Nuclear safety upgrades discussed a year after Japan disaster
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Senators on Capitol Hill held a hearing on nuclear safety Thursday. The meeting marked the first anniversary of Japan’s nuclear plant meltdown.
All five U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners assured senators there's no imminent risk from nuclear power plants in United States.
"I believe our plants are the safest in the world," Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner William Magwood said.
Monday, the commission released its first round of new safety orders for nuclear plants based off of recommendations from a task force assembled after Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Plant meltdown.
"I don't think what happened in Fukushima can happen here," Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner George Apostolakis said.
But NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko admitted it's unlikely they can implement all new upgrades by the recommended deadline.
"It will be challenging for us to not only complete the rule itself but the implementation within the five years the commission has laid out," he said.
The statement prompted Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer to ask the NRC to do its best not to drag out the process any longer than necessary.
"I don't want to be surprised and find out it's going to take 12 years or 14, because that's what happened after 9-11. The recommendations took I think 10 years or more," Sen. Boxer, D-California, said.
Commissioners say they believe plants on the West Coast will complete their upgrades by the deadline, but facilities east of the Rocky Mountains will need to make more seismic upgrades.
"It's the plants with low risk that will have to do some upgrade, perhaps that will take longer," Apostolakis said.
In the coming days, the NRC will begin taking comment from nuclear facilities about its proposed rule that directs plants to keep up operations indefinitely in the event of a blackout, something the Fukishima Plant could not do.
The commission expects the new upgrades to be in place across the country between 2017 and 2019.