Photo courtesy of goodnewspic.com.
With the nuclear situation in Japan teetering on the edge of disaster, some in the U.S. are examining the vulnerability of domestic reactors during a natural disaster. Adding to the urgency of these reviews is the position of several U.S. nuclear reactors in close proximity to fault lines. Politicians are calling for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to review pending reactor designs to ensure the situation in Japan couldn’t be replicated in America.
Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who has spent years pushing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission toward stricter enforcement of its safety rules, has called for a reassessment. Several U.S. reactors lie on or near fault lines, and Markey wants to beef up standards for new and existing plants.
“This disaster serves to highlight both the fragility of nuclear power plants and the potential consequences associated with a radiological release caused by earthquake related damage,” Markey wrote NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko in a March 11 letter.
Specifically, Markey raised questions about a reactor design the NRC is reviewing for new plants that has been criticized for seismic vulnerability. The NRC has yet to make a call on the AP1000 reactor, which is manufactured by Westinghouse. But according to Markey, a senior NRC engineer has said the reactor’s concrete shield building could shatter “like a glass cup” under heavy stress.
Submitted by Patrick McQueen