of reactors even safer and more efficient while creating jobs, fueling the economy and saving consumers money on their utility bills,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

DOE also announced that CASL had completed its first “virtual reactor.” The Department said that this software will provide improved insight into reactor operations, help the industry reduce capital and operating costs, minimize nuclear waste volume, safely extend the lifetime of the current nuclear fleet and develop new materials for next-generation reactors.

With these recent efforts it seems that the needed organizations in the U.S. are addressing many of the public’s concerns about the safety of nuclear power generation. But one lawmaker did not seem to agree. Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in early April introduced legislation known as the Nuclear Power Plant Safety Act of 2011 “to impose a moratorium on all pending NRC licenses and re-licenses in light of the need to fully understand the safety risks and include remedies into our own regulations.” The NRC, on April 1, had already established its task force and was moving forward with its review to develop recommendations for it to consider regarding immediate enhancements at U.S. reactors and possible changes to NRC regulations, inspection procedures and licensing processes.

Meanwhile in Europe, the European Commission is establishing a stress test review of Europe’s 143 reactors to make sure the plants are able to continue to operate safely. Christian Taillebois, spokesperson for the European Nuclear Society, said that once the stress test criteria is established it should be implemented at every plant as soon as possible. He said each European Union member state will decide whether the plant should be shut down, improved and so on.

“If the regulatory body says the plant needs work, we (nuclear industry) will make all necessary improvements,” he said.

Another question focuses on the need for a universal regulatory regime for reactors that are subject to any sort of natural disasters.

With over 440 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries, there are different cultures and work environments that, among other things, must be taken into consideration when it comes to deciding whether to have a “global nuclear regulator.”

Organizations already are established that do look over nuclear issues globally, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). Both have followed the situation in Japan closely to get timely information out, not only to the public, but to the entities involved in nuclear power generation as well.

“It is not possible to think about building, operating or dismantling a nuclear power plant without taking into account the recent accident and we did that after Three Mile Island in the U.S.,” said Laurent Stricker, WANO Chairman. “But clearly not enough.”

The international nuclear power community will continue to take in these “lessons learned” as the events in Japan unfold to assure that current designs, standards and operating approaches are capable of dealing with issues such as those confronting Fukushima Daiichi.

“We have to gather all CEOs of the nuclear industry and utilities in order to share our views and to move forward to a stronger commitment and obligation to follow the improvements we see,” said Stricker.

The nuclear power industry is putting its best foot forward and the NRC is doing what is needed to ensure that the existing and planned reactors will provide energy to this country in a safe manner.

More Power Engineering Issue Articles
Power Engineerng Issue Archives
View Power Generation Articles on PennEnergy.com

Sponsored by FLSmidth

Related Articles

NRC: DOE’s Yucca Mountain R&D meet NRC requirements

The staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published Volume 4 of its safety evaluation report on a proposed underground used nuclear fuel repository in Nevada.

Westinghouse continues to provide nuclear fuel to French power plants

Westinghouse Electric Co. and EDF signed a new long-term nuclear fuel contract to support EDF’s nuclear power plants in France.

Follow Power Engineering on Twitter
Latest News

S. Africa court dismisses Westinghouse nuclear generator replacement dispute

A South African court dismissed a filing from Westinghouse Electric Co. asking to reopen bidd...

IAEA urges India to tighten nuclear safety regulations

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is pressing India to tighten its nuclear safety...

Caterpillar's C280 Genset enters China offshore market

Caterpillar Oil & Gas will supply six of its Cat C280-16 offshore generator sets (gensets...

Justices divided over EPA mercury limits

The Supreme Court's conservative justices cast doubt on the Obama administration's first-ever...

Report: Global wind power installations increased by 42% in 2014

Global wind power installations grew 42 percent year-over-year, according to a new report con...

Low carbon standard passes Ill. Senate committee

An Illinois Senate committee passed a bill that would establish a low carbon standard that wo...

Russia to build two nuclear power reactors in Jordan for $10bn

Russia signed a $10 billion deal to build Jordan’s first nuclear power plant.

Iowa top officials on opposites sides in EPA lawsuit

Iowa's governor and attorney general were on opposite sides of a case argued Wednesday at the...

Power Engineering Current Issue

03/01/2014
Volume 118, Issue 3
1403PE-cover
Products Showcase
Dynamic Fluoride Ion cleaning DFIC of industrial natural gas turbines Hi-Tech Furnace Systems

Dynamic Fluoride Ion Cleaning of IGT Parts

The Dynamic Fluoride Ion Cleaning (DFIC) Process from Hi-Tech Furnace Systems is able to clean deep, narrow cracks of oxides by cycling between negative, atmospheric, and positive pressure.

Archived Articles

2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013

Buyers Guide Product Listings

Nondestructive Examination and Testing

Advanced nondestructive examination, NDE, techn...

Engineering Services

Structural Integrity Associates, Inc. (SI) is a...

Buyers Guide Company Listings

Power Industry Wire News

Earthstone Energy, Inc. Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2014 Results

Earthstone Energy, Inc. Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2014 Results

Chicago's Lakeshore Recycling Systems Helps Change a Life on March 27 Airing of the Steve Harvey Show

Chicago's Lakeshore Recycling Systems Helps Change a Life on March 27 Airing of the Ste...

East West Petroleum Corp.'s CEO David Sidoo Interviewed by The Energy Report

East West Petroleum Corp.'s CEO David Sidoo Interviewed by The Energy Report

Perma-Fix Schedules Fourth Quarter 2014 Earnings Conference Call

Perma-Fix Schedules Fourth Quarter 2014 Earnings Conference Call

Murray Energy's Controlling Interest of Foresight Creates U.S. Coal Mining Giant, an Industrial Info News Alert

Murray Energy's Controlling Interest of Foresight Creates U.S. Coal Mining Giant, an In...

Power Engineering

Article Archives for Power Engineering Magazine

Continuing Education

Professional Development Hours

To access a course listing associated to a specific topic listed below, click on the topic of choice from the list below.

Latest Energy Jobs

View more Job Listings >>