NAS Report on Fukushima Finds Lessons for the U.S. Industry

A federal review of the May 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi has determined that U.S. nuclear facilities need to do more to prepare for similar unexpected events. While U.S. facilities are capable of withstanding equipment failures, power loss and the inability to cool reactor cores, they are not adequately prepared to handle “beyond-design-basis-events”—such as the Tōhoku earthquake that set in motion the events that led to the meltdowns at three of Fukushima’s reactors.

While Fukushima workers responded with “courage and resilience,” according to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, their actions were hampered by the plant’s design, the size of the disaster and—perhaps most significantly—an unclear understanding of everyone’s particular roles. The report found that this “tendency to compartmentalize” shared by operators and planners is something that U.S. plants need to consider when developing threat responses. As a way of addressing this tendency, the report recommends that the nuclear industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission work to learn as much as possible about potential new hazards.

The Nuclear Energy Institute said the NAS report supports the plans undertaken by the U.S. industry in response to the Fukushima accident, including setting up enhanced cooling systems and ensuring the safety of used fuel rods.

“We are an industry of continuous learnings, and the past three years bear that out,” said Anthony Pietrangelo, NEI senior vice president, according to The National Journal. “Simply put, we cannot let such an accident happen here.”

Read more analysis of the report from The National Journal and find the full NAS report here.