Closing Keynote, Alison MacFarlane: “Nuclear Power in a post-Fukushima World”

YCEI’s sixth annual conference was dedicated to the future of nuclear energy. The closing keynote, delivered by former NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane, focused on the 2011 earthquake and tsunami at the Daichi 2 plant in Fukushima, Japan.  Macfarlane shares the findings of Japan’s Diet investigative panel and observations of how the plant could withstand a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, but be destroyed when its below-ground backup generators were submerged and unable to subsequently provide cooling power.  As a result of the accident, redundant backup power facilities, standardized connections, reevaluation of natural hazards, remote control of venting systems and installation of vent filters, have been incorporated into facilities around the world.  No one died at Fukushima, nor have there been subsequent fatalities from radiation sickness.  Loss of trust in the system, says Macfarlane, and that regulators can assure people’s safety, remains the paramount challenge. 

Allison M. Macfarlane is Professor of Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University and Director of the Center for International Science and Technology Policy at the University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. She recently served as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from July, 2012 until December, 2014. As Chairman, Dr. Macfarlane had ultimate responsibility for the safety of all U.S. commercial nuclear reactors, for the regulation of medical radiation and nuclear waste in the U.S., and for representing the U.S. in negotiations with international nuclear regulators. She was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate. She was the agency’s 15th Chairman, its 3rd woman chair, and the only person with a background in geology to serve on the Commission.

June 5, 2015