Safety Has Improved Since Fukushima, Says US Government Report

Posted by NucNet on 12 March 2014 in NucNet

The Fukushima-Daiichi accident led to many nuclear regulatory bodies taking steps to strengthen nuclear safety and provide additional resources for regulators, a report has concluded.

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report reviewed 16 countries, 13 of which operate commercial nuclear power reactors and three of which are developing or considering developing civilian nuclear power programmes.

The report said all the nuclear regulatory bodies in the review have strengthened nuclear safety in response to the March 2011 accident.

Japan in particular has fundamentally restructured its nuclear regulatory framework, and three other countries – China, Sweden, and Vietnam – are providing additional resources to their nuclear regulatory bodies.

Three key international organisations – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Association of Nuclear Operators, and the European Union – have taken steps to support nuclear regulatory bodies and help them identify the most important lessons of the accident.

Countries are also improving safety with a focus on considering “previously unimagined accident scenarios”, the report said. Regulatory bodies in several countries, including Belgium, Canada, Russia, and the US, are now planning for accident scenarios that could involve multiple reactors at a single power plant.

In addition, new requirements for emergency equipment such as backup electric generators that can be used in the event of loss of off-site power, as occurred at Fukushima-Daiichi, are an “area of focus” among the regulatory bodies in the GAO’s review.

Officials from six of the 13 countries with operating reactors in the GAO’s review said they have automated systems for collecting and transmitting critical nuclear power plant data to the nuclear regulatory body or designated technical experts who work with the regulatory body during an accident. Officials from a seventh country said that it has plans to build such a system.

Officials from three of the countries with automated systems, including the US, told the GAO they are considering steps to ensure their systems can operate in certain emergency conditions, such as during the loss of off-site power, but none has a specific timetable for doing so.

The GAO called on the US government and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to encourage the IAEA to “systematically track” the status of recommendations made by IAEA peer review missions.

The GAO also urged the NRC consider speeding up its decision on whether or how to upgrade its automated system for transmitting key reactor data. This would increase the likelihood of the NRC having access to “timely, accurate, and comprehensive information” during nuclear accidents, the report said.

The 16 countries in the report are Argentina, Armenia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, the US, and Vietnam.

The report is online