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U.S. nuclear power plants have until the end of 2016 to comply with new safety recommendations released Friday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Plants were ordered to begin immediately implementing the upgrades in an effort to prevent a large-scale radioactive crisis like what occurred last year at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the earthquake and tsunami.
Recommendations were laid out in a three-part plan. Two points apply to every U.S. commercial nuclear power plant, including those under construction and recently licensed new Vogtle reactors. One point only concerns a specific type of containment structure, said the NRC in a press release.
- The first Order requires the plants to better protect safety equipment installed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to obtain sufficient equipment to support all reactors at a given site simultaneously.
- The second Order requires the plants to install enhanced equipment for monitoring water levels in each plant’s spent fuel pool.
- The third Order applies only to U.S. boiling-water reactors that have “Mark I” or “Mark II” containment structures. These reactors must improve venting systems (or for the Mark II plants, install new systems) that help prevent or mitigate core damage in the event of a serious accident.
In Japan, the plant explosion occurred when reactors and spent fuel pools overheated after cooling systems were knocked offline. During the emergency, an estimated 100,000 tons of highly contaminated water was reportedly used to cool the reactors, notes CNN.
The NRC is also requiring detailed information from every operating U.S. nuclear power plant regarding the location's emergency procedures in the event of earthquakes, flooding and extended power loss.
All modifications and requirements must be completed by Dec. 31, 2016. San Onofre, looking in your direction.