The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission reviewed how well Canada’s nuclear power plants might withstand such an extreme event as happened in Japan this March when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake followed by a tsunami created one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.
The CNSC’s Fukushima task force completed its report and recommendations at the end of October and is asking for written public input by December 1.
According to the report’s executive summary: “The CNSC Task Force examined the response of [nuclear power plants] to external events of higher magnitude than have previously been considered. It also examined the [plants’] licensees’ capability to respond to such events. The focus was on the need to “anticipate the unexpected”: events such as earthquakes, tornadoes or hurricanes that may cause a prolonged loss of electrical power, resulting in operators not being able to continue cooling the reactors.”
The task force concluded that Canadian nuclear plants are adequately protected, noting that they have multiple layers of defence against accidents. The committee said that the regulatory framework is robust enough to be effectively applied even during severe accidents.
At the same time, the task force had recommendations for “strengthening each layer of defence built into the Canadian nuclear power plant design and licensing philosophy.” It said “the regulatory documentary framework should be enhanced by updating selected requirements and expectations for design-basis and beyond-design-basis accidents.”
More specifically, the task force suggested that nuclear plant designs should enhance the containment of radioactive product releases, should enhance the control of hydrogen and other combustible glasses, and should ensure the survivability of equipment and instrumentation. The report notes that some of these measures are already being implemented.
The task force also noted that onsite emergency facilities and equipment could be upgraded, specifically by formalizing arrangements for external support. It also said that plants should have automated real-time monitoring systems at station boundaries, including back-up power.
Another recommendation that nuclear plant licensees should be required to submit offsite emergency plans.
The task force was chaired by Greg Rzentkowski. Once the task force has received the public’s input they will be presenting a comprehensive action plan at a public meeting in February 15.
In Fukushima the Daichi nuclear power plant lost power during the earthquake and tsunami. Within three days the plant’s six reactors overheated and suffered partial meltdowns. The accident left an estimated 25,000 people dead, with radioactive releases the results of which continue to be monitored.
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