On March 21, 2011, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (“NRC”) held a meeting to discuss the Japanese nuclear crisis and review safety procedures within the United States.  In his opening remarks, NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko acknowledged the need for review, stating the NRC has “a responsibility to the American people to undertake a systematic and methodical review” of its own facilities in light of the nuclear crisis in Japan.  Although Bill Borchardt, the NRC’s Executive Director of Operations, reported at the March 21 meeting that the three units at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant appear to be in “stable condition,” Chairman Jaczko issued a memorandum on “NRC Actions Following the Events in Japan” which calls for reviews in the United States.

Chairman Jaczko’s memorandum is a proposal that directs the Executive Director for Operations to establish a senior level agency task force to “conduct a methodical and systematic review of our processes and regulations” to determine if improvements are needed in the regulatory system, and make recommendations to the NRC.  The task force would complete both near term and long term objectives.  In the near term, the task force would: (1) evaluate information from the events in Japan to identify immediate operational or regulatory issues affecting domestic operating reactors in areas like protection against natural disasters; (2) come up with recommendations for changes in inspection procedures and licensing review; and (3) remain informed by stakeholder input but remain independent of industry efforts.  For longer-term review, the task force would: (1) use specific information from the sequence of events in Japan and status of equipment during the event; (2) evaluate technical and policy issues related to the event to come up with research, generic issues changes to the reactor oversight process, rulemakings and regulatory adjustment; (3) evaluate interagency issues such as emergency preparedness; (4) apply lessons learned to non-operating reactor and non-reactor facilities; and (5) provide a report with recommendations within 6 months of the start of the evaluation, and release a report to the public through normal NRC processes. 

On March 23, 2011, the NRC voted to approve Chairman Jaczko’s proposal and the creation of the senior level agency task force.  A staff requirements memorandum was issued outlining the reviewing processes which will take place.  Chairman Jaczko emphasized “our focus is always on ensuring the health and safety of the American people through our licensing and oversight of plants and radioactive materials in this country.”