Nuke Plant Workers Need More Emergency Training, Says U.S.

By Matthew Daly | June 8, 2011

Some U.S. nuclear power plants have not trained their workers properly about emergency guidelines intended to protect the public in the event of a severe accident or disaster, according to federal regulators.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said inspections conducted after the Japan nuclear crisis found reason for concern, although the commission continues to believe that the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States are safe.

Inspectors found that many plant operators have done too little to train their staffs on the voluntary emergency guidelines or update their procedures, said Eric Leeds, director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. The guidelines were put in place in the 1990s and are meant to contain or reduce the impact of an accident that damages a reactor core.

“While overall we believe plants are safe … we are concerned that our inspectors found many of the plants have work to do in either training their staff on these procedures or ensuring the guidelines are appropriately updated,” Leeds said.

The inspections were conducted at the request of a task force created by the NRC to review nuclear operations in light of the Japan crisis. Task force members said they wanted to learn more about emergency guidelines and how they are being implemented.

The inspectors found that all 65 nuclear power plants have implemented the guidelines, with 97 percent of the plants keeping related documents on site.

Still, only 42 percent of the plants include the emergency guidelines in periodic reviews and revisions to plant procedures. Also, while staff at 92 percent of the plants received initial training on the guidelines, only 61 percent periodically include the guidelines in their emergency drills, the review found.

The NRC task force will incorporate the inspection results in a 90-day report expected in mid-July. The task force is expected to recommend changes to NRC requirements and policies in light of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan.

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