While Japan is at still at least six to nine months away from containing its nuclear disaster at Fukushima, here in the US, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is fast-tracking a new reactor that could fail just as spectacularly.
While it sounds incredible, as the Fukushima reactor is spewing radiation into Japan and the seas around it, the NRC is moving forward with an incredibly short 75-day comment period for the approval of the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor. This fast-track process is continuing despite the fact that experts are calling out serious flaws in the AP1000’s design that could lead to the kind of catastrophic failure happing in Japan:
- One of the NRC’s own experts, Dr. John S. Ma, has noted that the AP 1000’s containment building could shatter “like a glass cup” if struck by a natural or manmade impact.
- Dr. Ma found that the AP1000 design underestimates the force of earthquakes on the reactor, and stated that “the design will be grossly inadequate if the correct and actual earthquake analyses were used.”
- Dr. Ma found that the AP 1000 building design fails to meet American Concrete Institute standards that the NRC otherwise endorses.
- Concerns have also been raised about the AP1000’s emergency cooling system and plans for high density storage of spent fuel rods: issues that contributed to the crippling fires at Fukushima.
Despite these concerns the NRC is moving forward rapidly with the AP1000 approval process. Southern Company, which plans to build two AP1000 reactors in Georgia at its Plant Vogtle site, is already breaking ground, and has received $8.2 billion in federal loan guarantees from the Obama administration, covering more than half the new plants’ price tag. Additional AP1000 plants would be built in South Carolina and Florida, and many other sites around the world.
Join us in telling the NRC to conduct a more thorough evaluation of the AP 1000 reactor and to not endanger the lives of millions of people.
The NRC’s own expert, John S. Ma, has made clear that there are serious concerns surrounding the safety of the AP1000 reactor, including its ability to survive a natural or man made impact or an earthquake. In addition, concerns have been raised about the capability of the reactor’s cooling mechanism to function in a disaster. These concerns are particularly relevant considering the failure to cool or contain the Fukushima reactors after a major natural disaster, resulting in widespread radioactive contamination. In Japan, we can clearly see the devastating effects of design flaws, and the serious concerns being raised about the AP1000 reactor need to be thoroughly addressed.
The safety of the public should take precedence over the desire of industry to move forward quickly on a new reactor, especially when there are significant concerns over that reactor’s safety.
I urge the NRC to publicly post comments it is receiving regarding the AP1000 rule-making and to engage in a thorough review process of the AP1000 that protects the public’s safety.