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Independent analysis concludes nuclear task force’s safety recommendations are insufficient

Posted Jul. 19, 2011 / Posted by: Nick Berning

For Immediate Release:
July 19, 2011

Contact:
Matthew Cain, mcain@foe.org, 202.222.0751
Nick Berning, nberning@foe.org, 202.222.0748

Independent analysis concludes nuclear task force’s safety recommendations are insufficient

Analysis is released as regulators meet to consider recommendations

Washington, D.C.—As the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission met this morning to consider a summary of lessons learned from the ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan, Friends of the Earth released an independent analysis concluding that the report is incomplete and deficient, and that its recommendations do not go far enough.

Friends of the Earth’s review determined that until a more thorough review of the causes, consequences and costs of the disaster is completed, “decisions about relicensing of existing reactors, licensing of new reactors and certification rulemaking of new reactor designs should be suspended.”
 
The analysis of the NRC’s post-Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Review was conducted on behalf of Friends of the Earth by Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D., an electrical and nuclear engineer and the president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.

“Some of the task force’s recommendations will improve reactor safety, but the recommendations do not go far enough. If they are implemented dangerous safety gaps will remain,” Makhijani said. “The disaster in Japan has exposed numerous flaws in the nuclear infrastructure and regulation here in the U.S. — especially near population centers like New York and Philadelphia, near fault lines along the California coast, and in all Fukushima-style Mark 1 reactors — and the task force’s recommendations fail to adequately address many of them.”

According to Makhijani’s analysis, some of the task force’s recommendations have merit, but the task force's review falls short in how it addresses:

* Evacuation planning for disasters at reactors near major cities, such as Indian Point (25 miles from New York City) and Limerick (30 miles from Philadelphia);
* The risks posed by fault lines near the San Onofre and Diablo Canyon reactor facilities, which sit on the California coast;
* Vents in U.S. Mark 1 reactors that are similar to those that failed and led to hydrogen explosions in Japan;
* The duration for which reactor facilities must be able to survive loss of outside power (for example, the task force failed to acknowledge that a natural disaster could make it difficult to reach pre-positioned emergency equipment);
* The potential to use safer dry casks instead of riskier pools for storage of spent reactor fuel.

In addition, Makhijani's analysis challenged the task force's recommendation that the NRC complete the "design certification rulemaking activities without delay" on proposed reactor designs — including the Westinghouse AP1000 — that would be used in South Carolina and Georgia.

"Given that the Task Force did not take public input into account, it is now imperative that the NRC present a way forward which guarantees a formal role for the public in every step of the development of medium-term and long-term regulatory changes," Makhijani said.

For more information, the full analysis Makhijani prepared for Friends of the Earth can be found at http://www.foe.org/

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Friends of the Earth fights to defend the environment and create a more healthy and just world. Our campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, keeping toxic and risky technologies out of the food we eat and products we use, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

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