New group forms to keep nuke industry on track after Fukushima

The organization that makes policy for the nuclear industry told Wall Street Tuesday that, following the recent disaster in Japan, a new ad hoc group will help U.S. reactors run even more safely.

Marvin Fertel, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, told financial analysts that a new Fukushima Response Steering Committee will coordinate industry response in the U.S. to the nuclear meltdowns and spent fuel fires that proliferated in the wake of the March earthquake and tsunami.

Besides the utilities themselves, the committee will be incorporating the work and insights of NEI, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, the Electric Power Research Institute and the owners' groups for vendors.

"Because what's happened at Fukushima is a broad issue, we've formed an industry leadership organization which is a coordinated effort to capture and apply lessons that emerge from Fukushima. That's an important effort for us to do and stay coordinated," Fertel said in a statement.

Dominion, which owns the Millstone Power Station in Waterford, as well as reactors in Virginia and Wisconsin, has begun to work with the committee through David Heacock, chief nuclear officer for Dominion, who is a member, said spokesman Ken Holt.

Goals include ensuring that "no gaps exist" in response to the lessons learned regarding Fukushima, Holt said, and prevention of duplication of effort during that process.

"Dominion and the entire industry are dedicated to gaining a deep understanding of the incidents in Japan, and taking all of the actions required to improve safety and emergency preparedness not only at Dominion's four nuclear stations but at all nuclear units in the country," Holt said.

In the briefing on Wall Street, Fertel pointed to four directives from INPO requiring reactor owners to take action, including managing flooding and seismic events, ensuring spent fuel pool cooling capability and the effectiveness of operator fundamentals and training programs and improving safety margins in the event of natural disasters and loss of power. The committee will also work side by side with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Japan task force, which recently made 34 recommendations for improvements and stated it believes continued reactor operations do not pose safety or health risks to the public, Fertel said. As the steering committee focuses on both near- and long-term improvements, the industry is proceeding with the building of new reactors in Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina, power uprates that improve efficiency and generating capacity, and license renewals at nine of the country's 104 reactors, he added.

p.daddona@theday.com

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