Science advocacy group points to inadequate U.S. safety mechanisms

Washington, May 14 : Inadequate safety mechanisms have left American nuclear plants vulnerable to accidents, according to a non-profit science advocacy group.

The Union of Concerned Scientists told a Congressional hearing that accidents are likely to take place when batteries exhaust power in the cooling systems. Much of the prevention depends upon the ability of the worker to restore power in the cooling system.

"Some plants keep just four hours of battery power, which would force workers in a disaster to play a very high-stakes version of ''beat the clock.'' If they restore normal or backup power within a few hours, they win. If not, many may lose," The Washington Post quoted the Union of the Concerned Scientists'' official, David Lochbaum, as saying.

He recommended that plants extend battery capacity to 16 hours, which would give ample time to workers to restore cooling power.

Brian Sheron, an official of Nuclear Regulatory Commission suggested that maintaining two backup diesel generators for each reactor. Such generators had averted the crisis when storms knocked out power in the Brown''s Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama last month.

A contentious debate over how and where to store the nation''s used nuclear fuel also drew attention at the hearing.

Lochbaum recommended that U. S. plant operators transfer fuel from water-cooled pools to passively air-cooled storage units called dry casks.

US Energy Department Commission''s draft recommendations unveiled on Friday, recommended that country should build a dry cask facility for "interim" nuclear waste storage. It also stressed on the need for a deep mountain storage facility for permanent disposal of nuclear waste. (ANI)

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