Lessons Learned from Fukushima: New Regulations Aim to Prepare U.S. Nuclear Power Plants for Disasters

By Micah Green, Esq., Staff Counsel, California Department of Fish & Wildlife and Hayley Penan, Esq., Deputy Legislative Counsel, State of California Office of Legislative Counsel, Sacramento, CA

Background

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake struck off the coast of the Japanese island of Honshu.1 The earthquake, which would later be recognized as the most powerful seismic event ever recorded in Japan,2 triggered tsunami waves reaching heights of up to 30 feet as they moved inland.3 Overall, the earthquake and tsunami created widespread devastation throughout mainland Japan, resulting in over 15,000 deaths and causing more than $200 billion in damage.4

Approximately 50 minutes after the initial earthquake struck, a wave estimated to be over 40 feet high rushed over the tops of the seawalls at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma, Fukushima Prefecture.5 The tsunami flooded the basement and disabled the plant’s emergency generators.6 With no power to sustain cooling functions, four of the plant’s six reactors overheated and melted down.7 Hydrogen explosions in three reactors over the course of several days following the earthquake injured multiple workers as they attempted to cool and contain the heated fuel.8

Investigations in the months and years following the accident documented high emissions of radioactive particles into the surrounding area.9 A 2013 World Health Organization (WHO) report found that female infants exposed to this level of radiation have a 70 percent higher likelihood of developing thyroid cancer, a seven percent higher chance of developing breast cancer, and a four percent higher chance of developing all solid cancers than those who have not been exposed to radiation.10 Males exposed as infants have a seven percent higher likelihood of developing leukemia.11

The accident also caused significant social and psychological effects for displaced individuals. Those forced to relocate after Fukushima experienced psychosocial and mental health impacts due to “ruptured social links of people who lost homes and employment, disconnected family ties and stigmatization.”12 This population also has higher incidences of post-traumatic stress disorder, and affected children have had “hyperactivity, emotional symptoms, and conduct disorders.”13 The full impact of the radiation released from Fukushima is still unknown and will be studied for decades to come.14

In 2012, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (Commission) determined that the direct causes of the disaster were “manmade” and “foreseeable.”15 The Commission’s report found that the operator of the plant, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, failed to develop plans for responding to large-scale emergencies or containing collateral damage to the plant.16 The Commission cited a lack of corporate responsibility, unacceptably loose regulatory system, and industrial lobbying efforts culminating in “regulatory capture” as direct causes of the plant’s failure to protect the public from radioactive releases following the earthquake and tsunami.17

International Responses and Lessons Learned from Fukushima

Following the Fukushima accident, governments and public health organizations in Japan and around the world immediately began evaluating their preparedness and started to implement new practices based on the lessons learned from the disaster. In Japan, all of the country’s 50 nuclear reactors were shut down for a multi-year safety review18 and a new government agency, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, was created to monitor and regulate nuclear reactor operations to avoid repeating the failures that led to the Fukushima disaster.19

In Germany, the national parliament voted to approve an immediate shutdown of eight of the country’s 17 nuclear reactors and passed a statutory framework for decommissioning all nuclear power facilities by 2022.20 In Canada, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission conducted an inspection of the country’s 19 commercial reactors and strengthened its emergency response regulations.21 In Italy, nuclear operations were temporarily suspended following the Fukushima disaster and voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum banning nuclear energy generation in the country for decades.22 In Bolivia, Peru, and Venezuela, all plans to develop nuclear power were temporarily cancelled following the Fukushima disaster.23 Notwithstanding these shifts in nuclear energy policy, many governments worldwide have endorsed nuclear power while implementing little to no regulatory change.24

In 2015, the WHO published several general public health lessons learned from the response to the Fukushima disaster.25 First, the WHO found that evacuation to minimize radiation exposure, while necessary, “may pose serious health risks, particularly for vulnerable populations (such as those with disabilities, older populations, young children).”26 Second, relocation of impacted populations causes a “wide range of health consequences including increase of disaster-related deaths, psychosocial and access to health care issues.”27 Third, improving access to public health services and healthcare (both physical and mental health care services and supports) is critical to the well-being of those evacuated after a nuclear accident.28 Finally, risk communication by trained professionals is critical to responding to a nuclear accident, and health professionals should receive training on the health effects of radiation exposure.29

