What was your reaction to the natural disaster in Japan
on March 11 and the subsequent accident at
To the event itself - the earthquake and ensuing tsunami - I
expect I reacted as most people did. The human toll was, and still
is, stunning: nearly 20,000 people feared dead or missing. And
for the survivors of that unparalleled natural disaster, it will
take decades to rebuild.
As for the events at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant,
I think that it is imperative to note that, after the earthquake
occurred, all of the reactors at the plant shut down safely. It was
only when the massive tsunami, approximately 45 feet high, struck
the east coast that the Fukushima plant experienced a total power
failure that disabled critical safety systems. What happened at
Fukushima was a series of unprecedented natural disasters that
exceeded the design basis.
When an extraordinary and unforeseen natural disaster, such as
the one that occurred in Japan last March occurs, it is human
nature to respond with some measure of uncertainty. And while
some of the insecurity experienced by the general public resulted
from exaggerations in the general media, I believe that the more
serious issue was the lack of understanding of the unfolding events
at Fukushima, and the true global repercussions of what happened
Has Westinghouse been involved in the recovery
operations at Fukushima?
The immediate Westinghouse response was to set up an emergency
response team to help our employees in the country. Once we
ascertained that all Westinghouse employees were accounted for and
safe, we focused more on the response to the area surrounding
Fukushima, including making a substantial monetary contribution
that went primarily to the Red Cross Japan Earthquake and Pacific
Tsunami Fund, and recovery efforts in Tokai, where the Nuclear Fuel
Industries Ltd. is located. (Westinghouse is a majority
Westinghouse then turned to the recovery operations at
Fukushima. In the first days following the disaster, we donated
safety supplies and protective gear needed by workers that were
shipped to TEPCO facilities. A few weeks later, we began
participating in the recovery efforts in a greater capacity,
including joining a team that was made up of Toshiba, Shaw Power
Group, Babcock & Wilcox and Westinghouse, to assist TEPCO. In
total, Westinghouse had more than 150 people in both Japan and the
U.S. supporting the Fukushima stabilization efforts.
Westinghouse has a great deal of experience in decommissioning
and dismantling nuclear reactors around the world, and so it made
sense to offer our support in this area. In response to the
situation at Fukushima, we supplied four T-Hawk Micro Air Vehicles
(MAV) from Honeywell to get up-close video and photos inside the
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility needed for decision support in
the initial days following the earthquake and tsunami. We then
hired three trained pilots to operate the unmanned vehicles , which
took video and still images of inside the damaged reactors and
transmitted the information back to the surveillance team. This
information helped greatly with later decision-making in the
Today, we're continuing to provide technical support and
expertise as well as equipment through integrated efforts with our
majority stakeholder Toshiba to continue to support the
Westinghouse post-Fukushima program.
What actions has Westinghouse carried out in response to
Westinghouse has always had an exceedingly strong and unwavering
commitment to plant safety; we are proud of this and continue to
contribute to the safety of nuclear energy plants around the
world. In fact, nuclear power plants in the United States are
widely considered to be the most robust, and secure non-military
facilities in the country. But one of the lessons from
Fukushima is that our level of safety, security and protection can
be improved through planning and preparation.
Already at Westinghouse, we are developing products that will
address the kind of emergency situations encountered at
Fukushima. For example, we have developed an emergency fuel
pool cooling system (EFPCS) to address emergency situations, such
as the events that occurred at Fukushima. This system
consists of a permanently installed "primary" cooling loop located
inside the reactor building or spent fuel pool (SFP) building, and
a mobile "secondary" cooling loop.
Another example is the SHIELD passive thermal shutdown seal,
developed as a passive means of protecting the reactor core by
preventing a loss of water inventory in the reactor coolant system
(RCS), should an event occur that causes a loss of all seal
cooling. The SHIELD is a fail-safe protection that will eliminate
leakage from the RCP seal with no operator action, power or control
In fact, Westinghouse has a complement of products and services
to address our global customers' needs in identifying enhancement
to plant safety, such as severe accident mitigation, spent fuel
pool protection and station blackout coping, including a full range
of modification services in response to insights from
What does the nuclear industry as a whole need to
do in response to Fukushima?
Fukushima has reinforced the need to further prepare for the
unexpected. It is imperative to assess and, where necessary,
incorporate significant new information as it becomes available.
