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Japan Nuclear Crisis to Force US Changes, NRC Members Say

Thursday, 16 Jun 2011 12:41 PM

Japan’s nuclear crisis will lead to changes in U.S. reactor regulations, said William Magwood, a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“I believe we will need to make some changes in a variety of areas,” Magwood said today at a U.S. Senate hearing in Washington. The NRC is still “quite confident” that U.S. nuclear plants are safe, he said.

Lawmakers and regulators are taking a closer look at U.S. reactors after a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out power lines and backup generators at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, about 135 miles north of Tokyo.

The disaster deprived the plant’s cooling systems of electricity and some of its fuel rods overheated. The fires, explosions and radiation leaks that followed triggered the worst nuclear incident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The NRC, which is governed by a five-member panel, started a 90-day review of U.S. reactor safety on March 23, which was prompted by the accident in Japan. The task force leading the review is scheduled to release a report next month.

NRC Commissioner George Apostolakis said the disaster in Japan is a “lesson in humility” for nuclear regulators and he agreed that changes are likely.

“We were pretty confident that there would be no new surprises,” Apostolakis said at the hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. “Fukushima has questioned that belief.”


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