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QUESTIONS FROM SENATOR WALLOP

Nuclear Power Plant Construction Schedules

Question 7:

Institution problems are often cited as the reason
why we cannot build nuclear power plants in the United
States. Japan and France are often used as examples of it
taking only four to six years to build a nuclear power
plant and put it into operation.

Why is this the case in Japan and France? If I am
correct, these countries rely on a licensing system
similar to that in the United States. Would you
comment?

a.

b. Are standardized designs critical to expediting this

process?

Answer:

There are some significant practical differences
in the way the licensing system is implemented in Japan

and France. In both countries, there is closer

cooperation between the utilities, vendors, and the

licensing agencies. Their relationships are less adversarial, and safety issues are resolved earlier. Hearings and legal tactics have not been used to extensively delay or prevent operation of safe plants.

Standardized designs are also important in achieving these

construction times. Standardization will eliminate design

changes during construction and will enable standardized

construction techniques to be implemented.

QUESTIONS FROM SENATOR WALLOP

Nuclear Power Option

Question 8(a):

Public confidence in the nuclear power option
is essential if it is to play a role in our nation's
energy future. Passive safety features are critical to
the public's acceptance of nuclear power. Would you
agree?

Answer:

We certainly agree that the safety of reactors is a

critical factor with respect to the public's acceptance of

nuclear power. This safety can and must be achieved for

any reactor type through a host of measures including its design, operation, and maintenance. The use of passive safety features, such as natural circulation cooling or

emergency cooling through gravity, is one path to reducing the probability and/or the consequences of accidents.

In addition, this simplified approach to safety may ease

explanations to the public on how the safety regulations

are being satisfied. To say, however, that passive

features are critical to the public's acceptance of

nuclear power, I believe goes too far. Public surveys

have shown that a majority of the public would not believe
it impossible for a serious accident to occur in a
passively safe nuclear plant. Further, while those in
industry and government familiar with nuclear technology
consider the use of passive design features to be
positive, such is not necessarily the case with the

public. In fact, a survey has shown adverse public

reaction to use of the term "passive" as a design feature,

because it conveys negative connotations of inaction to

assure safety. The public does believe, however, that

future advanced plants will be improved over earlier

plants in a number of respects, including safety.

In our view, what is critical is that the industry and

regulators continue to maintain a high degree of safety and reliability in the operation of current plants, and

that all reasonable steps be taken to provide assurance to

the public that adequate safety measures, by several

diverse paths, are being taken in the design and operation of any new plants.

QUESTIONS FROM SENATOR WALLOP

Safety

Question 8(b):

In your judgment, do liquid metal reactors and hightemperature gas-cooled reactors have advantages with regard to passive safety features?

Answer:

These modular advanced reactors, are designed to take full

advantage of natural physical laws, thus enhancing their

passive safety. The advanced liquid metal reactor and the high temperature gas-cooled reactor are capable eactor

shutdown under adverse conditions without the need for

further operator action and decay heat removal.

QUESTIONS FROM SENATOR WALLOP

Nuclear Power Future

Question 8(c):

If we are concerned for the future of nuclear power, would you agree that there is a need for a more active Federal support for these technologies in addition to "advanced" light water reactors?

Answer:

The Department's Nuclear Energy Strategy is based on an

integrated vision of the role nuclear energy can play in the

Nation's energy future. In the near-term, between now and

2000, our efforts are focused on new nuclear plant orders

based on advanced light water reactor technology as the vehicle for a revitalized nuclear option. Sometime after 2010, advanced nuclear systems that show promise of

improvements in safety and waste management potential could

be available. Advanced liquid metal reactors (ALMR) and modular high temperature gas reactors (MHTGR) could be available for commercial deployment following successful

completion of research, development, and demonstration and

design certification by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The budget request for advanced reactor R&D is consistent

with the scope and pace of development required for ALMR and

MHTGR technologies.

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