Right on the heels of The Guardian’s dissection of the cozy relationship between the British government and the nuclear industry, a bevy of similar accusations are suddenly surfacing about the US nuclear industry, and its supposed regulators in the US government.
Dr. Ellen Cannon, in a concise rundown for examiner.com collates the latest:
On June 23, Aby Mohseni, acting head of high level waste repository safety stated in his testimony at a House Committee hearing that [Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Gregory] Jaczko and other top senior officials “have allowed politics to influence the staff’s scientific work.”
He claims that politics has so deeply seeped into the scientific work of the staff that he fears the NRC will lose credibility with the public. “The level of political manipulation is extensive. We were unprepared for the political pressures and manipulation of our scientific and licensing process that would come with the appointment of Chairman Jaczko.”
This turned out to be part of a deluge of unfavorable press for the NRC.
On June 27, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (I-VT) announced that he has placed a hold on the nomination of NRC nominee William Ostendorff because the NRC asked the Department of Justice to intervene in a state issue which must be decided by the state of Vermont, not the federal government.
The issue is the Vermont Yankee NPP, a BWR-4 Boiling water reactor with a Mark I containment structure, the same class as Fukushima Daiichi reactors 2 and 3, which have been in the news lately for melting down.
The State of Vermont, through the due political process of its Senate, voted overwhelmingly not to extend the license for Vermont Yankee when it is up for renewal in 2012. The NRC pressured the US DoJ to intervene, as they seem intent on extending the lives of these dinosaurs to double or even triple their original design intentions.
On June 28 Jeff Down of the AP reported on a year-long investigation of issues at aging US power plants.
When commercial nuclear power was getting its start in the 1960s and 1970s, industry and regulators stated unequivocally that reactors were designed only to operate for 40 years. Now they tell another story — insisting that the units were built with no inherent life span, and can run for up to a century.
…the relicensing process often lacks fully independent safety reviews. Records show that paperwork of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission sometimes matches word-for-word the language used in a plant operator’s application.
Also, the relicensing process relies heavily on such paperwork, with very little onsite inspection and verification. And under relicensing rules, tighter standards are not required to compensate for decades of wear and tear.
…the NRC has yet to reject a single application to extend an original license. The process has been so routine that many in the industry are already planning for additional license extensions, which could push the plants to operate for 80 years, and then 100.
Nuclear industry hell week continued on June 29, with John Sullivan writing for ProPublica:
A special inspection of U.S. nuclear plants after the Fukushima disaster in Japan revealed problems with emergency equipment and disaster procedures that are far more pervasive than publicly described by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a review of inspection reports by ProPublica shows.
But ProPublica’s examination of the reports found that 60 plant sites had deficiencies that ranged from broken machinery, missing equipment and poor training to things like blocked drains or a lack of preventive maintenance.
Wrapping up last week’s Anti GoGo Nuclear Gadget counteroffensive was Jeff Downs again for the AP, here from the Miami Herald:
A U.S. senator from Pennsylvania is asking for a congressional investigation of whether evacuation planning has kept pace with population growth and increased power levels around nuclear power plants.
The request by Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. was prompted by an Associated Press investigative series on aging nuclear reactors, [which reported that] population within 10 miles of U.S. plants has risen an average of 62 percent over the past 30 years. Population more that doubled at 12 of 65 sites – with population at one site increasing more than 4 1/2 times since 1980.
Casey posed similar questions to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. which jointly oversee emergency planning at the nation’s 104 commercial nuclear reactors.
Here are links to the AP series:
So, are we seeing the airtight control of the industry over information flow crumble as it suddenly dawns on the press that they’ve been duped again? Time will answer that question, but at least the crumbling of the wall of silence shows the failure of the BP Crisis Management/PR Plan when it comes to nukes: they don’t just vanish from sight “forever” like 780,000 m3 of crude oil and 1.84 million gallons of chemical dispersant.
What do you do when you can no longer distract world attention from your corporate disaster?
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