Nuclear Power Plant Regulation in the United States

In the United States, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is the federal agency responsible for regulating commercial nuclear power plants and other commercial uses of nuclear materials.30 The NRC regulates, licenses, and oversees all civilian (non-military) nuclear power plants, which include all active nuclear power plants, nuclear power plants applying for licensure, and nuclear power plants undergoing decommissioning.31 The NRC is led by five Commissioners who are appointed for five-year terms by the President, subject to consent of the Senate. The Commissioners make decisions about NRC policy by majority vote.32

Currently, there are 58 operative commercial nuclear power plants in the United States with 96 active nuclear reactors in total (some plants have more than one active nuclear reactor).33 Two additional nuclear power plants are currently under construction.34 There are also 17 nuclear power sites undergoing decommissioning.35 These sites, located across 12 different states, are in various stages of the decommissioning process.36

The U.S. nuclear industry is extensive, generating almost 20 percent of all power consumed in the nation and over 30 percent of all nuclear power generated across the globe.37 According to the World Nuclear Association, the nuclear power industry in the United States collectively invests approximately $7.5 billion annually on plant upgrades and maintenance.38

United States Responses and Lessons Learned from Fukushima

In response to the Fukushima accident, the NRC created a Near-Term Task Force (Task Force) to review existing NRC policies and procedures and provide recommendations for improvements.39 The Task Force recommended that the NRC: (1) clarify its regulatory framework; (2) require plants to assess and upgrade their seismic and flood protection systems where necessary; and (3) improve mitigation strategies, including through requiring reliable hardened vent designs, enhanced spent fuel pool monitoring, and stronger onsite emergency response plans.40

The Task Force recommendations regarding protection from natural disasters noted that the NRC’s “Systematic Evaluation Program” (SEP) used to review older operating plants’ safety with respect to floods, seismic events, high winds, and tornadoes was created in 1977 and evolved over time in a somewhat piecemeal fashion. The SEP was a one-time evaluation with a follow-up for some plants in the 1980s, before satellite imaging, Doppler radar, and modern plate-tectonic theory existed.41 As a result of the continued use of this outdated evaluation program, the NRC’s “licensing bases, design, and level of protection from natural phenomena differ among the existing operating reactors.”42 For example, while plants on the Pacific Ocean have evaluated tsunami hazards, those operating on the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico have not.43 The Task Force concluded that “flooding risks are of concern due to a ‘cliff-edge’ effect, in that the safety consequences of a flooding event may increase sharply with a small increase in the flooding level.”44

In response to the Task Force recommendations, the NRC released three orders in 2012 to protect against and mitigate damage from large-scale disasters by requiring commercial nuclear power plants to have enhanced mitigation strategies, reliable hardened containment vent systems, and reliable wide-range spent fuel pool instrumentation.45 While the updated requirements on nuclear power plants in the 2012 NRC orders were responsive to the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident, these orders were only mandatory on power plants with existing licenses. They did not apply to power plants applying for licensure.46

On May 15, 2015, the NRC released a “Proposed Rule: Mitigation of Beyond-Design-Basis Events” to further address the Task Force’s recommendations.47 In December 2016, the NRC Commissioners voted on the provisions of the draft final rule on Mitigation of Beyond-Design-Basis Events48 and in August 2019 the NRC released the Mitigation of Beyond-Design-Basis Events Final Rule (Final Rule) amending its existing regulations to include requirements for nuclear power plant applicants and licensees to mitigate potential damage from large-scale disasters.49 The Final Rule is effective as of September 9, 2019.50

2019 NRC Final Rule Provisions

The Final Rule formally updated the NRC’s existing regulations, incorporating many of the Task Force’s recommendations. The Final Rule included two of the new requirements contained in the 2012 orders (related to mitigation strategies and spent fuel pool monitoring) and made these requirements applicable to power plants applying for licensure as well as plants going through certain stages of decommissioning.51

However, the Final Rule failed to incorporate an important Task Force recommendation that NRC staff included in the proposed rule and the draft final rule, but was excluded from the Final Rule by majority vote of the Commissioners.

