By June 10, nuclear power plant operators must verify under oath that they have updated and adopted additional safety and equipment procedures mandated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after the 9/11 attacks.
The bulletin, issued Wednesday at a conference sponsored by the industry's trade group, the Nuclear Energy Institute, is a move by the government to safeguard the nation's power plants after the recent disaster at Fukushima in Japan.
On March 11, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami devastated a nuclear power plant in Japan, causing widespread panic in what is considered the most devastating nuclear incident in 25 years.
Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said a task force will review the plants’ responses and evaluate the need for additional safeguards.
"This is the first bulletin that's been issued" after the Japanese crisis, Daniel Stenger, an attorney with Hogan Lovells, which represents a number of nuclear plant operators, told Greenwire, an online environmental news service.
He expects that more will be coming, he told Greenwire. The Nuclear Energy Institute "may see certain actions some plants have taken that they would like to see every plant take," he said. "They could decide they want to impose that."
Operators at Diablo Canyon, one of two active power plants in California, said all of their systems are in place.
“Shortly after the events in Fukushima, we took part in a systemwide effort to evaluate safety and emergency responses,” said Paul Flake, a spokesman for PG&E, the utility company that operates the Diablo Canyon power plant.
“We submitted a report detailing our work in this area,” to the regulatory commission, he said, and have completed the evaluation the new bulletin requires.
Officials with Southern California Edison Company's San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station could not be reached in time for publication.
In February 2002, the commission ordered additional emergency measures in response to the 9/11 attacks in what is known as the “B.5.b” requirement.
Plant operators were required to provide plans to assure that their reactors and fuel pools would remain cool if power were lost. Scenarios that could induce power loss included plane crashes, fires, floods, earthquakes and tornadoes.
“Diablo Canyon remains safe, and our emergency response plans follow the requirements of the NRC,” Flake said.
According to Greenwire, Marvin Fertel, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said some plants are not in compliance with the B.5.b order, according to a survey conducted by an independent nuclear safety organization.