Annual Energy Outlook 2014

Release Dates: April 7 - 30, 2014   |  Next Early Release Date: December 2014

Report Number: DOE/EIA-0383(2014)

Legislation and regulations

U.S. response to the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi

nancy Slater Thompson

Release Date: 4/30/14

Since the March 2011 accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the U.S. nuclear industry have been working to address issues related to the accident. The NRC and the U.S. nuclear industry initiated an immediate coordinated response to the accident, as well as long-term actions intended to assure the safety of operating and planned reactors in the United States. The ultimate cost of complying with NRC orders and proposed regulations and industry-led initiatives remains uncertain, as do the potential impacts on nuclear power plant operations. Although they are not specifically modeled in AEO2014, NRC actions and industry initiatives are being monitored by EIA so that potential costs and operational impacts can be included in future AEOs.

The NRC conducted a systematic and methodical review of its own processes and regulations in light of the accident at Fukushima. On July 12, 2011, the NRC's Near-Term Task Force released its report, Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century [32]. The report contains 12 recommendations, including both short- and long-term actions for consideration, and prioritizes the implementation of the recommendations.

In order to address the short-term recommendations, the NRC issued three orders in March 2012 that require nuclear power plants to implement measures related to lessons learned from the Fukushima accident, as follows:

The NRC stated that, in all cases, the existing fleet of reactors can continue operating safely while implementing the orders. The orders were effective immediately and included timetables for responses and actions.

In the three orders listed above, the NRC required an integrated plan to be submitted by February 2013, with initial status reports due in 60 days. The NRC specified that operating reactors must complete modifications within two refueling cycles after submitting an integrated plan, or by the end of 2016, whichever comes first. Any reactor with a construction permit issued under 10 CFR Part 50 (e.g., Watts Bar Unit 2) was required to comply with the above orders prior to receiving an operating license. Any reactor issued a Combined Operating License (COL) under 10 CFR Part 52 (i.e., Vogtle Units 3 and 4 and Summer Units 2 and 3) was required to implement all requirements in the orders before the initial fuel loading. Compliance assessments are underway at nuclear power plants. The requirements of the orders remain in place until superseded by other orders or rulemaking. As discussed below, NRC is considering or has initiated rulemaking on several topics, and some of the dates established in the original orders have been modified.

In November 2012, as an addition to the original order issued to address more robust containment venting systems, the NRC began considering whether to propose a rule that would require containment venting systems to filter all releases during an accident for boiling water reactors with Mark I and Mark II containments [36]. If the NRC decides to pursue such a rulemaking, a final rule could be issued in 2017 [37].

Utilities continue to provide documentation to the NRC on equipment procured to respond to a prolonged loss of power at a reactor (station blackout) as well as spent fuel pool water level monitoring instrumentation. In March 2013, the NRC decided to proceed with a rulemaking to address station blackout mitigation [38]. In its July 2013 regulatory basis document [39], the NRC noted: "One dual-unit site estimated that the order may cost approximately $25 million, while a second dual-unit site estimated the cost at $43 million." The final rule is scheduled for issuance by December 2016.

By June 2013, two detailed inspections (or “walkdowns”) had been completed at each reactor to evaluate potential seismic and flooding hazards. The NRC is in the process of auditing the results of the walkdowns. All flooding re-evaluations are due to the NRC by March 2015 [40]. The NRC will review the analyses and issue a safety assessment for each site. For nuclear power plants requiring a seismic risk analysis, the NRC performed a prioritization of plants in the Central and Eastern United States (CEUS) and the Western United States (WUS). Plants in more seismically active WUS and CEUS locations will complete risk evaluations by June 2017, and those in less active CEUS locations will complete risk evaluations by December 2019 [41].