A Critical Difference between the Draft Rule and the Final Rule

The recommendation included in the proposed rule and draft final rule but excluded from the Final Rule relates to climate change. Instead of including provisions that would require plants to protect against natural disasters they may realistically face due to the changing climate, the Final Rule left in place the existing evaluation requirement that uses the outdated SEP as the baseline for potential natural disasters. Under the Final Rule, plants only need to plan for and protect against those natural events projected using the SEP framework, which was developed close to four decades ago and is no longer a realistic estimate of the type and scale of natural events that many of the plants may face.52

While experts contend that several nuclear power plants in the United States are unprepared for sea level rise, the national discourse on climate change is contentious.53 With no provision in the Final Rule that requires plant operators to evaluate risks associated with reevaluated climate projections, there is no guarantee that plant operators will take steps to protect their facilities from realistic present-day flooding hazards and extreme weather events.54 The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works shared these concerns, and sent a letter to the NRC Chairman stating that the decision to “ignore staff recommendations and make preventive actions to address beyond-design flooding and seismic events voluntary” resulted in a Final Rule that was “short-sighted to say the least.”55

Mitigation Strategies for Beyond-Design-Basis External Events (10 C.F.R. § 50.155(b))

Pursuant to the Final Rule, all commercial nuclear power plants56 are required to develop, implement, and maintain plans for mitigating damage resulting from natural or manmade disasters.57 These plans must cover the entire power plant site and must assume a total loss of power along with a loss of normal access to the “heat sink”58 for each reactor.59 The plans must include strategies for either “[m]aintaining or restoring core cooling, containment, and spent fuel pool cooling capabilities,” including a plan for obtaining any necessary assistance from offsite.60 These planned strategies must be sustainable “indefinitely, or until sufficient site functional capabilities can be maintained without the need for the mitigation strategies.”61

The Final Rule also requires mitigation planning for extensive damage, which includes “circumstances associated with loss of large areas of the plant impacted by the event, due to explosions or fire….”62 Extensive damage strategies must include guidelines for operations needed to fight fires, mitigate fuel damage, and minimize exposure to radiation so as to reduce resulting radiological disease.63 The Final Rule does not provide details regarding what level of damage is acceptable in a successful mitigation plan, nor does it describe how the NRC will evaluate or verify the efficacy of the required mitigation plans.

Spent Fuel Pool Monitoring (10 C.F.R. § 50.155(e))

Spent fuel pool monitoring allows plant operators to determine the amount of water in the pools that surround used nuclear material. If the amount of water in the pools gets too low, the spent fuel rods could overheat and release significant radiation. During the Fukushima accident, the plant operators were unable to cool the spent fuel pools or determine the water levels.64 Thankfully, the spent fuel remained covered despite this information access problem, but it took weeks to determine that the spent fuel was not exposed, during which time the plant operators spent attention and resources on this problem when they could have focused on other critical issues if they had better spent fuel pool-monitoring capabilities.65

As a result, the Final Rule requires all U.S. nuclear power plants to install water level monitoring instrumentation in their spent fuel pools.66 The water level monitoring systems must be “reliable means to remotely monitor wide-range water level” for all spent fuel pools for a minimum of five years after all of the fuel in a spent fuel pool was last used to generate power.67

Exemptions from Compliance (10 C.F.R. § 50.155 (a))

The Final Rule has several exemptions for power plant operators engaged in the decommissioning process.68 If operations have ceased and all fuel has been removed from the reactor vessels, a plant operator is only required to develop strategies and guidelines for monitoring and controlling spent fuel in the event of a disaster.69 Plant operators that have demonstrated an ability to indefinitely cool and remove spent fuel need only develop guidelines to address fires, explosions, and radiological release minimization.70 Finally, plant operators that have removed irradiated fuel from all spent fuel pools are exempt from compliance with the Final Rule entirely.71

Changes to Implementation without NRC Approval (10 C.F.R. § 50.155(f)

The degree to which the NRC will oversee and intervene in the development of disaster mitigation strategies remains to be seen. Once plans are in place, however, power plant operators may make changes to their disaster mitigation strategies without formal approval from the NRC.72 Operators need only “demonstrate” that the requirements of the new regulations “continue to be met” prior to instituting a proposed change.73 In response to concerns that this deference allows power plant operators to pursue strategies that are outside generally accepted practices, the NRC stated that it would “oversee through inspection…and take enforcement action as appropriate.”74 Given the inadequate regulation and oversight in the Fukushima accident, this provision raises significant concerns.

Deadline for Compliance (10 C.F.R. § 50.155(g))

Power plant operators have until September 2021 or September 2022, depending on their status,75 to develop the required plans and put into operation the spent fuel pool monitoring instrumentation required by the Final Rule.76

Conclusion

While the impacts associated with radioactive emissions from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant may take decades to truly measure, the lessons learned from the disaster immediately informed policy changes in Japan and around the globe.  With the regulatory changes contained in the NRC’s Final Rule, power plant operators in the United States now have a standardized obligation to create and, when necessary, implement procedures to maintain cooling capabilities and minimize exposure to deadly radiation and hopefully avert a public health crisis. However, the Final Rule excluded important provisions that would have required power plant operators to evaluate risks exacerbated by climate change, and the degree to which the NRC will engage in oversight and intervention during plan development remains to be seen.

