The US nuclear industry has adopted an initiative to procure additional on-site portable equipment so that every commercial nuclear facility in the country can respond safely to extreme events.
Washington-based US industry body the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) said that the initiative commits every company operating a nuclear facility to order or enter into a contract for a plant-specific list of emergency equipment by the end of March 2012.
"The majority of the on-site equipment identified will support safety systems engineered into the reactor designs or other equipment already added to provide additional backup to those systems."
Tony Pietrangelo, NEI
According to the NEI, companies have already acquired or ordered more than 300 pieces of major equipment to supplement layer upon layer of safety at the USA's commercial reactors. This equipment ranges from diesel-powered pumps and electric generators to ventilation fans, hoses, fittings, cables and communications equipment. The new equipment will be stored at diverse locations and protected to ensure that it can be used if other systems that comprise a facility's multi-layered safety strategy are compromised. In addition, support materials for emergency responders, including food, water and other supplies will also be procured.
Tony Pietrangelo, NEI senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, commented: "The additional portable equipment will provide power and water to maintain three key safety functions in the absence of AC power and heat transfer capability from permanently installed safety systems. The three functions are reactor core cooling, used fuel pool cooling and containment integrity."
"The majority of the on-site equipment identified will support safety systems engineered into the reactor designs or other equipment already added to provide additional backup to those systems," he said. "Some items - a high-pressure pump and larger power supplies, for example - will need more detailed, plant-specific engineering analysis that will be completed later this year."
The NEI said that the procurement initiative reflects the industry's commitment to implement the "diverse and flexible coping capability" (or FLEX) strategy that it proposed to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to begin incorporating lessons learned from Japan's Fukushima accident as quickly as possible. NEI president and CEO Marvin Fertel said, "Our primary goal is to prevent fuel damage and preserve containment integrity. The added layer of protection from the additional portable equipment that comprises FLEX is the best thing to do in response to Fukushima."
According to Pietrangelo, the FLEX strategy has been well received by the NRC in recognition that it provides early tangible safety benefits while other regulatory issues are being assessed and resolved.
In June 2011, three US electricity industry organizations - the NEI, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) - announced that they have established a Fukushima Response Steering Committee to coordinate and oversee the industry's response activities.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News