UPDATE 2-US officials doubted nuclear safety plans-watchdog

Wed Apr 6, 2011 10:28pm GMT

* Internal e-mails showed doubts, watchdog group says

* Doubts contrast with regulators' public confidence-UCS

* NRC officials say UCS misinterprets documents (Rewrites with Nuclear Regulatory Commission response)

By Scott Malone

BOSTON, April 6 (Reuters) - A private U.S. nuclear safety group disclosed a batch of internal emails from the nation's Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it said undercuts officials' recent assertions that U.S. nuclear reactors are prepared for a Fukushima-scale disaster.

But NRC officials disputed the Union of Concerned Scientists' analysis, contending it misunderstood an internal evaluation of nuclear plant safety that started before Japan's nuclear crisis began on March 11.

"While the NRC and the nuclear industry have been reassuring Americans that there is nothing to worry about ... it turns out that privately NRC senior analysts are not so sure," said Edwin Lyman, a UCS nuclear expert.

A spokesman for the U.S. nuclear regulatory body said the UCS misinterpreted a discussion between two departments within the agency, one conducting the NRC's State of the Art Reactor Consequence Analysis of how nuclear plants would respond to accidents, called SOARCA, and the way its senior risk analysts assess plant safety.

The latter group conducts detailed statistical analysis of how plants might respond to crises, while the former only aims to determine what would happen if those responses succeed or fail, NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said.   Continued...

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