Have we forgotten what happened when safety rules are ignored? Remember the BP oil spill? Well, it could be a lot worse. The Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear plants in Florida, in addition to the nearby Farley nuclear plant in Alabama, are among the 46 U.S. nuclear reactors not in compliance with critical fire protection regulations first enacted in 1980.
Since 1995, more than 150 fires have occurred at nuclear power plants in the United States. In 2005, a fire broke out at Turkey Point, causing an emergency shutdown of one of the reactors.
Nuclear operators and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have had more than three decades to get it right, but instead, the NRC has continually granted time extensions without appropriately considering the great risks that noncompliance poses to public safety.
Our senators and other local and state officials must pressure the NRC and its recently reconfirmed chairwoman, Dr. Allison Macfarlane, to enforce these vital fire safety regulations in order to ensure that the public is adequately protected from the risks that a fire at a nuclear plant poses. A serious nuclear accident like what happened at Fukushima in March 2011 could happen here — but there is much that can be done to lessen the chances.