millstone


Role of Regulation in Nuclear Plant Safety: A New Series of Posts

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

President Trump seeks to lessen the economic burden from excessive regulation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) initiated Project AIM before the 2016 elections seeking to right-size the agency and position it to become more adaptive to shifting needs in the future. And the nuclear industry launched its Delivering the Nuclear Promise campaign seeking productivity and efficiency gains to enable nuclear power to compete better against natural gas and other sources of electricity.

In light of these concurrent efforts, we will be reviewing momentous events in nuclear history and posting a series of commentaries on the role of regulation in nuclear plant safety. The objective is to better understand under-regulation and over-regulation to better define “Goldilocks” regulation—regulation that is neither too lax nor too onerous, but just right. That better understanding will enable us to engage the NRC more effectively as the agency pursues Project AIM and the industry tries to deliver on its promise. Read more >

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Setting the Nuclear Safety Bar

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #53

Safety by Intent

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #52, last week’s commentary, described the timely and effective response by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to the unexpected discovery of cracked control rod drive mechanism (CRDM) nozzles at the Oconee nuclear plant in South Carolina. Soon after being surprised, the NRC determined who needed to do what when in order to properly resolve the safety problem. When the phased actions were taken, the results confirmed that the NRC’s triage was appropriate.

This commentary expands upon a theme implied in last week’s commentary—namely, that the NRC does a good job setting the nuclear safety bar at the Goldilocks height: not too low to expose workers and the public to undue risk, not too high to impose undue costs on plant owners, but just right. Read more >

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UCS Causes Meltdowns at US Nuclear Reactors (no, really)

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #46

Disaster by Design

You won’t see it on our website. You won’t find it in materials we mail out to our members. You won’t hear it in the webinars we hold for prospective donors. But UCS caused a meltdown at a U.S. nuclear power reactor. Well, that’s only half the story. UCS caused meltdowns at two U.S. nuclear power reactors. In our defense, they (being the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the nuclear industry, started it. We only finished it. Read more >

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Nuclear Plant Emergency Preparedness (or Pretending)

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #35

Disaster by Design

Fission Stories #58 described how control room operators prepared for a test to be conducted on the Unit 2 reactor at the Millstone nuclear plant in Connecticut. Each operator who would touch control switches during the test was assigned a peer checker who would have a copy of the test procedure in hand to verify that the operator conducted every step as specified. The entire group of operators and peer checkers went into the simulator—a full-scale, computer-controlled mockup of the control room—two days before the test to rehearse it a few times. What could go wrong? Read more >

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Nuclear Plant Containment Failure: Overpressure

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #30

Disaster by Design

Defense-in-depth is a primary element of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approach to the safety of U.S. nuclear power plants. Many of the NRC’s regulatory requirements seek to reduce the chances of reactor core meltdowns to as low as achievable levels. But recognizing that the consequences of low probability events like meltdowns, sometimes called “black swans,” can be disastrous, the NRC also has regulatory requirements seeking to reduce the chances that radioactivity gets released in harmful amounts during an accident. This commentary describes the primary containments used in pressurized water reactors (PWRs) and boiling water reactors (BWRs) and how too much pressure can cause containment to fail. Read more >

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