US House Energy & Commerce Commission Opposes NRC's Requirement of
Filtered Vents in BWRs in the US, Says #Fukushima Accident Cannot Happen in the US
Republican members of the US House Energy and Commerce Committee has [sic!] sent an open letter dated January 15, 2013 and addressed to Chairwoman Allison MacFarlane
of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, demanding that NRC answer their
concern that NRC's attempt to further regulate the nuclear industry
after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident may be stifling and
unnecessary for the health of the industry.
They seem to be saying, correctly I suppose, the US is not Japan.
From their letter (PDF; emphasis is mine):
"In particular, concerns were raised about the agency's departure from rigorous technical and cost-benefit analysis. Yet as the Commission readies itself to take additional actions
concerning "Tier One" recommendations (post-Fukushima items of highest
priority), it appears that the NRC may be discarding the disciplined
processes that for years have ensured that reactor safety is rooted in
performance-based regulation, appropriately recognizing each nuclear plant is different. It also appears that the Commission is considering
some issues on an independent basis without considering how those issues impact other matters currently pending before the Commission and
previous NRC actions that are already being implemented by the industry. This suggests the Commission views the cumulative impact[s] of its
actions as merely a cursory scheduling challenge, and ignores the
serious risk that piecemeal consideration of related issues may yield
Right below this passage, the letter quotes NRC Commissioner William
Magwood and the official report of the Fukushima accident investigation
commission set up by the Japanese National Diet (out of context, in my
opinion) that say the accident was "made uniquely in Japan".
And what exactly is their beef that isn't justifiable with the traditional "cost-benefit analysis"?
"With respect to these [safety] enhancements, we
have particular concern about the potential requirement to install
"filtered vents" for certain boiling water reactors which we understand
to be significant, capital-intensive structures. As instructed by the Commission, the NRC staff has proposed four potential options but urged the Commission to choose "Option 3." Under this option, the
Commission would issue an order requiring the installation of fintered
vents rather than pursuing a performance-based process."
It is apparently of no concern to these Representatives (or should I
say representatives of the US nuclear industry) that it was the dry
vents from the reactors at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, not so much
the explosions, that contaminated much of Tohoku and Kanto.
Instead, their concern is over cost, and adequacy of protection, as the
letter quote yet another NRC Commissioner insisting on a "fully
developed justification", and says:
We strongly agree and observe that the "fully developed justification" Commissioner Ostendorff referenced remains absent. To move forward on a poorly justified, precedent-setting proposal like
Option 3 would be a disturbing erosion of the NRC's historically
disciplined standard of adequate protection.
Their "performance-based process" seems to mean that as long as there is no accident there is no need for "costly" filtered vents. Their cost calculation doesn't seem to include the public and social cost in case
of an accident, because an accident is not supposed to happen.
How's that thinking different from Japan's before the Fukushima accident?
Later in the letter, the argument is made that the closure of a nuclear
power plant would result in power shortages and a huge loss of local
It is the same old argument that has been made everywhere in Japan. So, what's different in the US?
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]