Boxer: Nuclear regulators haven’t learned from Fukushima


By Timothy Cama
The Hill

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) accused the body responsible for nuclear energy safety of ignoring recommendations that sprung from 2011’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear meltdown.

In the 10th hearing she has held on the disaster caused by an earthquake and tsunami, Boxer, chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said regulators have not acted on any of the recommendations made after the disaster.

"The reality is that not a single one of the 12 key safety recommendations made by the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force has been implemented," Boxer told the five members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
"There isn’t one of these that’s in place, not a single one," she said as an aide held a chart of the recommendations behind her.

Senior staffers and engineers at NRC made the recommendations months Fukushima in an effort to reduce the chances of a similar meltdown at nuclear power plants in the United States, or to mitigate its effects if it did happen.

Staffers told regulators to ensure that nuclear plants reevaluate flooding and seismic risks, improve staffing and communications for evacuation procedures, take steps to mitigate blackout effects, and other tasks.

NRC commissioners defended their actions over the last three years.

"The NRC continues to make significant progress in implementing post-Fukushima safety enhancements," said Allison MacFarlane, the commission’s chairwoman, who will step down soon.

She said plants are already starting to comply with other priorities from the task force, such as making improvements to the pools where they store spent fuel, installing diesel backup generators, and ensuring that all emergency equipment can be quickly and easily deployed.

"As a result of these activities, nuclear power plants in the United States will have more defense and depth to cope with long losses of offsite power and other severe accident conditions," she said.

Her fellow commissioners agreed.

"I’m very proud of the actions that we’ve required as an agency," said Commissioner William Ostendorf. "I believe that we take a thoughtful approach based in science, engineering and best principals to ensure that the right things are being done in the proper sequence."

Commissioner Kristine Svinicki agreed with MacFarlane and highlighted improvements to emergency equipment.

But Boxer wasn’t pleased.

"How can you say you’re proud of what you did?" she challenged MacFarlane. "I know you did a lot of other things that are good, but how you can say you’re proud that you helped us post-Fukushima, that’s beyond my ability to understand."

Boxer brought Rep. Lois Capps (Calif.), whose district includes California’s only operating nuclear plant, to back up her case.

"That tragedy put in such stark terms how little we actually knew about the seismic situation at Diablo Canyon and the potential consequences," she said.

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