U.S. nuclear experts assert plants' safety
The earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan raised concerns about the stability of nuclear power plants in the United States, but local nuclear power experts insist that nuclear is a safe and clean power source, and the nuclear power industry is working to prove it.
Soon after Japan’s nuclear power plant disaster occurred, internal industry reviews were underway, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission prompted an industry-wide public assessment of U.S. plants to determine readiness for extreme events.
The assessment, which is scheduled for completion by the end of April, includes verifying each plant’s ability to withstand impacts that would put large areas of a facility out of commission. This includes the ability to manage a total loss of offsite power, the ability to manage floods inside and outside the plants, and other issues.
Nuclear power plants in the U.S. already follow stringent safety regulations that aren’t necessarily implemented in other countries. Jacopo Buongiorno, associate professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, said U.S. plants may have fared better under the same circumstances.
But nuclear power experts are quick to point out that the plant failures and explosions in Japan were prompted by one of the worst natural disasters the modern world has seen.
“Plants design for what is expected, but when Mother Nature throws something completely unexpected at you, like in Japan, it’s tough luck,” Buongiorno said.
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