• Japan;
  • U.S. nuclear safety;
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC);
  • seismic risk;
  • natural disasters

One year after Japan suffered a devastating magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the resulting tsunami and nuclear disaster, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has taken a number of measures to try to ensure that nuclear plants in the United States are safe from natural hazards. At a U.S. Senate hearing on 15 March, NRC chair Gregory Jaczko announced that the commission had issued three key orders and several requests for information on 12 March that plant licensees must follow, and that NRC also plans to take additional actions. However, the commission is not moving quickly enough in some areas, such as ensuring that all plants are safe from seismic hazards, including those in areas with low seismic activity, according to Jaczko's testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety. The 12 March orders require licensees to have strategies to maintain or restore core cooling, containment, and spent-fuel pool cooling capabilities “following a beyond-design-basis extreme natural event” and have a reliable indication of the water level in spent-fuel storage pools.