While the Rest of the World Is Abandoning Unsafe Nuclear Designs, America Will Build New Unsafe Reactors
The geniuses at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have given the green light for new nuclear power plants in the U.S. … which don’t include safety upgrades which were demonstrated vital by the Fukushima meltdown.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution notes:
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday approved Southern Co.’s plan to build two reactors at Plant Vogtle, south of Augusta — though the decision was not without dissent.
Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the five-member NRC, cast a lone vote against issuing a license for the project. He said he wanted but had not gotten a binding commitment from Southern that it would incorporate changes stemming from last year’s nuclear disaster in Japan.
“Significant safety enhancements have already been recommended as a result of learning the lessons from Fukushima,” Jaczko said, referring to the plant on Japan’s coast that was devastated by an earthquake and tidal wave, “and there is still more work ahead of us. Knowing this, I cannot support issuing these licenses as if Fukushima never happened.”
The NRC’s 4-1 vote directs the agency staff to prepare the construction and operating license needed to start major work on the two reactors, which are expected to start producing electricity in 2016 and 2017.
The last new reactors were approved in 1978, the year before a partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. After that, increased regulatory scrutiny and skyrocketing costs halted expansion. Plant Vogtle’s two existing nuclear reactors, Units 1 and 2, ran over budget by $8 billion and took 16 years to build.
The U.S. remains without a long-term plan to store nuclear waste.
“The U.S. is approving new reactors before the full suite of lessons from Japan has been learned and before new safety regulations that were recommended by a task force established after the meltdown crisis at Fukushima have been implemented,” said Allison Fisher, Outreach Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program.
How Could This Happen?
As I noted last December:
New US plant designs are very near being licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission without any Fukushima modifications.
Now we know why.
Congressman Markey wrote yesterday:
As part of his ongoing investigation into U.S. nuclear safety since the Fukushima meltdowns, today Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) … released a blockbuster new report that details how four Commissioners at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) colluded to prevent and then delay the work of the NRC Near-Term Task Force on Fukushima, the entity tasked with making recommendations for improvement to NRC regulations and processes after the Fukushima meltdowns ….
Rep. Markey’s office reviewed thousands of pages of documents, including emails, correspondence, meeting minutes and voting records, and found a concerted effort by Commissioners William Magwood, Kristine Svinicki, William Ostendorff and George Apostolakis to undermine the efforts of the Fukushima Task Force with request for endless additional study in an effort to delay the release and implementation of the task force’s final recommendations. Documents also show open hostility on the part of the four Commissioners toward efforts of NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko to fully and quickly implement the recommendations of the Task Force, despite efforts on the part of the Chairman to keep the other four NRC Commissioners fully informed regarding the Japanese emergency.
“The actions of these four Commissioners since the Fukushima nuclear disaster has caused a regulatory meltdown that has left America’s nuclear fleet and the general public at risk,” said Rep. Markey. “Instead of doing what they have been sworn to do, these four Commissioners have attempted a coup on the Chairman and have abdicated their responsibility to the American public to assure the safety of America’s nuclear industry. I call on these four Commissioners to stop the obstruction, do their jobs and quickly move to fully implement the lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster.”
A copy of the report “Regulatory Meltdown: How Four Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners Conspired to Delay and Weaken Nuclear Reactor Safety in the Wake of Fukushima” can be found HERE.
Major findings in the new report include:
- Four NRC Commissioners attempted to delay and otherwise impede the creation of the NRC Near-Term Task Force on Fukushima;
- Four NRC Commissioners conspired, with each other and with senior NRC staff, to delay the release of and alter the NRC Near-Term Task Force report on Fukushima;
- The other NRC Commissioners attempted to slow down or otherwise impede the adoption of the safety recommendations made by the NRC Near-Term Task Force on Fukushima ….
- The consideration of the Fukushima safety upgrades is not the only safety-related issue that the other NRC Commissioners have opposed.
The Hill’s energy and environment blog reported yesterday:
[The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory Jaczko] believes the commission “has taken an approach that is not as protective of public health and safety as I believe is necessary.”
The commission has disagreed in recent months over how to deal with the recommendations of a task force assigned to reevaluate the country’s nuclear safety regulations in light of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.
The report called on the commission to make sweeping improvements to NRC’s “existing patchwork of regulatory requirements and other safety initiatives.”
Jaczko called on the commission to quickly evaluate the report and implement the necessary recommendations. But the commissioners initially resisted Jaczko’s call for swift action.
It turns out the leader of the group of commissioners which Jaczco is fighting was a consultant for Tepco – the company which operates Fukushima.
Because Obama’s top adviser and top funders are connected with the nuclear power industry, the White House has also aggressively pushed four new nuclear power plants in the U.S., even though virtually all of the current nuclear reactors in the U.S. are of the same archaic design as those at Fukushima, and this design was not chosen for safety reasons, but because it worked in Navy submarines, and produced plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. And even though the same folks who built and run Fukushima will build and operate the new U.S. facilities.