United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Modeling Potential Reactor Accident Consequences (NUREG/BR-0359, Revision 1)

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Publication Information

Date Published: December 2012

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
Washington, DC 20555-0001

Personal Statement From Brian Sheron

Photo of Brian Sheron, Director, Office of Nuclear Regulatory ResearchDirector
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC's) Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research is a congressionally mandated office that plans, recommends, and implements a program of nuclear regulatory research, standards development, and resolution of generic issues for nuclear power plants and other NRC-regulated facilities. We partner with other NRC offices, Federal agencies, industry research organizations, and international organizations to conduct these activities.

We started the State-of-the-Art Reactor Consequence Analyses (SOARCA) research project to estimate the potential health effects from the unlikely event of a commercial nuclear power plant accident releasing significant quantities of radioactive material into the environment. This project modeled a set of important accident scenarios for two plants, Peach Bottom and Surry, which represent two of the most common types of plants licensed in the United States. SOARCA considers plant design and operational changes not reflected in earlier assessments. The project also takes into account NRC's development of rigorous oversight processes and use of operating experience along with improvements in operator training and emergency preparedness. We've also incorporated decades of national and international research into the tools that NRC used to perform this study.

One of SOARCA's objectives is explaining severe-accident-related aspects of nuclear safety to NRC stakeholders. Stakeholders include members of the public along with Federal, State, and local authorities and the companies that hold NRC licenses to operate nuclear power plants. SOARCA meets this communication objective by documenting its results in reports: NUREG-1935, "State-of-the-Art Reactor Consequence Analyses Main Report," and NUREG/CR-7110, Volume 1, "Peach Bottom Integrated Analyses," and Volume 2, "Surry Integrated Analyses." Because the NUREG reports rely on highly technical explanations, this brochure was developed as a plain-language summary of SOARCA's methods, results, and conclusions. We invite you to read this brochure to understand how we used state-of-the-art methods to model these unlikely nuclear power plant accidents to understand their potential impact on public health and safety.

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