Fukushima Response

June 11, 2012
Dave Lochbaum
Former contributor

Tony Pietrangelo, Chip Pardee, me, and Bill Borchardt from left to right (NEI photo).

The Nuclear Energy Assembly was conducted May 21-23, 2012, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Approximately 500 nuclear industry executives from the United States and abroad typically attend these annual conferences. Marvin Fertel, President of the Nuclear Energy Institute, invited me to attend the conference this year and participate in a session titled “The Response to Fukushima.” Tony Pietrangelo, NEI’s Chief Nuclear Officer, moderated the session which also included Bill Borchardt, Executive Director of Operations for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Chip Pardee, Exelon’s Chief Operating Officer.

Tony posed a series of questions to the panel drawing out the measures taken and planned in response to the Fukushima disaster. Bill made the point that the NRC needed discipline to avoid labeling everything as being a Fukushima fix. The NRC developed a process to implement the lessons learned from Fukushima that complements existing processes for resolving other safety and security issues. Bill indicated that these multiple tracks worked best when items did not cross lanes seeking a fast track.

Chip reinforced a point often made throughout the conference about the importance of not allowing the focus on safe performance of operating reactors to get distracted or diluted by the implementation of Fukushima’s lessons.

Tony’s final question sought our views on what a successful response to Fukushima would look like. Earlier discussions questioned whether a 5-year timeframe for complete implementation was viable. I stated that success entails effective implementation without undue delay. Conceding that delay was, like beauty, in the eyes of the beholder, I cited the gas accumulation in safety system piping and components issue (Generic Letter 2008-01, http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML0729/ML072910759.pdf) as a good example of the nuclear industry and the NRC working together to resolve a safety issue without undue delay. If the Fukushima lessons can be implemented effectively with no wasted time or inactive periods along the way like in the Generic Letter 2008-01 precedent, it’ll be a success.

Before closing, I wish to express my appreciation to Marv Fertel, Tony Pietrangelo and NEI for including me on this panel. They knew beforehand that my views would not align with theirs and could have easily and justifiably not invited me to the panel. I applaud Marv and Tony for soliciting a broader spectrum of viewpoints.

A video of the panel is available here.