Some specific improvements that have already been identified (and
in some cases incorporated) include the addition of improved
defenses for external/environmental challenges; the extended
ability to withstand loss of offsite power and ultimate heat sink
(UHS); an increased emphasis on spent fuel pools; the evaluation of
multi-unit events; and the incorporation of better operator
training and emergency procedures. As is our nature and
practice, we will incorporate any lessons learned across the
industry as the first step in a short-term and long-term review of
enhancements that may be made at all nuclear facilities in the
aftermath of the events in Japan.
I also feel very strongly that as an industry, we have not been
communicating as effectively as we should. I believe that we
need to step up our efforts to educate the public, not only about
what happened at Fukushima, but also about basic facts regarding
What can be done at existing nuclear plants to ensure
their safety in response to learning from
As a first response, many safety authorities implemented reviews
to see what lessons can be learned from the accident.
Countries with operating reactors set up programs to see how their
fleets would perform in the face of a disaster that results in
reactor shutdown and a prolonged loss of grid and emergency power -
such as what happened at Fukushima Daiichi. In the United States,
within weeks of Fukushima, the United States Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC) conducted thorough inspections of all U.S. plants.
The reports from these inspections indicate that nuclear plants are
generally well placed and are properly designed and maintained to
withstand environmental impacts.
To better coordinate on industry response activities and ensure
that no gaps exist, the U.S. nuclear energy industry has created a
leadership structure among major electric-sector organizations to
integrate and coordinate the industry's ongoing response to the
Fukushima Daiichi event. One of the outcomes of coordinated
industry activities is a strategy known as the "diverse and
flexible mitigation capability," or FLEX. It addresses many
of the recommendations set forth by the NRC's Fukushima task force
and takes into account some of the early lessons from the Fukushima
accident on the need to maintain key safety functions amid
conditions where electricity may be lost, back-up equipment could
be damaged, and several reactors may be involved.
Additional areas of focus include:
What features do new reactor designs offer to address
the issues faced at Fukushima?
New reactor designs have evolved dramatically over the decades
and some now incorporate passive safety features that would have
prevented the type of accident that occurred at Fukushima.
The Westinghouse AP1000® reactor, for example, which has emerged as
a preferred design for electric utility customers around the world,
employs passive safety systems. These safety systems rely on
gravity, natural circulation and condensation to shut down safely
and maintain the cooling process for three days, even with a
complete loss of power and without human intervention, and then
indefinitely with only minimal effort.
What do you now see as the future for nuclear
As you may know, in December, the U.S. NRC granted the Design
Certification Amendment to Westinghouse for the AP1000 design, and
regulators in the United Kingdom granted Interim Design Acceptance
Confirmation and Interim Statement of Design Acceptability.
And in January, the NRC approved Southern Nuclear Operating
Company's (SNC) application for two Combined Operating Licenses
(COLs) at the Vogtle site in Burke County, Ga. (USA). The
COLs authorize SNC to build and operate two AP1000 reactors at the
Vogtle site, adjacent to the company's existing reactors.
This approval marks the first new nuclear plant approved by the NRC
since 1978. It is also the first license issued for both the
construction and operation of a nuclear plant in one-step, under a
set of standardization rules that was first approved by Congress in
the Energy Policy Act of 1992. Additionally, in China, four
AP1000 plants are under construction, with many more expected in
the coming years.
Other markets for new nuclear plants include the United Kingdom,
the Czech Republic, Poland, Brazil, South Africa and India with no
less than 30 other countries announcing longer-term interest in new
construction. Furthermore, Westinghouse is fully committed to
the fuel and service segments of the nuclear energy industry.
Annually, the company provides fuel, maintenance and
instrumentation and control equipment, or combinations thereof, to
well over 100 operating nuclear plants throughout the Americas,
Europe and in Asia.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, world
electricity demand is projected to double by the year 2030.
With this growth will come the need for large amounts of additional
electricity. We at Westinghouse, and others in our industry,
favor balanced energy policies that promote conservation while
making use of a wide range of generating sources such as coal, gas,
renewables and, of course, nuclear.
The fact remains that nuclear energy is a safe, clean,
cost-effective and reliable source of baseload power that is
essential to both economic prosperity and a clean
environment. Already, nuclear energy in the United States
produces more than 70 percent of all of our carbon-free
electricity, in addition to creating thousands of stable
jobs. We in the nuclear energy industry look forward to
continuing and increasing this vital contribution in meeting global
energy, environmental and economic needs.
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