March 18, 2011
To the Editor,
Entergy Corporation and its employees express their deepest sympathies to the people of Japan during this difficult time. Entergy’s nuclear employees are closely monitoring the situation in coordination with the U.S.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations and industry peers. Working through NEI, we have offered our support and assistance to the Japanese nuclear industry.
Entergy’s nuclear plants were designed and built to withstand the effects of natural disasters, including earthquakes and catastrophic flooding. The NRC requires that safety-significant structures, systems and components be designed to take into account the most severe natural phenomena historically reported for each site and surrounding area. In determining the appropriate standards, the NRC includes an added safety margin to ensure that the standards take into account the risk that a future event, such as an earthquake or flooding, could be more severe than any recorded historical event. Systems are designed with multiple contingent backup systems to provide greater safety margins.
In addition to stringent design and construction standards, Entergy and other nuclear operators conduct ongoing programs to ensure plant safety. These programs, which are closely monitored and evaluated by the NRC, include:
• Ongoing risk analysis and design enhancements to address natural and man-made risks.
• Extensive operator training in preparation for extreme conditions, along with drills and evaluations by the NRC.
• The development and implementation of emergency response plans aimed at protecting public health and safety (such as those put in place following Hurricane Katrina); these plans are regularly exercised in cooperation with local, state and federal agencies.
There will be lessons learned from this tragic event, in fact, over the next 30 days, as part of an industry initiative, Indian Point will be performing a comprehensive review of the plant’s ability to respond to catastrophic events.
Incorporating those lessons into operating experience is a hallmark of the global nuclear industry. It is worth noting that the natural environment surrounding the nuclear plants in Japan is very different from the environment surrounding Entergy’s nuclear plants. According to information provided to us by NEI, and generally common knowledge in the scientific community, Japan is more susceptible to frequent and intense earthquakes than other developed countries. While it is still early, it appears that the nuclear units’ safety systems functioned properly after the initial effects of the earthquake in Japan. Reports suggest it was the overwhelming tsunami that severely damaged the plant’s cooling capabilities and recovery efforts.
Risk management is an ongoing practice at Entergy, including mitigating environmental, security, safety and mechanical risks, to name a few. The company understands and appreciates that these forces, natural and man-made, require constant vigilance and preparation for the unexpected. Accordingly, the company will continue to monitor closely the situation in Japan, and lessons will be learned and translated to even greater safety and effectiveness to meet the challenges of the most adverse and unexpected events, creating stronger public confidence in U.S. nuclear programs.
More information on the nuclear industry and events in Japan can be found at www.nei.org.
Jim Steets, Entergy