by Gary Hayner, Manager – Safety and Reliability

Introduction

The highly regulated United States nuclear industry must balance safety, performance, and cost.  Safety to the public, competition with other energy producing industries, and the large capital and O&M costs of nuclear are exaggerated compared to other industries.  Among these clashing constraints is the intersection of plant safety and security.  Many view security as taking away from the bottom line of a plant’s performance; however, the current global climate dictates the need to examine critical infrastructure security in a dynamic and effective manner while minimizing the cost and operational impacts to highly complex systems.

The nuclear industry has successfully navigated this challenge in the last 15 years.  While the almost 100 operating nuclear plants in the U.S have been spent collectively billions on security, emergency response, and beyond design basis events, the process to determine the requirements and the results can be labeled as success.  There have also been residual benefits that the industry is now realizing.

A combination of several factors, such as early industry involvement, engaged stakeholders, and regulatory negotiation, have allowed the nuclear plant operators and U.S. nuclear regulator to conclude in a mutually-agreeable, reasonable, and effective response to the need for safety and security change.

While the petrochemical industry is notably less regulated in this area than the nuclear industry, the lessons learned by the nuclear industry throughout this process may benefit the petrochemical industry in establishing more consistency and effectiveness in the safety and security area in a cost-effective manner.  The massive number of petrochemical facilities in the U.S. and across the globe dwarfs the number of nuclear plants in the same locations, and face similar threats.

This paper will examine and discuss the challenges faced by the U.S. nuclear industry after 9/11 and the Fukushima accident, the process to determine the appropriate path to success, and the solutions themselves.

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