NRC Staff Highlight Wider Distribution of Radiation Pills, Other Measures
WASHINGTON (October 5, 2011) – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) today backed the safety recommendations of Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff who today endorsed all of the near-term upgrades called for by the commission’s post-Fukushima safety task force. NRC staff also recommended that additional measures be taken up by the NRC in the wake of the Japanese disaster. These additional measures include two measures long advocated for by Congressman Markey: further consideration of the distribution of potassium iodide beyond the current 10 mile radius around operating nuclear power plants, and moving spent nuclear fuel out of spent fuel pools and into dry cask storage.
It is time for the four commissioners who have yet to embrace their own staff’s recommendations to stop stalling and start leading,” said Rep. Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee and a senior Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.  “I call upon these four foot-draggers to rapidly move to adopt the safety recommendations of the Fukushima task force as well as begin action on the additional measures that will protect the American people.”
Rep. Markey authored Section 127 of the 2002 Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act, which directed the President to establish a program to make potassium iodide, which can prevent radiation-induced thyroid cancer, available free to state and local governments for distribution to residents living within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant. Previously, distribution was limited to just those living within 10 miles. The Bush administration improperly waived the law requiring distribution of the pharmaceutical safeguard to occur within 20 miles, and the Obama administration has not yet reversed that action. In the wake of the Fukushima meltdowns, Rep. Markey has repeatedly called for full implementation of his law.
Following the Fukushima meltdowns, Rep. Markey also introduced H.R. 1242, the “Nuclear Power Plant Safety Act of 2011”. This legislation called for many of the same measures that have now been recommended by the NRC task force and endorsed by the second NRC staff review panel. Specifically, the Markey bill contains provisions that would:
--Ensure that nuclear power plants and spent nuclear fuel pools can withstand and adequately respond to earthquakes, tsunamis, strong storms, long power outages, or other events that threaten a major impact.
--Require nuclear power plants to have emergency backup plans and systems that can withstand longer electricity outages. The Fukushima meltdown was primarily caused by the loss of external electricity to the reactor containment, and the spent nuclear fuel and failure of the emergency backup generators. Specifically, this means 14 days worth of diesel fuel backup generators where most reactors currently have 7 days worth, and 72 hours for battery generators where most reactors currently have battery generators that work for only 4-8 hours. The Fukushima nuclear power plant had 8-hour battery-powered generators.
--Require spent nuclear fuel to be moved into safer dry cask storage as soon as the fuel is sufficiently cooled to do so.
After the July release of the NRC task force recommendations, Rep. Markey has repeatedly urged the NRC to support their adoption .
Thus far, only Chairman Jaczko has announced that he would do so, while several other commissioners instead called for further study and delays.  The NRC staff report released today is the outcome of the additional study requested by the majority of the commissioners.