The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is sending two experts to Japan as part of a U.S. delegation assisting with that country's recent earthquakes and tsunami.
"We're observing and monitoring what's happening on the ground over there, and the NRC is sending two experts in," Neil Sheehan, NRC spokesman, said Saturday evening.
The issues involving several Japanese nuclear facilities are daunting.
According to a report late Saturday by the Associated Press, Japanese officials placed Dai-ichi Unit 1, and four other reactors, under states of emergency on Friday because operators had lost the ability to cool the reactors using usual procedures.
An additional reactor was added to the list early Sunday, for a total of six - three at the Dai-ichi complex and three at another nearby complex. Local evacuations have been ordered at each location. Japan has a total of 55 reactors spread across 17 complexes nationwide, according to the AP.
"We (the NRC) continue to evaluate risks, and we've made it clear that all American plants were evaluated before being built in order to handle earthquakes," Sheehan said. "We've been in contact with Japanese officials and are sending two of our experts in."
In the U.S., nuclear power stations undergo an annual assessment by the NRC.
On Feb. 11, 2011, the NRC completed its end-of-cycle performance review of Beaver Valley Units 1 and 2 in Shippingport.
According to Sheehan, the NRC reviewed the most recent quarterly performance indicators in addition to inspection results and enforcement actions from Jan. 1, 2010 through Dec. 3l, 2010.
"The NRC determined that overall, Beaver Valley Units 1 and 2 operated in a manner that
preserved public health and safety and met all cornerstone objectives," NRC officials stated in a report released March 4.
In the letter to Paul A. Harden, site vice president with the FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) Beaver Valley Power Station, officials with the NRC said the agency also determined that "... all inspection findings had very low safety significance, and all performance indicators indicated that your performance was within the nominal, expected range."
Because of the findings, the NRC plans to conduct "Reactor Oversight Process" baseline inspections at the Shippingport facility.
The NRC also informed FENOC officials of the inspection plan scheduled through June 30, 2012.
In November 2009, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that it renewed the operating licenses for the Beaver Valley Power Station, Unit 1 and Unit 2, for an additional 20 years.
The new licenses will expire on Jan. 29, 2036, for Unit 1 and on May 27, 2047, for Unit 2.
Beaver Valley Unit 1 went into operation in 1976, and Unit 2 followed in 1987.
FENOC began operating the plant in 1999 after an asset transfer with Duquesne Light, according to Todd Schneider, FENOC media representative.
Since the transfer to FENOC, the company has invested more than $500 million to ensure continued safe and reliable operations, Schneider said in a 2009 interview. The upgrades included the replacement of Unit 1's reactor head and steam generators in 2006 and power output increases totaling 10 percent since 2002.
Beaver Valley is capable of generating 1,815 megawatts (net), or enough electricity to power more than 1.4 million homes. In addition, plant operations avoid more than 12 tons of carbon dioxide gases annually, an amount equal to what would have been emitted by a similar-sized coal fired power plant, Schneider said.
The station is one of the largest taxpayers and employers in Beaver County with annual property and payroll tax payments totaling $4 million. Some of those tax dollars support local schools and police and fire departments.
Schneider said the plant employs 950 highly trained professionals with an annual payroll of nearly $70 million.