The Arizona Corporation Commission will hold a public hearing with operators of the nation’s largest nuclear power plant to assess safety procedures in the wake of Japan’s nuclear catastrophe.
The triple-reactor Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station is located in Wintersburg, about 50 miles west of downtown Phoenix.
Palo Verde supplies electricity to about 4 million customers in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also plans to review the safety procedures at Palo Verde and at other U.S. nuclear plants because of the situation in Japan.
Arizona Corporation commissioner Bob Stump suggested the public hearing and it’s been agreed to by the other four commissioners although a date for the session hasn’t been set.
Stump sent a letter on Thursday to Arizona Public Service Co.’s Chief Nuclear Officer Randy Edington requesting a briefing on the plant the utility company operates on behalf of six other owners.
“The meeting gives us an opportunity to review them in light of the tragedy in Japan,” Stump told The Arizona Republic.
Workers in Japan have been struggling to cool down units at a nuclear-power plant 150 miles north of Tokyo that was damaged by last week’s earthquake and tsunami. The units are leaking radiation.
“Some Arizonans have expressed concerns about their health and safety in the event of a disaster, given Palo Verde’s proximity to locations where so many people live and work,” Stump wrote.
Stump’s letter outlines a number of questions he has about the plant’s operation, including what safety procedures would be implemented if a natural disaster struck Palo Verde and how often the plant conducts emergency-procedure drills.
Stump also wanted to learn about Palo Verde’s backup power systems.
Problems arose at the Dai-ichi plant in Japan after a loss of power prevented its reactors from being safely shut down.
APS spokesman Jim McDonald said the company welcomed the opportunity to discuss plant safety with the commission.
“We want to answer any questions they have and want them to understand our commitment to safety and operational excellence,” McDonald said.
Edington recently briefed Arizona legislators on the plant’s safety procedures and the differences between Palo Verde and the stricken plant in Japan, according to McDonald.
He said Palo Verde’s containment domes that prevent radiation from leaking into the atmosphere are significantly stronger than those at the Japanese plant and the Wintersburg area isn’t prone to earthquakes.
“I am a strong proponent of nuclear power and I believe nuclear continues to be an absolutely essential component in a productive and reliable energy portfolio,” Stump said. “Yet I believe it is critical that we revisit our own emergency procedures as new information and potential lessons emerge from this heartbreaking disaster in Japan.
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com