Japan Eyes U.S. Nuke Model for Emergencies

by Lou Dolinar

Over on the homepage, I reveal details of the major effort the U.S. made, under President Bush and former NRC chairman Dr. Nils J. Diaz, to secure nuclear power plants against both terrorists and natural disasters, including hardware, training, and chain-of-command upgrades designed to cope with a total loss of power and cooling, similar to what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Now, CNN is reporting that the Japanese are moving to upgrade their response system along the lines of the U.S.:

Plants will be required to inspect their devices and equipment in order to test their ability to withstand a tsunami, the government said. In addition, plants will be required to make emergency plans and run an emergency drill, acting as if cooling systems have been compromised, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said in a statement. They will also have to ensure they have access to an alternative power source if emergency power fails and implement emergency cooling water solutions . . .

By mid-April, the government said, plants should have power vehicles available to cool reactor cores and spent fuel pools; make fire trucks available which can supply cooling water; and make fire hoses available to enable a water supply from fresh or seawater sources. They also must document emergency procedures including the vehicles and other items, and run a drill, the agency statement said.

Operators must begin implementing the requirements immediately and report their status including implementation plans to the agency. The agency will review the reports and validate the plans, along with confirming implementation, it said.

As I noted in my story, U.S. officials and nuclear-plant operators have been aware of shortcomings in Japan’s emergency-response plans, but were reluctant to criticize. With the problems out in the open, both the U.S. and Japan will be better equipped to deal with “lessons learned” from the crisis.