UT System administrator will lead Japan reform advisory committee

Samantha Badgen

To avoid future nuclear plant disasters, Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) called on Dale Klein, UT System administrator and UT mechanical engineering professor, to lead an advisory committee that will oversee plans for reform.

The five-member committee has been meeting since October of last year and will continue to do so. Klein, the system’s associate vice chancellor for research, is the sole American on the committee.

A March 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused radiation leaks at three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Japan. Much of the criticism fell on TEPCO, which acknowledged late last year that they did not implement additional safety measures despite knowing that it needed to do so.

“I think it is a very positive step that TEPCO has taken to create the reform committee because they need to reform the way they conduct themselves,” Klein said in a statement.

Klein is the former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and served as assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs under President George W. Bush. Klein does not teach any courses at the University but finds research projects for the different universities in the system. Previously, Klein headed a Department of Energy consortium with UT, A&M and Texas Tech universities for the maintenance of nuclear weapons at the Pantex facility
in Amarillo. 

“He knows the industry well and knows how we regulate policy dealing with nuclear issues,” said Erich Schneider, associate professor of mechanical engineering and an affiliate of the University’s Nuclear Radiation Engineering Program.

Randall Charbeneau, UT System assistant vice chancellor for research and UT civil engineering professor, said Klein’s expertise is a good fit for the committee.

“He specialized in research administration,” Charbeneau said. “TEPCO needs someone who understands policy and he has experience dealing with regulation.”

Charbeneau, a former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, too, said that the reactors failed because the force of the tsunami exceeded the design requirements, which are specified by regulations.

“Regulations also change over time,” Charbeneau said. “These reactors were built a number of years ago, and the regulations are continually updated as we gain more knowledge.”

Printed on Thursday, January 17, 2013 as: UT official to advise nuclear reform in Japan