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USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s pro nuclear enthusiasts, in turmoil

The NRC review, published last July, made about a dozen safety recommendations.

 But the nuclear regulators chose not to enforce those same safeguards before granting a licence to two new reactors at an existing plant in Georgia.

Jaczko – the sole commissioner to object to the licence – argued the new project should have been built to the higher standard.

Republicans in Congress have been gunning for Jaczko since then.

The infighting that threatens to undermine US nuclear safety The Nuclear Regulatory Commission became more powerful post-Fukushima, but it has been beset by division and dissent, Guardian UK, 30 April 12,, , US environment correspondent “……….the real drama, going largely unseen amid the infighting at the regulator, is over the future of America’s nuclear industry after the Fukushima disaster in Japan last year, nuclear experts say.
“All of this in my opinion is a sign of a desperate struggle going on involving the NRC,” said Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert at the Institute for Policy Studies. “The majority of commissioners were put there largely with the blessing of the nuclear industry, and are now pushing back over potentially expensive upgrades to the reactor fleet after Fukushima.”

 After a 30-year hold on new reactor construction, America’s nuclear industry had been poised for an era of expansion until Fukushima occurred and NRC, under Jaczko’s command, began a review of America’s 100-plus reactors.

About one-quarter of America’s 100-plus civilian reactors are the same General Electric model as the doomed Japanese reactor, leaving them vulnerable to meltdown in case of a power shutdown, experts say. The NRC review, published last July, made about a dozen safety recommendations.

But the nuclear regulators chose not to enforce those same safeguards before granting a licence to two new reactors at an existing plant in Georgia. It was the first new nuclear construction in 30 years. The White House had backed the project, by Southern Company, and the department of energy offered $8.3bn in loan guarantees to build the plant on an existing site.

However, Jaczko – the sole commissioner to object to the licence – argued the new project should have been built to the higher standard. “I cannot support issuing this licence as if Fukushima had never happened,” he said.

The dissent made Jaczko a hero to campaign groups pressing for stronger nuclear safeguards. “The worst thing the commission did after Fukushima was to decide to continue licencing and relicensing without a pause,” said Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said last week it had deep concerns about the commission’s commitment to safety because of the slow pace of implementing new safeguards after Fukushima. Safety measures first agreed after 9/11 were still not fully in place, it said. “Commissioners have failed to require that the NRC enforce its own regulations and address known safety problems,” the campaign group said.

It criticised four commissioners by name – all except Jaczko – for failing to endorse stronger standards on emergency cooling systems or new guidelines requiring background checks on staff entering a reactor site under construction…….

The main industry group, the Nuclear Energy Institute, stepped up its PR and lobbying effort by 25% after Fukushima, spending $2.1m in 2011,according to the Open Secrets website.

By last October, commission members were in open revolt, and wrote what was supposed to be a confidential letter of complaint to the White House….. Republicans in Congress have been gunning for Jaczko since then…. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/30/nuclear-industry-nrc-infighting-fukushima?newsfeed=true.

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May 1, 2012 - Posted by | safety, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA

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