Nuclear Safety

After Fukushima

We are tracking the nuclear disaster in Japan, and looking at questions about nuclear safety in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Whistleblowers Say Nuclear Regulatory Commission Watchdog Is Losing Its Bite

The NRC’s Office of the Inspector General has filled a key oversight role, conducting investigations that have changed how the agency regulates nuclear waste, fire protection and security. But ex-employees say the office has shied away from challenging the commission, altering the report on one investigation and dropping another probe.

NRC Panel Calls for Safety Upgrade After Fukushima

The Japan Task Force, made up of expert staff at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said that U.S. nuclear plants are safe but called for potentially sweeping change—including upgrades at many plants and broad regulatory changes to address low-risk, high-consequence disasters.

Nuke Plant Inspections Find Flaws in Disaster Readiness

A post-Fukushima inspection of U.S. nuclear plants found widespread problems with emergency equipment and procedures supposed to be in place in case of major disasters, like a flood or earthquake of unexpected severity or a terrorist attack that causes an extended blackout.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chief Blasts Agency’s Approach to Fire Safety

N.R.C. Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko said the agency is giving nuclear companies too much leeway and "must close this very long chapter of not enforcing all fire protection violations."

Electrical Fire Knocks Out Spent Fuel Cooling at Nebraska Nuke Plant

Officials at Fort Calhoun plant in Omaha, Neb., said the situation at their plant came nowhere near to Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, where uncooled spent fuel released radiation. They said it would have taken 88 hours for the heat produced by the fuel to boil away the cooling water.

NRC Waives Enforcement of Fire Rules at Nuclear Plants

Fire poses one of the dangers at a nuclear power plant, but at nearly half the country’s commercial reactors, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not writing violations. Instead, plants are relying on a patchwork of interim measures to address longstanding fire hazards, an approach that critics say increases the risk of a serious accident.

Safety Reviewers Raise Questions About Construction of New Nuclear Fuel Plant

Two scientists say the NRC took construction and licensing shortcuts at a MOX fuel plant being built in South Carolina. The plant, which will convert plutonium from nuclear weapons into fuel for commercial reactors, is the first construction authorized by the NRC since the Three Mile Island accident.

U.S. Nuclear Regulator Lets Industry Help With the Fine Print

Records show that portions of Nuclear Regulatory Commission guides rely on material from the industry’s leading trade group, the Nuclear Energy Institute. The NRC says it maintains final say over its official guidance to plants, but critics say the NRC is handing too much influence to the industry.

House Calls for Drastic Cuts in Hospital Preparedness Funding

The House of Representatives passed a budget measure that would cut the federal Hospital Preparedness Program by $185 million, a 44 percent reduction from last year’s budget.

U.S. Nuclear-Disaster Preparedness Hobbled by Uncertain Chain of Command

Emergency plans call for local officials to take charge first in a radiological disaster. How and when the federal government would step in isn't so clear.

U.S. Health Care System Unprepared for Major Nuclear Emergency

Few hospitals drill for radiological emergencies, and agencies aren't prepared to handle mass evacuations. Many states don't even have a basic plan for communicating with the public after a catastrophic radiological release.

While Nuclear Waste Piles Up in U.S., Billions in Fund to Handle It Sit Unused

Energy companies have been suing the government over a lack of a long-term fix for nuclear waste -- costing taxpayers millions and potentially billions.

Even In Worst Case, Japan’s Nuclear Disaster Will Have Limited Reach

The long-term health and environmental impacts of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis should be largely contained to the area around the plant and a limited population.

Our Quick Guide to Nuclear Plant Safety: What Could Go Wrong?

With nuclear safety concerns in the forefront as Japan works to stave off a meltdown, here's a look at some potential vulnerabilties when what can go wrong does go wrong.

Six Ways Fukushima is Not Chernobyl

There are key differences between what happened at Chernobyl and the current nuclear crisis in Japan.

Our Reading List for Following Nuclear News From Japan

We’ve compiled a few resources that we’ve found helpful as we track the developments from the aftermath of Japanese earthquake.

Spent Fuel Now Focus at Japanese Reactor, Highlighting Concerns About Plant Design

As ProPublica reported earlier, spent fuel stored outside the reactor containment structure poses a direct threat of radiation releases at Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility.

Status of Spent Nuclear Fuel in Question at Crippled Japanese Power Plant

Opponents of nuclear power have warned for years that if spent fuel pools lost water, it could lead to a fire and a catastrophic release of radiation. Now, there have been hydrogen explosions at two of the reactor buildings housing spent fuel pools at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

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