Video showing damaged Japanese Fukushima nuclear plant will be shown to Browns Ferry workers

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – A film showing the severely damaged Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan and vacant towns around it will be shown to workers at the Browns Ferry Nuclear plant in the coming weeks to serve as a reminder of the importance of nuclear safety.

The short film by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission follows a group of NRC staffers who visited the Fukushima Daiichi plant in February and met with Japanese regulators and power company officials to discuss the devastating March 11, 2011 accident and its aftermath.

The reactor design at Fukushima is the same GE boiling water reactor model used at the three-reactor Browns Ferry plant near Athens.

Roger Hannah, an Atlanta-based spokesman for the NRC, wrote, produced, shot and narrated the film. Hannah,  who has 29 years of experience working with nuclear energy,  said NRC officials visited three nuclear plants, including the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which was hit by an earthquake and tsunami and melted down. The area around Fukushima, including towns, fishing villages and farms, has been largely abandoned. The evacuation, fueled by fear of radiation exposure, happened very quickly.

“We spent most of a day at the Daiichi site,” Hannah said. “We saw stores that still had things on the shelves, we passed by a little diner, that still had dishes sitting on the counter, like somebody had just abandoned their meal.”

Hannah said along with the concerns about public health, was a newfound appreciation for how such a disaster affects the lives of people, both those plant workers whose livelihoods are taken away and for the surrounding community.

“We tend to look almost  strictly at the health risks, and not thin about  all that other stuff, homes abandoned,  people whose entire lifestyles were changed overnight,” Hannah said. “I don’t think we can fully appreciate it, we haven’t had something on that scale in this country. Even with Hurricane Katrina, people could go back to their neighborhoods and rebuild.”

Victor McCree, the NRC’s Region 2 supervisor, whose job includes oversight of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry Plant near Athens, said last week that he and Browns Ferry’s site vice president Keith Polson discussed the possibility of showing the NRC’s Fukushima video to plant workers.

Polson agreed to show the film, McCree said.

Jim Hopson, a TVA spokesman, said TVA is working with the NRC to obtain a video in a format so they can make it available to Browns Ferry’s employees. Hopson said they hope to have the video within the next week.

“TVA’s overriding commitment is protecting the health and safety of the public while ensuring they can still take advantage of the low-cost, carbon-free electricity provided by Browns Ferry,” Hopson said. “As part of an industry that actively seeks to learn everything we can from nuclear events around the world, sharing information from the Fukushima event with our employees helps strengthen both our preparation and our resolve to prevent such an incident from occurring in the future.”

The NRC has developed a list of “lessons learned” from Fukushima and has issued a series of required steps for U.S. plants to take in the wake of the disaster.

The NRC officials quoted in the film talk about the value of being vigilant and note that Fukushima officials encountered problems they never expected.

Eric Leeds, with the NRC’s office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, speaks at the end of the film about the task regulators face.

  ”Safety is not a stagnant end point.  You always have to keep looking . Stay active. Don’t ever think that it can’t happen. It can happen. It has happened, don’t allow it to happen again.”

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