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U.S. Nuclear Safety One Year After Fukushima

Aired 3/12/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guests: Ellen, Vancho, Nuclear Energy Project manager, Union of Concerned Scientists

Pat Abbott, professor emeritus of geology, San Diego State University


Just after the disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission task force came up with a list of 12 recommendations for U.S. plants. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) says that the commission did the wrong thing when it moved the number one recommendation -- to clarify its patchwork regulatory framework for severe accidents like the one at Fukushima -- to the bottom of the list. The UCS says the other 11 recommendations depend on this one for implementation.

The UCS is also concerned that the nuclear industry has jumped in with their own improvements, called the FLEX plan, which calls for equipment to be supplemented and relocated, rather than housed in buildings that could resist extreme events such as tsunamis and large earthquakes.

The science of earthquake prediction, meanwhile, is still in the dark ages. Mapping faults is one thing. Predicting when they will move is quite another. One geologist calls earthquake science a "humbling field."

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