U.S. orders new safety upgrades at nuclear plants

June 6, 2013

Washington (CNN) — U.S. regulators are directing 31 nuclear reactors similar in design to the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, where an earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown two years ago, to take additional steps to help contain radiation and other damage from any accident that is not quickly halted.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission directive on Thursday requires enhancements to systems for venting accumulated pressure from containment structures during an emergency. Vents must also be able to safely handle rising temperatures, hydrogen concentrations and radiation levels.

The changes also aim to ensure that plant personnel can continue to operate vents safely if a reactor core melts down, the agency said.

Plants in the United States were ordered last year by the NRC to take other steps to upgrade their “hardened” venting systems after the 2011 disaster in Japan that crippled three reactors and released radiation into the atmosphere.

It was the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

“Strengthened vents will help these plants continue to protect the public and the environment even if emergency systems can’t immediately stop an accident,” NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane said in a statement.

“By safely releasing built-up pressure and hydrogen, the plants will preserve the buildings that contain radioactive material,” she said.

U.S. plants covered under the directive are older, boiling-water reactors mainly similar in design to the Fukushima facility….

Continue reading at U.S. orders new safety upgrades at nuclear plants – CNN.com.

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