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USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission in crisis

Exit Jackzo: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Free Fall by Richard Brodsky, 25 May 12,  The resignation of NRC Chairman Gregory Jackzo puts the issue of nuclear safety smack on the middle of Obama’s desk, and then into the presidential race.

That’s a good thing.  The NRC is not doing the job that the law and common sense require it to do.  It is a captive of the nuclear industry, operates in secret and without due regard for the public health and safety. The NRC’s relationship to the nuclear industry today is just what the SEC’s relationship was to Wall Street four years ago.  We are skating on very thin ice.

The nomination of a
new chairman, with the public debate that will follow is the best way
to get it pointed in the right direction.

Full disclosure:  I’ve been active for many years in the efforts to
close Indian Point, because it’s dangerous in design and operation,
and within 50 miles of 22 million people, unlike any other American
reactor.  Those efforts have included litigation to force IP to stop
taking three billion gallons of water a day from the Hudson River and
returning it in polluted form, efforts to make the NRC adopt a real
and workable evacuation plan for the region, and federal litigation,
now before the courts, to stop the NRC from giving secret “exemptions”
to IP from its own safety rules.

The conventional response from the nuclear industry has been to try to
marginalize opponents by dismissing them as “anti-nuke activists.”
They’ve actually had some success at that, even as real events such as
Three Mile Island and Fukushima have reminded every American about the
realities of unsafe operation of nuclear plants.

But there’s a growing awareness among some proponents of nuclear
power, that a broken NRC actually hurts them as well.  There’s
enormous political and economic muscle behind attempts to build new
plants, with Obama in support, and taxpayer funded-corporate welfare
already in place.  But given the egregious behavior of the American
nuclear industry, and the NRC, there remains massive resistance to a
proliferation of new plants.  So, fixing the NRC to a point where it
enjoys the confidence of the American people turns out to be more than
the goal of those opposed to nuclear power, it is the only way that
“pro-nuke activists” can move forward.

Jackzo was in some ways trying to make that point.  He got into
trouble for a confrontational style, but in the end he was tanked by
the dinosaurs in the nuclear industry.  Their fond hope is to get a
new chairman who will protect and expand the practices at the NRC that
reduce their costs and endanger the American people.

Look at the issues the NRC really needs to decide.  Spent fuel storage
on reactor sites; spent fuel permanent storage; re-licensing of aged
and non-conforming reactors; inadequate evacuation plans; terrorist
attacks; earthquake protections; secret “exemptions” from safety
rules, and much, much more.

Who Obama nominates and what he says about the NRC will be things that
may get short shrift in an election year, but will do more to define
the physical and economic security of the American people than most of
what is now being debated.  Let’s recall the audacity of hope and hope
for some audacity.


May 26, 2012 - Posted by | safety, USA

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