Accident mitigation - be prepared

15 September 2011

The post-Fukushima nuclear industry needs to pay more attention to its preparedness to mitigate nuclear accidents as well as to accident prevention, according to the managing director of the World Association of Nuclear Operators.  

 

George Felgate (WNA)
WANO managing director
George Felgate addresses the
WNA Symposium

Speaking at the opening session of the World Nuclear Association's (WNA) 36th Annual Symposium, WANO's George Felgate said that a broader remit is the new order of the day. Efforts to ensure the prevention of accidents must not be lessened, but rather supplemented with a new additional focus on mitigation.

WANO brings together every company in the world that operates nuclear power facilities and has the sole mission of helping its members to achieve the highest levels of operational safety and reliability.

In the immediate aftermath of the accident at Fukushima, the organisation issued a Significant Operating Experience Report (SOER) to all its members, asking them to check their plant's ability to withstand a beyond-design basis event including blackout resulting in equipment failure. Every single plant in the world (except for the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini plants) responded as required by the 13 May deadline, sharing information on identified gaps in emergency preparedness.

WANO recently issued a second SOER request about the ability of used fuel ponds to withstand such events. More SOERs are likely to be issued as more is learned about the Fukushima accident, to alert members to experiences at other nuclear power plants and enable them to take corrective actions to prevent similar events from happening at their own.

Fukushima has highlighted several new considerations for WANO, which Felgate felt the organisation would likely turn into recommendations, including the need for an integrated emergency response strategy across the nuclear industry and a need for WANO itself to expand in order to support the necessary activities.

 

Peer reviews - in-depth, objective analysis of plant operations by an independent team of nuclear experts drawn from other members' plants - lie at the heart of WANO's programs. The scope of WANO peer reviews is likely to be extended to include emergency preparedness and accident management, beyond the current operational focus. The question of whether design issues should be incorporated in its peer reviews is still open to debate, Felgate noted. A full design review would be outside the scope of a peer review, but some design questions could well be asked during peer reviews. The frequency of peer reviews is also still subject to discussion, Felgate said, but the current expectation of completing a peer review at every plant once every six years is not enough.

The final likely recommendation outlined by Felgate was a need for greater accountability from WANO members, with the organisation itself being more proactive in making sure all members fulfilled their commitments.

Finally, Felgate cautioned against the "Fukushima distraction": while the world's spotlight quite naturally falls on the Japanese plant, this must not be allowed to diminish continuous safety improvements at other operating reactors, or in any way lead to the forgetting of safety lessons already hard-learned.

The nuclear industry, Felgate said, would emerge from the shadow of Fukushima stronger and safer.

Researched and written

by World Nuclear News

 

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