Applying lessons the nuclear industry and its regulators are learning after the Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdowns, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff task force revealed proposals to rethink construction standards for facilities, multiply short-term seismic investigations, increase regulations, and enhance emergency training. The staff report triggered an internecine squabble. Commissioner William Magwood, with the backing of commissioner Kristine Svinicki, floated a position to deny the task force\u2019s recommendations--except for its proposal that the commission proceed as planned with relicensing nuclear plants, and its finding that the nuclear fleet poses no \u201cimminent risk\u201d to the public. At press time, there is no majority to support disapproving the task force\u2019s suggestions. Magwood and Svinicki took public umbrage that the report intimates the commission is not doing everything it can to protect the public from radioactive releases. \u201cThere is growing evidence\u201d that a confluence of factors leading to accidents \u201cis not unthinkable,\u201d commissioner George Apostolakis said, taking another tack. He added that regulators\u2019 assumption of a \u201cdesign basis\u201d--a threshold of building a nuclear power plant to withstand potential threats--\u201dis not good enough.\u201d As a part of recommendations from the NRC\u2019s Japan Task Force July 19, staff suggests the commission reevaluate what is considered design basis. The new term, in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns, is \u201cbeyond design basis.\u201d The Japanese plants were thought to be designed to withstand measured events. Now, some regulators are concerned that those assumptions are not enough. Questioning those long-held assumptions may prove difficult. \u201cFrankly, it\u2019s difficult for staff and industry to deal with \u2018beyond design basis,\u2019\u201d noted Gary Holahan, deputy director, NRC Office of New Reactors. What should affect California\u2019s reactors in the short term is the recommendation for more seismic and flooding \u201cwalkdowns\u201d in the next few months. NRC inspectors would visit the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and Diablo Canyon, among others, to identify specific areas of concern. The staff also would look for ways to mitigate seismically induced fires and floods, according to Marty Virgilio, deputy executive director, NRC reactor & preparedness programs. Staff walked a fine line between suggesting current regulation isn\u2019t good enough, while requesting more and different requirements. Actions which are currently voluntary for nuclear plant owners would become mandatory under the plan. Although commissioners appeared to bristle at that change, turning a voluntary effort into a required one allows examiners to have an inspection benchmark. NRC chair Greg Jaczko said he\u2019s \u201cput down a marker\u201d to finalize the recommendations and begin action in 90 days. To show that federal regulators are, indeed, proceeding apace with extending nuclear power plant licenses despite the Japanese meltdowns, the commission July 19 approved a license extension for Hope Creek in New Jersey. The decision marked the 71st license extension by regulators. There are 103 nuclear reactors in the nation. PG&E\u2019s Diablo Canyon plant waits in the NRC\u2019s queue for its license extension. Southern California Edison has yet to formally apply for relicensing for its San Onofre facility.