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NRC tells U.S. nuclear plants to take 'appropriate' action

By Mike M. Ahlers, CNN
  • Plant operators are urged to avoid problems like those in Japan
  • The directive is the first to plant operators since quake struck one week ago
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission continues to study the implications of Fukushima crisis

Washington (CNN) -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday asked operators of the nation's 104 nuclear power plants to review details of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster and to take actions "as appropriate" to avoid similar problems at their reactors.

In a five-page letter -- the first to plant operators since the earthquake struck Japan a week ago -- the NRC gives a brief description of the circumstances surrounding the Fukushima situation and a lengthier description of actions it has taken since 2001 to protect U.S. plants from terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

The damage to Fukushima, the letter concludes, appears to have been caused by "events outside the design basis" of the plant -- meaning forces exceeded what the plant was built to handle.

"The NRC expects (nuclear plant operators) will review the information ... and consider actions, as appropriate, to avoid similar problems," the letter says.

NRC spokesman Eliot Brenner said the letter is a call for nuclear power plants to "look across the spectrum at what we can learn in Japan that can be applied to a domestic system."

The letter contains no specific recommendations, but does include a link to a list of actions announced earlier this week by the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's trade group.

The NRC said it is continuing to study the implications of the Fukushima event as more information becomes available. On Monday, the five-member commission will hold its first formal meeting and will be given a status report by its staff.