Two Democratic senators this week pressed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to explain its reasoning for leaving out certain requirements in a final rule intended to safeguard nuclear power plants from flooding and earthquakes.
The commission in January voted 3-2 in favor of the rule on mitigation of beyond-design-basis events. The proceeding had been in the works since a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused three reactors to melt down at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan.
One criticism of the final rule, including from dissenting Commissioners Stephen Burns and Jeff Baran, is that it does not require licensees to incorporate newer data on flooding and earthquake hazards in mitigation plans for beyond-design-basis events.
Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) pressed that issue Monday in a letter to NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki and then during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee oversight hearing on the agency attended by all five commissioners.
“In the final rule, NRC decided to ignore staff recommendations (made in 2015 and tentatively approved in 2016) and make preventive actions to address beyond-design flooding and seismic events voluntary,” the two lawmakers wrote. “Most of industry has already addressed these issues, but not requiring mandatory action to continually address the two main issues that arose during Fukushima seems very concerning.”
On Tuesday, Whitehouse asked the commissioners whether “there some kind of industry back door” in which nuclear corporations approached the commission after the public-comment period ended for the rule but before January’s vote.
The five NRC commissioners did not reply Tuesday to Whitehouse’s comment. Svinicki, who voted in favor of the final rule with Commissioners Annie Caputo and David Wright, said she would get back to the committee on this matter.