Nukewatch Quarterly Fall 2014
MEMPHIS, Tennessee — At the end of June, operators of the 100 US nuclear power reactors opened the second of two national “emergency response centers” in Memphis. The first, built outside of Phoenix, opened in May.
After an earthquake and tsunami caused a triple meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi reactor complex in 2011, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) pushed nuclear utilities to develop plans for dealing with similar loss-of-power events, including off-site storage of disaster response equipment. The two response centers are somehow supposed to help all 100 reactors be prepared.
The centers will cost $400 million over a 40-year period. Divided among 100 reactors, the cost is about $100,000 per year for the owners to pony up. The warehouses contain portable generators, water pumps, lighting and other equipment that is preloaded onto trailers, ready for transport. The industry claims these items can be delivered to any reactor in the US within 24 hours of an emergency.
“If Fukushima had such equipment, things might have gone differently,” said Allison Macfarlane, NRC Chair. One of the biggest problems at Fukushima was that the backup power generators and batteries for pumping water to cool the nuclear fuel were wrecked by the tsunami. However, emergency workers there did attempt to prevent the meltdowns by using fire trucks to spray water on the fuel and dumping water from a helicopter, and they had unlimited access to sea water. The Palo Verde nuclear facility, just southwest of the Phoenix response center located in the middle of a desert, has purchased extra on-site emergency equipment, including five new fire trucks.
— Arizona Republic, May 22; Local Memphis, June 27, 2014