Industry lessons from Fukushima

By 18 May 2011 Industry news

An interim report from the Office of Nuclear Regulation has found that the ongoing crisis at Fukushima should have no major implications for the UK nuclear new-build programme.

In the report, the UK’s chief inspector of nuclear installations Mike Weightman concludes that there is no need to curtail the operations of UK nuclear plant, but that lessons should be learnt from the events in Japan to further improve safety.

Key findings include:

  • The UK nuclear power industry has reacted responsibly and appropriately in its response to the Fukushima accident.
  • Consideration of the known circumstances of the Fukushima accident has not revealed any gaps in the Safety Assessment Principles for nuclear facilities in the UK.
  • There are no significant weaknesses in the UK nuclear licensing regime.
  • There is no need to change the present siting strategy for new nuclear power stations in the UK.
  • There is no reason to abandon plans to have several reactors at single sites, given the design features of new reactors and adequate design and operational safety procedures.

The report identifies 25 areas for review by industry, government or regulators. Key areas for industry include:

  • Ways to improve communications and relationships with the public and other stakeholders.
  • Flooding assessment and protection.
  • The safety case for multiple reactors.
  • Plant and site layout of existing and new facilities.
  • The design of new spent fuel ponds.
  • The performance of concrete, structures and equipment to seismic events.
  • The need and ability to provide longer-term coolant supplies in the event of severe disruption.
  • Severe accident contingency arrangements and training.
  • Analysis of accident sequences for long-term severe accidents.

Weightman noted that, while the designs for proposed new-build in the UK are very different to the 40-year-old designs at Fukushima, and the UK has no equivalent risk of extreme natural events, there was no room for complacency.

“No matter what the differences are, and how high the standard of design and subsequent operation of the nuclear facilities here in the UK, the quest for improvement must never stop,” Weightman said. “Seeking to learn from events, and from new knowledge, both nationally and internationally, must continue to be a fundamental feature of the safety culture of the UK nuclear industry.”

The report was commissioned by energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne in March.

“I am pleased that today’s report confirms that the UK’s current safety arrangements are working,” Huhne said. “I want regulators and the industry to work together, so that we continue to improve our safety regime.

“Dr Weightman’s interim report is authoritative and detailed and I thank him for his work. It provides us with the basis to continue to remove the barriers to nuclear new build in the UK.”

Weightman’s final report, covering implications for all nuclear installations in the UK and incorporating input from industry and other interested parties, will be published in September.

To download the full interim report, see

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