First base for US emergency response

23 May 2014

The first of America's regional response centres is now in operation, ready to supply equipment to any of the country's nuclear power plants facing an emergency situation.

The base at Tolleson on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona, houses five complete sets of portable backup equipment - pumps, generators, hoses and floodlights. These have standardized connections so that they can be used at any of the country's 100 nuclear power reactors to supplement the plant's own safety equipment to help maintain the safety of reactor systems and used fuel pools. Equipment will be kept ready for use anywhere in the country within 24 hours.

Coming in addition to each nuclear power plant's normal systems and the spares kept at each site, the extra kit at the Phoenix centre represents an "extra layer of public protection," said US nuclear industry body the Nuclear Energy Institute. They should "help facilities respond safely to extreme events no matter what causes them."

Had such a support facility been available to Tokyo Electric Power Company during the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi, "the outcome would have been different," according to Arizona Public Service Company's (APS's) CEO, Don Brandt, who spoke at the centre's opening ceremony. APS owns and operates America's largest nuclear power plant, Palo Verde - about 40 kilometres to the west of Phoenix - where three pressurized water reactors generate 3937 MWe.

Base building
Other countries have taken a similar approach to reinforcing nuclear power plant safety systems in emergency situations. EDF has established four bases and a central response team to supplement France's 58 power reactors. China has recently announced it will create a 300-strong nuclear response team to complement regional emergency forces.

The Phoenix centre cost $40 million to set up, and will need $4 million per year in operating costs. Similar costs will apply to the other regional centre, which is to open next month in Memphis, Tennessee. All funding will come from the US nuclear industry.

Both centres will be operated by the Strategic Alliance for FLEX Emergency Response (SAFER) team, which brings together Areva and the Pooled Equipment Inventory Co (PEICo), which has operated from Memphis for over 30 years.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News