March 7 More than one-third of U.S. nuclear
power plants suffered safety-related incidents over the past
three years, and nuclear regulators and plant operators need to
improve inspections to prevent such events, the Union of
Concerned Scientists (UCS) said in a report on Thursday.
The UCS, which has long been critical of the nuclear
industry and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), said
40 of the 104 U.S. reactors had experienced one or more
safety-related incidents over the past three years.
None of the incidents harmed workers or the public, the UCS
The nuclear industry, however, disputed the UCS findings.
"Our facilities are operating safely. We continue to
aggressively implement additional safety enhancements based on
learning from the Fukushima accident to ensure that our plants
will operate safely and reliably," Steven Kerekes, a spokesman
for industry trade group Nuclear Energy Institute told Reuters.
The UCS recommended that the NRC determine whether the
agency's baseline inspections could have found the safety
problems sooner. It also urged the NRC to require plant owners
to find and fix problems in their testing and inspection
"The NRC has continued to successfully carry out its mission
of protecting the public's health and the environment. We have
started inspections of various kinds whenever necessary," NRC
spokesman Scott Burnell told Reuters.
UCS said the NRC conducted some level of special inspection
at 14 plants in 2012 to investigate safety-related events.
Over the past three years, UCS said, there were 18 incidents
in 2010, 17 in 2011 and 16 in 2012, with several reactors having
more than one incident, including Wolf Creek in Kansas,
Palisades in Michigan and Fort Calhoun in Nebraska.
The Nuclear Energy Institute, however, noted there were only
two incidents over the past decade that the NRC determined were
significant from the standpoint of public health or safety - at
FirstEnergy Corp's Davis Bessie in Ohio in 2002 and the
Tennessee Valley Authority's Browns Ferry in Alabama in 2011.
"The number of inspections that the NRC carries out varies
from year to year and depends on a number of factors, including
external events such as Superstorm Sandy," the NRC's Burnell
said, noting the agency does not see anything unusual in the
number of inspections carried out in 2012.
Wolf Creek is majority owned by units of Great Plains Energy
Inc and Westar Inc ; Entergy Corp owns
Palisades; and the Omaha Public Power District owns Fort
Over the past couple of years, the NRC has required several
reactors to remain shut until the plant owners could show they
were meeting NRC requirements.
Three reactors are currently shut pending NRC approval:
Southern California Edison's San Onofre 2 and 3 in California,
and Fort Calhoun.
Southern California Edison (SCE), a unit of Edison
International, operates the station for its owners,
including SCE and a unit of Sempra Energy.