Fire poses one of the greatest risks to nuclear power safety. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) estimates that the risk of reactor meltdown due to fire is about 50 percent—roughly equal to all other risk factors combined.

The NRC adopted its fire protection regulations in 1980 after a dangerous fire at Alabama's Browns Ferry plant, and updated them in 2004. Yet the agency has repeatedly failed to enforce these regulations, opting to grant extensions rather than issue violation notices.

Today, 46 nuclear reactors (almost half of the U.S. nuclear fleet) continue to operate despite being in violation of the fire safety regulations—including Browns Ferry.

Several fires have been reported at nuclear plants during the last several years. In 2010, an overheated electrical component started a fire in the control room at Virginia's Surry Nuclear Power Station. And in 2012, a fire at Nebraska's Fort Calhoun Station disabled more than half of the power supplies for emergency equipment. Proper enforcement of fire safety regulation would have greatly reduced the odds of these events occurring.

Congress must demand the NRC enforce its fire safety regulations and establish a clear, realistic timeline for compliance by all reactors.

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists