Has Nuclear Power Plant Safety Improved?

Nuclear power plants have seen a marked improvement in safety in recent decades. This is evidenced by the performance categories used by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to monitor operational safety, which have seen an overall increase in security and a decrease in problems. This article provides an overview of the strategies used by Member States to identify and implement safety improvements in their nuclear power plants. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster of 2011, caused by a tsunami, resulted in the melting of fuel in three of its reactors and the release of radioactive materials into the environment.

While no deaths were attributed to radiation exposure, there are still many lessons to be learned from this event. The government has been working with Japan to broaden our understanding of the progression of accidents in these three units. The Boiling Water Reactor Owners Group (BWROG) has highlighted three successes achieved by the forensic program that are already having a direct influence on the performance and safety of boiling water reactors (BWR) in the U. S.

These include new training programs, updates to operating procedures and implementation of the management guide. The Major Accident Interactive Learning (SAIL) program was enhanced with information obtained from the forensic working group and is currently hosted on the Nuclear Power Operations Institute's e-learning portal. Information from the forensic program also contributed to the revision of guidance developed to operate BWR emergency cooling systems during extreme external events. The new guide is based on knowledge gained from the evaluation of the operation of the reactor core insulation cooling (RCIC) system of units 2 and 3 of Fukushima Daiichi, along with tests conducted as part of the Terry Turbine Expanded Operating Band project.

New procedures provide operators with greater operational flexibility of RCIC, such as canceling certain trips or adjusting inflow, to ensure reactor cooling. This allows RCIC systems to now operate under conditions far beyond their initial design base during some events, such as station outages. The Fukushima forensic working group is led by the Department of Energy's Office of International Nuclear Energy Policy and Cooperation, which collaborates with international partners to support the safe and peaceful use of nuclear energy. Other results include updates to major accident code models, which are used to support new accident management strategies, plant risk assessments and new reactor license applications.

Nuclear power plants maintain the highest standards for operational safety, cybersecurity and emergency preparedness. Comprehensive industry safety procedures and strict federal regulations keep our plants and neighboring communities safe. Several systems keep our plants safe, and top-notch security starts long before an armed guard is on duty. Plant design, screening systems, behavioral observation and highly trained forces protect our reactors.

Our nuclear plants are well protected from cyber threats, designed as operating islands disconnected from the Internet. Each nuclear plant maintains a response plan for different emergencies that bring together federal, state, and local response teams that meet stringent NRC and FEMA requirements. The Chernobyl accident was a unique event and the only time in the history of commercial nuclear energy that radiation-related deaths occurred. Companies licensed to operate nuclear power plants must obtain and maintain accreditation for their training programs from the independent National Nuclear Accreditation Board.

The plan emerged from intensive consultations with Member States but not with industry, and was described as a meeting point and plan to strengthen nuclear safety worldwide. It should be noted that a commercial-type power reactor simply cannot, under any circumstances, explode like a nuclear bomb: fuel is not enriched more than about 5% and much greater enrichment is needed for explosives. In 1994, the Kakrapar nuclear power plant near India's west coast was flooded due to heavy rains along with a lack of control of an adjoining water pond which flooded equipment in its turbine building basement. Second-generation plants remain operational in all countries operating nuclear power facilities (e.g., Russia, France and U.

S.). In relation to nuclear energy, safety is closely related to safety, and in the nuclear field also to safeguards. The National Nuclear Regulatory Commission specifies that reactor designs must meet a theoretical core damage frequency of 1 in 10,000 years but modern designs exceed it.