Lessons from Fukushima: Interview with Randy Edington

In this first installment of the “Lessons from Fukushima” video series, Randy Edington, Chief Nuclear Officer for Arizona Public Service Company, reflects on his experiences with the Fukushima disaster firsthand, as well as the ways in which he has seen the industry strengthen as a result.

Edington, also Chairman of the Executive Advisory Committee for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), emphatically states, “Basically, this was a case that was a very low probability, but had huge consequences.”
Almost immediately, he recalls, daily phone calls were coordinated between the newly-established “Fukushima Steering Committee,” which included representatives from the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and INPO, to coordinate and focus the industry’s efforts, emphasizing partnership between the U.S. and Japan.

Ultimately, after an American visit to the Fukushima Daiichi and Daiini sites, and a Japanese visit to Arizona, Edington observes several positive changes in the industry.

  • First, he emphasizes the degree to which experts now assess low probability, high fallout scenarios, especially regarding natural disasters.
  • Furthermore, he asserts that players within the nuclear industry have reached a new level of mutual accountability.
  • Finally, Edington reiterates that the unity he observes in the modern nuclear power industry, especially in the U.S., surpasses that in any other sector, despite constant internal competition.

To underscore this unity, Edington explains that, as a direct result of the Fukushima disaster, a commitment was made that every nuclear plant in the U.S. would work together. Two national centers were established through which all plants can share equipment, knowledge, or any resource needed for reliable, safe operation.

While acknowledging the developments in the U.S. nuclear industry and its partnership with Japan, Edington also stresses the difficulty of the situation for Tepco and all Japanese authorities. When facing a wide variety of unprecedented issues, Edington lauds the development and deployment of new technologies to tackle such unforeseen circumstances.

As opener to our series, Edington effectively illustrates the events of March 11, 2011, and conveys his optimism and appreciation for positive effects to have emerged from the incident.