National Academies Press: OpenBook

Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety of U.S. Nuclear Plants (2014)

Chapter: Appendix M: Access to Timely and Reliable Information to Support Decision Making During a Nuclear Power Plant Accident

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix M: Access to Timely and Reliable Information to Support Decision Making During a Nuclear Power Plant Accident." National Research Council. 2014. Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety of U.S. Nuclear Plants. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18294.
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Appendix M

Access to Timely and Reliable Information to Support Decision Making During a Nuclear Power Plant Accident

The Fukushima accident revealed that permanently installed radiation monitoring instruments at and around nuclear power plants should be able to operate on batteries for long periods of time, at least a week, with plans in place to replace or recharge them thereafter. Also, because multiple parallel pathways for releases of radiation exist, instrumentation that gives continuous readout of the quantities of radionuclides being discharged from these pathways under accident conditions would improve accuracy of the information used to support decision making. A problem anticipating which pathways will be effective is that plant damage can create new pathways that would not be obvious from the “as built” status of the plant.

Additionally, there is a need for instruments to be quickly available at and near nuclear power plant sites that can measure (i) the quantities of radioactive iodine and cesium in the plume, whether or not the plume is elevated off the ground as a result of an initial rise due to its temperature; and (ii) what the initial cross-wind dimensions of the plume are whatever the direction in which it is being blown.1 This information would be essential

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1 Concepts for evaluation include (1) imaging Compton gamma-ray spectrometers (Kataoka et al., 2013), (2) drones equipped with radiation detectors capable of distinguishing gamma and beta energies (Pöllänen et al., 2009), and (3) resonance-enhanced multiphoton ionization detected by microwave scattering (Shneider and Miles, 2005; Dogariu and Miles, 2011).

Suggested Citation:"Appendix M: Access to Timely and Reliable Information to Support Decision Making During a Nuclear Power Plant Accident." National Research Council. 2014. Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety of U.S. Nuclear Plants. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18294.
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initialization for atmospheric models that project dose rates and cumulative doses to the population in different directions and at different distances.2

Thus there appears to be potential for reducing uncertainty in activity estimates and forecasts of plume behavior, although dose predictions will always carry significant uncertainties. Examples of quantities whose measurement might be used to assay the quantities of radioisotopes in the plumes are the intensities, directions, and energy spectra of gamma rays from the plume and measurements of the concentration profiles of cesium and iodine in the plume, which could be far above natural background levels for these isotopes.3 The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency of the Department of Defense responsible for developing new technologies for use by the military, is already seeking novel approaches to low-cost, high-efficiency, packaged radiation detectors for identifying hidden threats, ranging from special nuclear material (SNM) to radiological sources (Federal Business Opportunities, 2013).

In improving capabilities of forecasting plume behavior, plants may consider extending the distance requirement for meteorological monitoring programs for providing atmospheric transport and diffusion estimates, which is currently within the 10-mile emergency planning zone (USNRC, 2007).

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2 The capabilities described here would go beyond existing capabilities. Currently, state and local agencies rely on field monitoring teams and appropriate instrumentation, the specifics of which vary from site to site. These capabilities are supplemented by the Federal Radiological Monitoring and Assessment Center and other federal resources, including the U.S. Department of Energy’s capabilities to provide aerial mapping of the depositions from the plume. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Radnet monitors and monitors established by the nuclear power plants for routine environmental monitoring can provide real-time air monitoring. These instruments could be multipurpose so that they can be used for a wide variety of emergency response activities including monitoring plumes from chemical releases.

3 For example, if a release of the same magnitude as occurred at Fukushima Daiichi took place over a period of 1 to 10 hours, concentrations of 0.01 to 100 ppb of radioactive cesium and iodine would be expected near the plant depending upon the plume cross-section. Consider that a hypothetical release of cesium-137 and iodine-131 then would be 0.25 mega-curie (MCi) (2.8 kg) and 1.9 MCi (15 g), respectively. Although it would be an insignificant contributor to the dose because of its long half-life (17 million years), there also would be 17 times as much iodine-129 as iodine-131 by mass (0.26 kg). Thus, in total, there would be about 1,025 atoms of cesium and 1,024 atoms of iodine in the plume.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix M: Access to Timely and Reliable Information to Support Decision Making During a Nuclear Power Plant Accident." National Research Council. 2014. Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety of U.S. Nuclear Plants. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18294.
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Page 367
Suggested Citation:"Appendix M: Access to Timely and Reliable Information to Support Decision Making During a Nuclear Power Plant Accident." National Research Council. 2014. Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety of U.S. Nuclear Plants. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18294.
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Page 368
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The March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami sparked a humanitarian disaster in northeastern Japan. They were responsible for more than 15,900 deaths and 2,600 missing persons as well as physical infrastructure damages exceeding $200 billion. The earthquake and tsunami also initiated a severe nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Three of the six reactors at the plant sustained severe core damage and released hydrogen and radioactive materials. Explosion of the released hydrogen damaged three reactor buildings and impeded onsite emergency response efforts. The accident prompted widespread evacuations of local populations, large economic losses, and the eventual shutdown of all nuclear power plants in Japan.

Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of U.S. Nuclear Plants is a study of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. This report examines the causes of the crisis, the performance of safety systems at the plant, and the responses of its operators following the earthquake and tsunami. The report then considers the lessons that can be learned and their implications for U.S. safety and storage of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste, commercial nuclear reactor safety and security regulations, and design improvements. Lessons Learned makes recommendations to improve plant systems, resources, and operator training to enable effective ad hoc responses to severe accidents. This report's recommendations to incorporate modern risk concepts into safety regulations and improve the nuclear safety culture will help the industry prepare for events that could challenge the design of plant structures and lead to a loss of critical safety functions.

In providing a broad-scope, high-level examination of the accident, Lessons Learned is meant to complement earlier evaluations by industry and regulators. This in-depth review will be an essential resource for the nuclear power industry, policy makers, and anyone interested in the state of U.S. preparedness and response in the face of crisis situations.

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