NRC Issues Priority List for Earthquake Risk Analysis to 21 U.S. Nuclear Plants

After reviewing updated earthquake hazard information for the 59 operating reactor sites and one unfinished reactor site east of the Rocky Mountains, the agency has directed 10 plant operators to submit detailed risk analysis by June 30, 2017, and the other 11 to submit it by Dec. 31, 2019.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently issued a priority list for 21 nuclear power plant sites in the central and eastern United States to conduct in-depth analyses of their updated earthquake risk. The action follows up on work that was already under way when the Fukushim Daiichi crisis occurred in March 2011, highlighting the importance of seismic issues for the nuclear industry, according to NRC's May 9 news release. The agency acted after reviewing updated earthquake hazard information for the 59 operating reactor sites and one unfinished reactor site that are located east of the Rocky Mountains; the sites submitted the information in March.

"The submittals showed the plants, which have substantial safety margin above their designs' anticipated hazards, are safe for continued operation while more work is done. Should this additional analysis indicate more immediate actions are necessary, the NRC will ensure the plants respond appropriately," the release stated.

"We've examined this information to see how a plant’s new quake hazard compares to the ground movement that the plant's original design process considered," said Eric Leeds, director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. "We're closely following the industry's response and we're confident the plants are safe to continue operating. If a plant's new hazard exceeds the original design, the plant has to do a detailed analysis to determine any changes in accident risk from a quake. Plants must also do shorter-term work to see if they should enhance key safety equipment."

The priority list is based on factors that concern how a site’s quake hazard transmits energy at frequencies that can affect structures, pipes, pumps and related safety systems. NRC has directed these sites to submit their detailed analysis by June 30, 2017: Callaway – Fulton, Mo.; Cook – Bridgman, Mich.; Indian Point – Buchanan, N.Y; North Anna – Louisa, Va.; Oconee – Seneca, S.C.; Peach Bottom – Delta, Pa.; Pilgrim – Plymouth, Mass.; Robinson – Hartsville, S.C.; Vogtle – Waynesboro, Ga.; Watts Bar – Spring City, Tenn. These 11 sites must submit theirs by Dec. 31, 2019: Beaver Valley – Shippingport, Pa.; Browns Ferry – Athens, Ala.; Catawba – York, S.C.; Dresden – Morris, Ill.; Fermi – Newport, Mich.; Hatch – Baxley, Ga.; LaSalle – Marseilles, Ill.; Oyster Creek – Forked River, N.J.; Palisades – Covert, Mich.; Summer – Jenkinsville, S.C.; Sequoyah – Soddy-Daisy, Tenn.

NRC is still deciding whether another 23 sites require the detailed risk evaluation. The Columbia (Benton County, Wash.), Diablo Canyon (Avila Beach, Calif.), and Palo Verde (Wintersburg, Ariz.) sites must submit their new hazard estimates in March 2015.

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