As Japan continues efforts to stabilize the damaged Fukishima nuclear power plant and contain radiation, U.S. officials are finalizing plans to review domestic plants to avoid similar problems from occurring after an earthquake or natural disaster.
The Executive Director of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Bill Borchardt today said a nuclear plant damaged by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami is on the verge of being stabilized. Borchardt also said no health impacts are expected from any radiation leaks at that plant. Chairman Gregory Jaczko provided further details on the plan and updated on the situation in Japan during todays meeting of the NRC.
The NRC is preparing to launch a 90-day review of U.S. nuclear plants, which will be followed by a long-term review process. The undertaking will be handled by the NRC, which regularly inspects the nation’s 104 reactors.
Appearing on C-SPAN's Newsmakers yesterday, the NRC Chair said that "our number one priority is the safety and security of the existing fleet" of reactors. To prepare for the unexpected, Jaczko pointed to the NRC's "severe accident" program that requires utilities to draw up contingency plans for cooling reactors and spent fuel rods when unforeseen disasters disrupt electricity production.
Earlier this morning, Jack Spencer, a Nuclear Energy Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, joined C-SPAN’s Washington Journal and gave his thoughts on why possible changes may be made to nuclear regulations in the United States in the wake of the disaster in Japan.
On Sunday, engineers announced that two of six crippled nuclear reactors had been safely cooled. A power cable was recently connected to the plant in an effort to re-start water pumps to cool overheating fuel rods. However, pressure suddenly increased at the precarious No. 3 reactor, which had been sprayed by fire crews on Saturday, leading to speculation that radioactive steam may need to be released.
Over the weekend, Japanese health officials issued warnings about drinking tap water and consuming vegetables from some of affected areas where high levels of radiation have been detected.