Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nuclear safety post-Fukushima: A victory for the public's right to know

How vulnerable are US nuclear reactors to the kind of disaster that is occurring at Fukushima Daiichi?

Considering that one in three Americans lives within 50 miles of a nuclear plant, the public deserves access to all information that can shed light on this question. Yet a straight answer has been difficult to obtain from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the nuclear industry. In the weeks following the accident, the NRC, rather than providing clear explanations, often resorted to its business-as-usual strategy: offering vague reassurances while muddying the waters with confusing bureaucrat-speak. And when all else failed, the NRC dropped a veil of secrecy over information that could cast doubt on -- or even contradict -- some of its public assertions.

This was evident when the NRC and the industry invoked the mysterious requirements known as "B5b" as a cure-all for the kinds of problems that led to the Fukushima crisis. B5b refers to a section of an NRC Order, issued in February 2002, describing the strategies that the NRC required nuclear plant licensees to develop after the September 11 attacks to "maintain or restore core cooling, containment, and spent fuel pool cooling capabilities under the circumstances associated with loss of large areas of the plant due to explosions or fire." The NRC decided to impose these rules instead of requiring nuclear plants to adopt measures that would help to prevent aircraft attacks on nuclear plants through means such as no-fly zones, anti-aircraft weapons, or construction of additional physical barriers. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

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