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Planet Ark World Environment News Calls For Some Nuclear Plants To Boost Safety

Date: 16-May-11
Country: USA
Author: Ayesha Rascoe

Some nuclear plants could do a better job preparing for a catastrophic event, including ensuring safety equipment is in good working order, the top federal nuclear regulator said on Friday.

All U.S. plants, however, could withstand a catastrophic event, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in a review launched after a massive earthquake and tsunami brought Japan's Fukushima Daiichi complex close to a complete meltdown.

"Our inspectors found all the reactors would be kept safe even in the event their regular safety systems were affected by these events," said Eric Leeds, director of the NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.

"A few plants have to do a better job maintaining the necessary resources and procedures," he said.

The inspectors evaluated the ability of the plants to handle loss of power, flooding, large fires and other events. The NRC is also evaluating what U.S. regulations needs to be changed in the wake of the Japan disaster.

The NRC found some U.S. plants had safety equipment that did not work properly was stored in areas that could be vulnerable. Earlier this week, the commission issued a notice to plants seeking information on disaster strategies and readiness.

The commission said plants will have until June 10 to confirm their compliance with stricter safety rules put in place after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Plant operators will also have to certify by July 11 how they are maintaining, testing and controlling equipment.

PACE OF NRC'S REVIEW

An NRC taskforce looking into potential changes in regulations is charged with issuing recommendations for immediate changes by July, as well as undertaking a more long-term study of how the NRC can enhance safety.

A federal panel examining U.S. nuclear waste issues on Friday expressed frustration that the NRC had not yet decided whether any changes need to be made in that area in response the Japanese disaster.

"It does seem to me 60 days after this accident, you ought to be able to reach some very firm conclusions about what if anything is necessary," said blue ribbon commission co-chair Lee Hamilton, a former U.S. Congressman from Indiana.

"I don't think you have forever to answer that question. I think it has be coming out of you fairly soon, as quickly as you can," he said.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Dale Hudson and David Gregorio)

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