Lessons Learned in the Aftermath of Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Accident

Jun 13, 2012

by Mark Crawford ASME.org

ASME Task Force Recommends a New Nuclear Safety Construct to Minimize Future Socio-Political and Economic Impacts

NEW YORK, June 14, 2012 – An ASME Task Force today released recommendations for a new nuclear safety construct that will reach beyond the traditional regulatory framework of adequate protection of public health and safety to minimize socio-political and economic consequences caused by radioactive releases from accidents. The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, causing the unprecedented accident at Fukushima Dai-ichi, exposed potential vulnerabilities of nuclear power plants to extreme events. This prompted ASME President Victoria A. Rockwell to commission a Presidential Task Force to review the events, examine the global implications and make recommendations on ASME's role in addressing issues and lessons learned.

The ASME Task Force built upon the growing body of technical assessments of these events and examined the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident in the context of the broader lessons learned from a half-century of nuclear operations. From the combination of assessments and reviews of the critical elements involved in the accident scenarios, the ASME Task Force developed recommendations for a cohesive framework to enhance the safe operation of nuclear plants. The ASME Task Force's recommendations are included in the report, Forging a New Nuclear Safety Construct.

"The Task Force review and recommendations provided in this report will hopefully launch activities within ASME, and working with other professional engineering societies, industry organizations, and government agencies worldwide, recommend global actions to prevent or mitigate the consequences of severe nuclear accidents," stated Victoria Rockwell. "I was pleased that Dr. Nils Diaz, past Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Dr. Regis Matzie, former Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Westinghouse Electric Company, agreed to serve as Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, of the ASME Presidential Task Force on Response to Japan Nuclear Power Plant Events".

The report concludes that radiological protection of public health and safety continues to be the primary goal of nuclear reactor safety and there is continuing expectation that it will be met; however, the major consequences of severe accidents at nuclear power plants have been socio-political and economic disruptions inflicting enormous cost to society. The ASME Task Force proposes a new nuclear safety construct to further reduce the potential for socio-political and economic consequences resulting from radioactivity releases and further strengthen radiological protection. This new nuclear safety construct is "the set of planned, coordinated, and implemented systems ensuring that nuclear plants are designed, constructed, operated, and managed to prevent extensive societal disruption caused by radioactive releases from accidents, using an all-risk approach." Key elements of the proposed framework include:

  • It is founded on the existing nuclear safety construct.
  • It extends the design basis to consider rare yet credible events.
  • It considers all-risks.
  • It addresses potential improvements in human performance, command and control, accident management, and emergency preparedness.
  • It extends beyond regulations.
  • It should be embraced globally and calls for building global consensus on its principles and implementation strategies.

The ASME Task Force is convinced that global and thoughtful solutions to the issues raised by the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident can be developed and are essential to continue benefitting from nuclear electricity generation to expand its use, and to address critical environmental and energy portfolio issues.

Read the article for more information, including a podcast interview with the ASME Task Force Chair.

View the full report.

About ASME ASME helps the global engineering community develop solutions to real world challenges. Founded in 1880 as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME is a not-for-profit professional organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing and skill development across all engineering disciplines, while promoting the vital role of the engineer in society. ASME codes and standards, publications, conferences, continuing education and professional development programs provide a foundation for advancing technical knowledge and a safer world.

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