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The five-member, presidentially appointed commission responsible for leading the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted last week on recommendations that should be implemented “without delay” in response to the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactor site last March.

The approved plan calls for the changes to be carried out for U.S. plants via orders, development of new regulations and requests for plant-specific information. Top priority areas include: seismic and flood hazard re-evaluations; station blackout regulatory actions when there is a loss of both off-site power and on-site emergency power; assessments to ensure there are reliable hardened vents for certain containments; and spent fuel pool instrumentation, according to NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.

Following the events at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors last March, the NRC established a Japan Task Force to evaluate needed changes at U.S. nuclear power plants. The task force issued its near-term recommendations in July. The commission then asked NRC staff to develop a list of recommendations that should be implemented “without delay” and a prioritization of those areas, which was submitted on Oct. 3.

Separately, the NRC staff will be performing a longer-term Fukushima lessons learned review. The charter for that review was issued last week as well and can be found at www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/commission/srm/2011/2011-0117srm.pdf.

In a staff memo released on Oct. 18, the commission directed NRC staff to “strive to complete and implement the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident within five years — by 2016.”

“In order to be effective, approaches should be flexible and able to accommodate a diverse range of circumstances and conditions,” the letter continues. “Where gaps in knowledge in the analyses of the reactor accidents at Fukushima [Daiichi] interfere with the staff’s ability to make an informed recommendation on regulatory action, the staff should inform the Commission of these gaps.”

All U.S. nuclear power plants, including the Calvert Cliffs site in Lusby, will be affected by the implemented changes.

MEGHAN RUSSELL