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National Review of U. S. Nuke Plants Ordered

In response to Japan's earthquake/tsunami-triggered nuclear power plant crisis, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Wednesday launched a two-pronged review of the safety of U.S. nuclear plants.

The action established a task force of experts to conduct both short- and long-term analyses of lessons learned from Japan. Made up of current senior NRC managers and former experts associated with the federal regulatory panel, the task force reports will be made public, the NRC said.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said it is "essential" to examine available information from Japan to understand the implications for the United States' fleet of nuclear power plants.

The task force review is designed to make permanent NRC regulation changes, assuming it is determined they are needed. The NRC commissioners indicated they would like the task force to start this part of its review within 90 days, and a report with recommended changes within six months, a commission spokesperson said.

The NRC also decided to revise its upcoming meetings and briefings to focus on responding to the unfolding events in Japan. Open meetings on the subject will be held April 14 and 28, and meetings on the task force's 30- and 60-day responses will be held May 3 and June 16, respectively.

The task force is mandated with making interim reports on its short-term examination in the next 30, 60 and 90 days. NRC technical staff provided the five-member commission with a 90-minute briefing last Monday as a first step. NRC staff have concluded that the United States and its territories will avoid any harmful radiation levels as a result of the ongoing events at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant that was damaged by the quake and tsunami.

NRC inspectors now posted in every U.S. nuclear power plant will help support the task force's short-term efforts, supplemented as necessary by experts from the NRC regional and headquarters offices.

"We will perform a systematic and methodical review to see if there are changes that should be made to our programs and regulations to ensure protection of public health and safety," NRC's Jaczko said.

The task force's work in the next six months will "help determine if any additional NRC responses, such as orders requiring immediate action by U.S. plants, are called for, prior to completing an in-depth investigation of the information from Japan," NRC Executive Director Bill Borchardt said.

A revised NRC meeting schedule to accommodate the upcoming Japan review will be posted on the commission's website.

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