Regulators not sure US nuke plants safe
BOSTON – U.S. regulators have privately expressed doubts that some of the nation’s nuclear power plants are prepared for a Fukushima-scale disaster, undercutting their public confidence since Japan’s nuclear crisis began, documents released by an independent safety watchdog group show.
Internal Nuclear Regulatory Commission e-mails and memos obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists questioned the adequacy of the back-up plans to keep reactor cooling systems running if off-site power were lost for an extended period.
Those concerns seem to contrast with the confidence U.S. regulators and industry officials have publicly expressed after the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl began to unfold on March 11.
The e-mails in question are part of an NRC review of how the operators of nuclear plants would cope with a prolonged power outage that knocked cooling systems offline:
» One NRC staffer said that contingency plans for Exelon Corp.’s Peach Bottom nuclear plant in Delta “have really not been reviewed to ensure that they will work to mitigate severe accidents.”
» Another document said backup plans included just having equipment on the plant grounds that could be useful “when used by knowledgeable operators if post-event conditions allow.”
» The document went on to note: “If little is known about these post-event conditions, then assuming success is speculative.”