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Senator Dianne Feinstein, seen here giving a self-facepalm has suggested the federal government perform a massive expensive reevaluation of U.S. plant quake risks. An almost identical comprehensive study was performed three years ago and concluded the nation was safe.  (Source: NewsReal)
Apparently they missed the first study's conclusions

Yesterday we pointed out that a newly released study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) concluded that nuclear power plants in the U.S. were well within acceptable levels of risk and should be deemed safe.  Unfortunately a report by MSNBC largely missed that conclusion.

And apparently they weren't the only ones.  The report has apparently touched off a bout of nuclear hysteria in Congress.  

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee demanded that the NRC perform a costly extensive study to determine if the plants are safe.

They write, "We call on the NRC to conduct a comprehensive investigation of all nuclear facilities in the United States to assess their capacity to withstand catastrophic natural or man-made disasters including scenarios that may be considered remote like the recent events in Japan."

"These domestic nuclear reactors must be fully evaluated to ensure that they are as safe and resilient as possible, that worst case scenarios are examined and addressed, and that personnel training and equipment for emergency responses are in place and up-to-date. Special and immediate attention should be given to those U.S. nuclear reactors that share similar characteristics as the failing reactors in Japan, including similar designs or located near a coastline or seismic fault line."

Apparently they missed the fact that the NRC did almost exactly that 3 years ago in 2008 (the study we referenced in yesterday's piece).  And their conclusion?  We're safe.

The only remaining question is whether Japan's nuclear plant situation would actually change any of the conclusions in the paper.  The answer, for most plants, is probably not.  

Only plants near flood-prone regions, or coastal regions in danger of tsunami strikes, might have additional risks due to the possibility of knocked out backup generators.

While the Senators do suggest an inquiry of such locations, they also ask for much more -- an investigation of "all nuclear facilities" with little factual justification provided.

The proposal also calls for other possibly expensive and unusual suggestions, such as requesting:

How comprehensive is the radiation monitoring system in Japan? Would the U.S. take a similar monitoring approach if a serious accident were to occur here? What increased risk is associated with exposure to mixed oxide fuel?

It also contains alarming language, such as:

Has the NRC modeled what could happen if the U.S. had multiple nuclear accidents simultaneously? If so, how would the NRC respond to such a disaster?

At a time when our nation's federal and state governments are facing huge budget deficits, this should be an excellent test of exactly how frenzied the public is about nuclear power in the U.S.  Will they stand by and support this expensive study, which is essentially a repeat of one just done a couple years ago?

One person is awfully satisfied with the news -- the original MSNBC report's author, Bill Dedman.  He brags of how he motivated the government to push the expensive study repeat, writing, "Three U.S. senators on Thursday called on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to answer for the safety and emergency preparedness at all nuclear facilities in the United States."

"As msnbc.com reported on Wednesday, the NRC has raised its earthquake damage estimates for the nation's 104 commercial nuclear power plants, particularly for those in the eastern and central states, where seismologists say the earthquake risk is higher than previously thought. The estimates by the NRC were provided to msnbc.com, which ranked the reactors by risk."


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A bit off the mark
By Khato on 3/17/2011 5:40:16 PM , Rating: 1
While I've quite appreciated the two recent editorials regarding flaws in the mass media coverage of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear incident, I can't help but be disappointed in this piece. Why? Well the main reason is that the "newly released study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) concluded that nuclear power plants in the U.S. were well within acceptable levels of risk" that you're referencing only covers seismic hazards in central and eastern US nuclear plants. So not only does it not cover the entire country, but it also only investigates one possible type of event.

Anyway, after actually reading the letters the requests aren't really that out of line. Really, they should already be covered by normal NRC activities and simply require a formal write-up... There's nothing wrong with proper supervision and regulation, that's kinda what makes nuclear power the safest and over all best power source available to us at current. After all, left to their own devices companies are all too happy to cut corners in maintenance/inspection and keep on using old reactors that should be decommissioned since the cost to keep a nuclear reactor running is minimal compared to new construction.




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