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Live from #NEA2011: Nuclear industry emphasizes safety

Two months after an earthquake and a tsunami devastated Japan, a crisis at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is still going. At the Nuclear Energy Institute‘s Nuclear Energy Assembly in Washington, D.C., industry leaders said the incident has strengthened their resolve to make operations safer.

“This event is a stark reminder that nuclear energy is one industry bound together by a technology that is both remarkable and demanding,” NEI President and CEO Marvin Fertel said at the event. “Our commitment to safety must be equally demanding, as should our commitment to international cooperation and assistance. Fukushima is a reminder that we must always continue to learn and improve and that we must never, never become complacent.”

Fertel said the 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S. continue to operate safely, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission appears to agree, with four reactors’ licenses renewed since the incident. This comes as some countries consider reducing nuclear’s role in their energy portfolio.

“We believe the American nuclear-power plants are well prepared and could withstand significant natural forces here in this country,” Fertel said. “We’ll be even better prepared as we address the lessons learned from Japan.”

The industry must guard against overconfidence in its ability, said World Association of Nuclear Operators Chairman Laurent Stricker. He proposed creating a commission to prepare the first changes to international standards, to ensure that such an incident never happens again. Stricker said design standards might need to be addressed, as well as communication among the world’s nuclear organizations in the event of an incident.