In its report on the Fukushima disaster, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission painted a clear picture of the catastrophic consequences of loose oversight and regulatory capture in the nuclear energy context. If the United States is to draw upon the lessons learned from Fukushima and prepare its nuclear power plants for large-scale natural disasters, the NRC must exercise a great deal of scrutiny over the plans and procedures that will be developed in the coming years. This will be critical to ensuring that plants are prepared to address present-day threats like sea level rise and extreme weather events.

  1. Magnitude 9.1 Great Tokohu Earthquake, Japan, U.S. Geological Survey, https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/official20110311054624120_30/executive#executive.
  2. Id.
  3. Japan Tsunami: Wave Heights – March 11, 2011, Nat’l Oceanic & Atmospheric Admin., https://sos.noaa.gov/datasets/japan-tsunami-wave-heights-march-11-2011/.
  4. Summary Report: March 11, 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, Nat’l Ctrs. Envtl. Info., https://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/hazard/data/publications/2011_0311.pdf.
  5. Fukushima Daiichi Accident, World Nuclear Ass’n, https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/safety-and-security/safety-of-plants/fukushima-accident.aspx.
  6. Id.
  7. Kurokawa, K. et al., The Official Report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, Nat’l Diet Japan, 2012, at 13, https://www.nirs.org/wp-content/uploads/fukushima/naiic_report.pdf.
  8. Biello, D., Partial Meltdowns Led to Hydrogen Explosions at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, Sci. Am., (March 14, 2011), https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/partial-meltdowns-hydrogen-explosions-at-fukushima-nuclear-power-plant/.
  9. See, e.g., Amano, Y., The Fukushima Daiichi Accident: Report by the Director General, Int’l Atomic Energy Agency, at 106, https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications/PDF/Pub1710-ReportByTheDG-Web.pdf.
  10. Health Risk Assessment from the Nuclear Accident after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Executive Summary, World Health Org., 2013, at 3, https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/78373/WHO_HSE_PHE_2013.1_eng.pdf;jsessionid=0979202F702786E006AAE85506D5A7E8?sequence=1.
  11. Id.
  12. FAQs: Fukushima Five Years On, World Health Org. (Aug. 2015), https://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/a_e/fukushima/faqs-fukushima/en/.
  13. Id.
  14. Id. We have seen from past nuclear accidents that it can take decades to gain a sense of the resulting health impacts, and in some cases, debates over the health impacts may never be fully resolved. For example, studies following the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania found that there was no increase in “radiosensitive cancers” such as thyroid cancer, but a recent (and smaller sample size) study found a “possible correlation” between thyroid cancer diagnoses in people who lived near Three Mile Island. Walker, S., The Effects of the Three Mile Island Accident Meltdown After 40 Years, Univ. Calif. Press (March 28, 2019), https://www.ucpress.edu/blog/42233/the-effects-of-the-three-mile-island-accident-meltdown-after-40-years/; Sholtis, B., Thyroid cancer study re-ignites debate over Three Mile Island accident’s health effects, York Daily Rec. (March 18, 2019, 10:26 AM), https://www.ydr.com/story/news/2019/03/18/three-mile-island-health-effects-debate-revisited-after-thyroid-cancer-study/3200260002/.  A follow-up study 30 years after the 1986 accident at Chernobyl found more than 11,000 thyroid cancer diagnoses among those exposed to radiation from Chernobyl as children, a percentage of which is likely attributable to the exposure. It is difficult, if not impossible to determine what percentage of cases is attributable to Chernobyl. 1986-2012: CHERNOBYL at 30, World Health Org., April 25, 2016, at 1, https://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/chernobyl/Chernobyl-update.pdf?ua=1. Studies of emergency and clean-up workers exposed to radiation during Chernobyl also found a statistically significant increase in solid cancers that exceeds the rate of these cancers found among the control group and an increase in other non-cancer diseases, including radiation-induced cataracts, increased cardiovascular mortality, significant increases in anxiety (double that found in the general population), and other unexplained physical symptoms and subjective poor health status. Id.; V. Kashcheev et al., Incidence and mortality of solid cancer among emergency workers of the Chernobyl accident: assessment of radiation risks for the follow-up period of 1992-2009, 54 Radiation & Environ. Biophysics 13-23 (March 2015), https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00411-014-0572-3. With respect to radiation-induced cataracts, Chernobyl studies have recently shown that the amount of radiation exposure that generally leads to radiation-induced cataracts is actually much lower than previously thought. 1986-2012: CHERNOBYL at 30, at 2.