In November 2013, the NRC announced proposed rulemaking language to ". . . strengthen and integrate onsite emergency response capabilities." [42] The final rule, which is likely to be issued in March 2016, is expected to address accident mitigation strategies; integration of accident mitigation procedures; identification of command and control roles during an accident; conduct of drills and exercises; training; and include severe accident situations in examinations for reactor operators. In its comments [43] on the NRC's draft regulatory basis [44], the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) estimated a cost of $17 million for the nuclear fleet—or $275,000 per unit—to develop and implement new training plans. NEI also estimated increased training costs of $250,000 per site per year and annual severe accident drill costs of $250,000 per site.

In addition to the NRC actions described above, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), and NEI formed a Fukushima Response Steering Committee to integrate and coordinate the industry's response to the accident. In February 2012, the Steering Committee jointly released a report, The Way Forward: U.S. Industry Leadership in Response to Events at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which discusses activities to oversee and coordinate responses to emergencies [45]. INPO prepared a detailed report on post-accident events at Fukushima Daiichi [46], and on November 11, 2011, the detailed report was provided to the U.S. Congress, the NRC, and the U.S. nuclear industry. The nuclear industry, through NEI, developed its FLEX strategy—a comprehensive, flexible, and integrated plan to mitigate the effects of severe natural phenomena and to take steps to achieve safety benefits quickly [47]. The FLEX approach, implemented in 2012, was informed by the industry's response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. Two regional response centers will be located near Memphis, Tennessee, and Phoenix, Arizona. From those regional response centers, critical emergency equipment can be delivered to nuclear power plants within 24 hours. The regional response centers are planned to be fully operational by August 2014 [48].

In addition to activities that focus on reactors and the utilities that operate them, the NRC has spent more than two years evaluating how best to respond to the first of the 12 recommendations made in the July 2011 Near-Term Task Force Review of Insights from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Accident [49], which recommended establishment of a "logical, systematic, and coherent regulatory framework for adequate protection that appropriately balances defense-in-depth and risk considerations." Defense-in-depth is a layered approach to safety that involves the use of multiple redundant and independent safety systems. NRC's evaluation of this recommendation [50] was discussed publicly in January 2014 and included proposed actions on a policy statement that would detail, among other things, the decision criteria for ensuring adequate defense-in-depth.

The proposed actions also identify the need to clarify the role of voluntary industry initiatives in the NRC regulatory process. The ultimate cost to the nuclear industry of addressing Fukushima-related issues remains uncertain, as do the potential impacts on nuclear power plant operations. In a meeting with the NRC in April 2013, Dominion Energy estimated that the cost of post-Fukushima actions could be $30 to $40 million per unit and $180 to $240 million for its fleet of six units [51, 52]. AEO2014 does not include potential post-Fukushima effects on nuclear capacity and generation, but costs and operational impacts will be monitored for inclusion in future AEOs as NRC actions and industry initiatives progress.

 

