Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 12

GEORGIA'S Energy Outlook

By David Gattie

U.S. nuclear power plants:
safety and security

12

Georgia Magazine

12_GEO_SW_0720.indd 12

NRC.GOV / NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

S

afety and security are two words that often
come up in discussions about nuclear power.
And for good reason. They're also the two
words that dominate the minute-by-minute operation of the U.S. nuclear industry, which is heavily
regulated and has more direct oversight than any
other industrial sector.
Nuclear reactor operators are held to some of
the highest competency standards in the country
and must be licensed through the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission (NRC). This requires up
to two years of training prior to operating a reactor,
as well as one week of training for every five to six
weeks of reactor operation. This means that 20 percent of a reactor operator's time is dedicated to onthe-job training. Many operators are recruited from
the U.S. Navy after serving in the world's premier
fleet of nuclear-powered vessels, which speaks to the
discipline required in nuclear operations.
In addition, each nuclear facility has on-site
NRC inspectors who have permanent offices on the
plant site and unrestricted access to all operations.
They conduct more than 2,000 hours of annual
inspections, with additional inspections if necessary.
Resident inspectors also undergo intense training
and qualification before they are assigned, and they
are required to participate in ongoing training to
maintain their qualifications.
The U.S. nuclear industry is also linked to the
broader global nuclear network, which facilitates
regular visits to nuclear sites throughout the world in
order to share information and ensure best practices.
The two primary organizations involved in this work
are the International Atomic Energy Agency and the
Nuclear Energy Agency.
In recent years, U.S. nuclear plants have added
new equipment to serve as backup systems to cool
nuclear fuel rods so they don't overheat if there is a
loss of power to the primary cooling systems.
As for radiation exposure, nuclear operators
are the ones who spend the most time around not
only the reactor core, but also the spent fuel stored
on-site in dry cask containers made of steel, concrete
and other radiation-shielding materials. To date,
there have been zero radiation-related health effects
linked to the operation of a U.S. nuclear facility.
A U.S. nuclear plant facility is only the visible

A Nuclear Regulatory Commission senior resident inspector carries
out his duties at a nuclear plant.

feature of a network of agencies working together to communicate external threat information and coordinate responses. This
includes the departments of Energy, Defense and Homeland
Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal
Aviation Administration, the North American Aerospace
Defense Command and other U.S. intelligence agencies. All
of these provide multiple layers of protection against outside
threats, such as airplane strikes and attempts to compromise
plant operations inside the fence line.
So how safe and secure are U.S. nuclear power plants?
They're in the hands of the most highly trained and highly
skilled nuclear operators in the world and under constant
surveillance by America's best security and intelligence experts.
Throughout its 50-plus-year life span, the U.S. nuclear power
sector has an unparalleled record of safety and security.
David Gattie is an associate professor of engineering at the
University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens and a senior fellow with
UGA's Center for International Trade and Security.

July 2020

6/11/20 2:08 PM

*Avera
Averag
rural,

**Geor
bit.ly/
25 mp


http://www.NRC.GOV

Georgia Magazine - July 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - July 2020

Contents
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 4
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 5
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 6
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 7
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 8
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 9
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 10
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 11
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 12
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 13
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 14
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 15
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 16
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 17
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 18
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 19
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 20
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 21
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Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 24
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 25
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 26
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 27
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 28
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 29
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Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 33
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - 34
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - July 2020 - Cover4
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