  15. Kurokawa et al., supra n. 7, at 16.
  16. Id. at 17-18.
  17. Id. at 16, 43.
  18. Vivoda, V. & Graetz, G., Nuclear Policy and Regulation in Japan after Fukushima: Navigating the Crisis, 45 J. Contemporary Asia 491 (2015), http://content.csbs.utah.edu/~mli/Economies%205430-6430/Vovoda%20and%20Graetz-Nuclear%20Policy%20and%20Regulation%20in%20Japan.pdf
  19. NRA’s Core Values and Principles, Japan Nuclear Regulation Auth., https://www.nsr.go.jp/english/e_nra/idea.html.
  20. Staudenmaier, R., Germany’s Nuclear Phase-Out Explained, Deutsche Welle, https://www.dw.com/en/germanys-nuclear-phase-out-explained/a-39171204.
  21. Canada’s Response to Fukushima, Canadian Nuclear Safety Comm’n, http://nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/resources/fukushima/ (last updated Feb. 29, 2016).
  22. Faris, S., Italy Says No to Nuclear Power – And to Berlusconi, Time, June 14, 2011, http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2077622,00.html.
  23. Lerner, M., In Latin America, Nuclear Power on Shaky Ground, World Pol’y J., May 14, 2012, https://worldpolicy.org/2012/05/14/in-latin-america-nuclear-power-on-shaky-ground/.
  24. See Schwartz, P., International Response – Nuclear Programs Post-Fukushima, Fukushima.com, Oct. 1, 2014, https://fukushima.com/international-response/ (discussing light regulatory oversight and continued political endorsements of nuclear energy development in Brazil, Chile, France, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey and others).
  25. FAQs: Fukushima Five Years On, supra n. 12.
  26. Id.
  27. Id.
  28. Id.
  29. Id.
  30. About NRC, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n, https://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc.html.
  31. Id.
  32. Commission Direction-Setting and Policymaking Activities, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n, https://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/policymaking.html (last updated Sept. 25, 2017).
  33. Frequently Asked Questions, U.S. Energy Info. Admin., https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=207&t=3 (last updated Oct. 23, 2019).
  34. Id.
  35. Locations of Power Reactor Sites Undergoing Decommissioning, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n, https://www.nrc.gov/info-finder/decommissioning/power-reactor/.
  36. Id.
  37. Nuclear explained: U.S. nuclear industry, U.S. Energy Info. Admin., https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/nuclear/us-nuclear-industry.php; Nuclear Power in the USA, World Nuclear Ass’n, https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-t-z/usa-nuclear-power.aspx (last updated Oct. 2019).
  38. Nuclear Power in the USA, World Nuclear Ass’n, https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-t-z/usa-nuclear-power.aspx (last updated Oct. 2019).
  39. Miller, C. et al., Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n, July 12, 2011, at vii,  https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1118/ML111861807.pdf.
  40. Id. at ix-x.
  41. Id. at 29.
  42. Id. at 28-29.
  43. Id.
  44. Id.
  45. What are the Lessons Learned from Fukushima?, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n, https://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/ops-experience/japan-dashboard/priorities.html (last updated Jan. 4, 2019). See also NRC Order EA-12-049, "Order Modifying Licenses With Regard to Requirements for Mitigation Strategies for Beyond-Design-Basis Events," Order EA-12-051, "Order Modifying Licenses With Regard to Reliable Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation,” and Order EA-12-050, “Order to Modify Licenses with Regard to Reliable Hardened Containment Vents.” Note that the NRC has subsequently updated the order governing hardened containment vents, Order EA-13-109, “Order to Modify Licenses with Regard to Reliable Hardened Containment Vents Capable of Operation Under Severe Accident Conditions.”
  46. Draft Final Rule—Mitigation of Beyond-Design-Basis Events (RIN 3150-AJ49), U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n,, Dec. 15, 2016, https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1629/ML16291A186.pdf.
  47. SECY-15-0065: Proposed Rule: Mitigation of Beyond-Design-Basis Events (RIN 3150-AJ49), https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1504/ML15049A201.html; Mitigation of Beyond-Design-Basis Events
    Proposed Rule issued for Public Comment (ARCHIVED)
    , U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n, https://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/ops-experience/japan-dashboard/emergency-procedures.html (last updated Jan. 4, 2019).