Endnotes

  1. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century (Washington, DC: July 12, 2011), http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1118/ML111861807.pdf.
  2. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Issuance of Order to Modify Licenses with Regard to Reliable Hardened Containment Vents (Washington, DC: March 12, 2012), http://www.oecd-nea.org/nsd/fukushima/documents/NRC12March2012OrderonHardenedContainmentVents.pdf.
  3. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Order Modifying Licenses with Regard to Reliable Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation (Effective Immediately) (Washington, DC: March 12, 2012), http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1205/ML12056A044.pdf.
  4. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Issuance of Order to Modify Licenses with Regard to Requirements for Mitigation Strategies for Beyond-Design-Basis External Events (Washington, DC: March 12, 2012), http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1205/ML12054A735.pdf.
  5. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Policy Issue Notation Vote: Consideration of Additional Requirements for Containment Venting Systems for Boiling Water Reactors with Mark I and Mark II Containments (Washington, DC: November 26, 2012), http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/commission/secys/2012/2012-0157scy.pdf.
  6. Ibid.
  7. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "Station Blackout Mitigation Strategies," Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 141 (Washington, DC: July 23, 2013), pp. 44035-44036, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-07-23/pdf/2013-17660.pdf.
  8. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Station Blackout Mitigation Strategies: Regulatory Basis Document (Washington, DC: July 2013), http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1317/ML13171A061.pdf.
  9. Nuclear Energy Institute, "White Paper: U.S. Government and Nuclear Energy Industry Response to the Fukushima Accident" (Washington, DC: October 2013), http://www.nei.org/CorporateSite/media/filefolder/Policy/Papers/Fukushimawhitepaper.pdf?ext=.pdf.
  10. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "Electric Power Research Institute Final Draft Report XXXXXX, 'Seismic Evaluation Guidance: Augmented Approach for the Resolution of Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendation 2.1: Seismic,' as an Acceptable Alternative to the March 12, 2012, Information Request for Seismic Reevaluations" (Washington, DC: May 7, 2013), http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1310/ML13106A331.pdf.
  11. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "Onsite Emergency Response Capabilities," Federal Register (Washington, DC: November 15, 2013), https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/11/15/2013-27449/onsite-emergency-response-capabilities
  12. A.R. Pietrangelo, Nuclear Energy Institute, "Docket ID NRC-2012-031; 10 CFR Part 50 and 52, Onsite Emergency Response Capabilities; Draft Regulatory Basis (78 Fed. Reg. 1154), Project Number: 689" (Washington, DC: March 19, 2013), http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NRC-2012-0031-0042
  13. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "Onsite Emergency Response Capabilities: Draft regulatory basis," Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 5 (Washington, DC: January 8, 2013), .http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-01-08/pdf/2012-31706.pdf.
  14. Electric Power Research Institute, Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, and Nuclear Energy Institute, "The Way Forward: U.S. Industry Leadership in Response to Events at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant" (February 23, 2012), http:// www.nei.org/corporatesite/media/filefolder/Way_Forward_2_23_12.pdf.
  15. Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, Special Report on the Nuclear Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (Atlanta, GA: November 2011), http://hps.org/documents/INPO_Fukushima_Special_Report.pdf.
  16. Nuclear Energy Institute, "Fukushima Response" (Washington, DC: 2013), http://www.nei.org/Issues-Policy/Safety-Security/Fukushima-Response.
  17. Nuclear Energy Institute, "U.S. Government and Nuclear Energy Industry Response to the Fukushima Accident" (Washington, DC: October 2013), http://www.nei.org/CorporateSite/media/filefolder/Policy/Papers/Fukushimawhitepaper.pdf?ext=.pdf.
  18. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century: The Near-Term Task Force Review of Insights From The Fukushima Dai-ichi Accident (Washington, DC: July 12, 2011), http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1118/ML111861807.pdf.
  19. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "SECY-13-0132 — U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Staff Recommendation for the Disposition of Recommendation 1 of the Near-Term Task Force Report" (Washington, DC: December 6, 2013), http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1327/ML13277A418.pdf.
  20. Nuclear Engineering International, "Half way — a review of post Fukushima actions in the Americas" (July 24, 2013), http://www.neimagazine.com/features/featurehalf-way---a-review-of-post-fukushima-actions-in-the-americas/.
  21. D.A. Heacock, Dominion Nuclear, "Fukushima Dai-ichi Dominion Experience Overview" (Washington, DC: April 23, 2013), http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/commission/slides/2013/20130423/heacock-slides-20130423.pdf.

About the author

Nancy Slater Thompson
Lead General Engineer

nancy.thompson@eia.gov

Nancy Slater Thompson is the Lead General Engineer for Nuclear in the Office of Electricity, Coal, Nuclear, and Renewable Analysis for EIA’s Office of Energy Analysis.  Ms. Slater Thompson is the lead analyst for issues related to nuclear power as modelled by the National Energy Modeling System.  She is responsible for the research and analysis of regulatory policies, environmental requirements, industry issues, and market trends related to the nuclear power sector.. 

Acronyms

The ultimate cost of complying with NRC orders and proposed regulations and industry-led initiatives remains uncertain, as do the potential impacts on nuclear power plant operations.

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