NRC chairman urges action on nuclear safety review

Associated Press / July 19, 2011

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WASHINGTON - Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is urging his agency to decide within 90 days how to proceed with safety changes intended to improve the US nuclear industry’s response to catastrophic events such as the tsunami that crippled a nuclear plant in Japan.

A task force appointed by the NRC said last week that nuclear plant operators should be ordered to reevaluate their earthquake and flood risk. The task force also recommended adding equipment to handle simultaneous damage to multiple reactors and ensuring electrical power and instruments are in place to monitor and cool spent fuel pools after a disaster.

Jaczko said yesterday that 90 days is enough time to review the recommendations - and was exactly the amount of time the task force was given to complete its report.

“We all know that some changes are in order,’’ Jaczko said at the National Press Club. “I believe we have enough information at this time to take the necessary interim steps’’ in response to the task force report. The five-member commission is scheduled to review the task force report today.

Jaczko’s call for action was tempered by some GOP lawmakers, who cautioned that the agency should give the take force a full and deliberate review.

The letter, signed by four leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including its chairman, Fred Upton of Michigan, said a proper review would include a thorough analysis of each of the report’s 12 major recommendations.

The Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry lobbying group, said the 90-day response time urged by Jaczko was arbitrary and counterproductive.