Incidents unfolding at the quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi reactors in Japan has led governments to take extraordinary safety measures around the world. Last week, European Union (EU) ministers agreed to re-check the safety of Europe’s 143 reactors, and in the U.S., regulators are expected to conduct seismic assessments on 27 reactors at 17 plants.

After an emergency meeting of the EU council of ministers, Hungary’s national development minister Tamas Fellegi, the meeting chair, said experts would examine the reactors’ vulnerability to seismic events, exposure to flooding, as well as manmade disasters. Special attention would be paid to cooling and backup systems, he said.

Assessments are expected to be under way before the end of the year, but final decisions on how this would be undertaken would be discussed at an EU energy council in June, he added.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) told Platts that it would conduct a seismic risk assessment of several reactors, starting with Entergy’s Indian Point plant in New York next year. Platts said Indian Point was selected to be the first “because the revised seismic data showed the largest increase in seismic risk increase from the previous study.”

Units to be assessed include: Indian Point 2, Indian Point 3, Limerick 1, Limerick 2, Peach Bottom 2, Peach Bottom 3, Seabrook, Crystal River 3, Farley 1, Farley 2, North Anna 1, North Anna 2, Oconee 1, Oconee 2, Oconee 3, St. Lucie 1, St. Lucie 2, Sequoyah 1, Sequoyah 2, Summer, Watts Bar 1, Dresden 2, Dresden 3, Duane Arnold, Perry 1, River Bend and Wolf Creek.

License Extensions Questioned

The Daiichi crisis has prompted renewed concern over the NRC’s recent issuance of a 20-year license extension to the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, Entergy Corp.’s 605-MW nuclear reactor. The existing operating license was scheduled to expire in March 2012.

Vermont is the only state in the nation whose state legislature can veto license extensions, however. Last year, the Vermont legislature, after a series of leaks at the plant, already voted against allowing it to remain open. Entergy has suggested it could sell the Vermont plant because the state’s new governor has remained opposed to extending the plant’s life beyond March 2012.

Opponents of the plant’s lifetime extension have compared the nuclear power plant to the quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi reactors, pointing out that all are GE Mark 1 boiling water reactors.

On Monday, the Ventura County Star reported that a California state senator has asked Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to suspend or withdraw its application for license renewal of its Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant until the company has completed advanced seismic studies requested by state regulators three years ago.

New Project in Jeopardy

Nuclear Innovation North America (NINA), a joint venture owned by NRG Energy and Toshiba, said in a statement on Monday that it would reduce the scope of development of the South Texas Project Units (STP) 3 and 4 “to allow time for [NRC] and other nuclear stakeholders to assess the lessons that can be learned from the events in Japan.”

The companies said that work on the two units would be limited to licensing and securing a federal loan guarantee for the project. Nevertheless, they said they remained committed to the timeframe established previously for decisions on the development of the new advanced boiling water reactors at STP.

San Antonio municipal utility CPS Energy, meanwhile, said in a separate statement that, following conversations with NRG Energy about the slowed development of STP Units 3 and 4, it would indefinitely suspend all discussions with the utility regarding a power purchase agreement for nuclear power. The company said future discussions could start anew, however.

“As we have indicated for months now, we are currently pursuing an array of other clean affordable supply options. Terminating discussions with NRG allows us to devote more resources in pursuit of the other options,” said CPS Energy President and CEO Doyle Beneby. “When the development of STP 3 and 4 moves forward again, our present ownership interest will remain unchanged.”

Sources: POWERnews, IAEA, Platts, Ventura County Star