  48. Draft Final Rule—Mitigation of Beyond-Design-Basis Events (RIN 3150-AJ49), U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n,, Dec. 15, 2016, https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1629/ML16291A186.pdf.
  49. 84 Fed. Reg. 39684 (Aug. 9, 2019), https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/08/09/2019-16600/mitigation-of-beyond-design-basis-events.
  50. Id.
  51. Draft Final Rule—Mitigation of Beyond-Design-Basis Events (RIN 3150-AJ49), U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n,, Dec. 15, 2016, https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1629/ML16291A186.pdf.
  52. NRC Guts a Critical Safety Regulation, Recklessly Disregarding the Critical Lessons of the Fukushima Disaster, Union Concerned Scientists (Jan. 24, 2019), https://www.ucsusa.org/about/news/critical-lessons-fukushima-disaster.
  53. Ariza, M. & Stein, K., Calm Before the Storm: How the American Nuclear Industry Downplays the Threat of Climate-Induced Flooding, The New Republic, Sept. 30, 2019, https://newrepublic.com/article/154942/america-nuclear-power-plants-climate-change-risk-fukushima.
  54. Id.
  55. Letter from Tom Carper, Ranking Member, U.S. Senate Comm. Env’t & Pub. Works to Kristine Svinicki, Chairman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n (April 9, 2019), https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/8/1/81cd4baa-6cdc-4cb5-b15f-aff82c67c427/B770643507A7D9DFB6372A52F99AC926.epw-19-0104-003-.pdf.
  56. The Final Rule only applies to licensed power plants and power plants applying for licensure in the United States. Only civilian/commercial power plants are licensed by the NRC. See Governing Legislation, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n, https://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/governing-laws.html (last updated May 21, 2018).
  57. 10 C.F.R. § 50.155(b)(1) (2019), https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/cfr/part050/part050-0155.html.
  58. The heat sink is a system responsible for absorbing reactor residual heat and essential station heat loads after a reactor shutdown event. Regulatory Guide 1.27: Ultimate Heat Sink for Nuclear Power Plants, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n (Sept. 2013), https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1410/ML14107A411.pdf.
  59. 10 C.F.R. § 50.155(b)(1).
  60. 10 C.F.R. § 50.155(b)(1)(i)-(ii).
  61. Id.
  62. 10 C.F.R. § 50.155(b)(2).
  63. 10 C.F.R. § 50.155(b)(2)(i)-(iii).
  64. Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n, https://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/ops-experience/post-fukushima-safety-enhancements/spent-fuel-pool-instrumentation.html.
  65. Id.
  66. 10 C.F.R. § 50.155(e).
  67. Id.
  68. 10 C.F.R. § 50.155(a).
  69. 10 C.F.R. § 50.155(a)(2)(i).
  70. 10 C.F.R. § 50.155(a)(2)(ii).
  71. 10 C.F.R. § 50.155(a)(2)(iv).
  72. 10 C.F.R. § 50.155(f).
  73. Id.
  74. 84 Fed. Reg. 39684, 39694-39695 (Aug. 9, 2019), https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/08/09/2019-16600/mitigation-of-beyond-design-basis-events.
  75. The regulatory requirements vary slightly depending on whether the power plant is applying for licensure, a current licensee, or undergoing decommissioning. 10 C.F.R. § 50.155(g).
  76. 10 C.F.R. § 50.155(g).

About the Authors

Micah Green is a staff attorney with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. His practice focuses primarily on natural resources management and conservation for endangered species. Prior to joining the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Mr. Green worked as a Water Rights Analyst for the Office of the Delta Watermaster at the State Water Resources Control Board, where he provided analysis on agricultural water right claims throughout the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. He received his J.D. with honors from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. He has an undergraduate degree in Philosophy from San Francisco State University.  Mr. Green may be reached at micah.green@wildlife.ca.gov.

Hayley Penan is a Deputy Legislative Counsel with the Office of Legislative Counsel for the State of California, where she primarily focuses on healthcare law issues. Prior to joining the Office of Legislative Counsel, Ms. Penan worked as an attorney at the National Health Law Program, where she focused on a wide range of state and federal health law and policy issues impacting low-income and otherwise underserved populations. Prior to that, she served as a Health Policy Fellow at the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.  Ms. Penan received her J.D. with honors from the University of California, Irvine School of Law, and a Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in Health Policy from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She earned her undergraduate degree in Media Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She may be reached at Hayley.Penan@legislativecounsel.ca.gov.