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Setting Ourselves Up for a Nuclear Disaster Like the BP Oil Spill?

nuclear disaster like bp oil spill disaster coming?

Nuclear energy experts warning that proposed deregulation of the nuclear energy industry could result in a nuclear-style BP oil spill disaster.

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Just as deregulation of the oil industry was a key factor leading to the BP oil spill, energy experts are warning that we may be setting ourselves up for a disaster in the nuclear energy field by deregulating it.

“Even as tens of thousands of gallons of oil continue to erupt each day from BP’s botched oil well, federal lawmakers are weighing legislation that includes BP-style deregulation of new nuclear reactors, which are the only energy source where the damage from a major accident would dwarf the harm done by a ruptured offshore oil well,” experts from The Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Safe Energy program wrote yesterday.

Nuclear industry proponents are reportedly trying to work such provisions into the climate or energy-only bills that are getting close to a vote in the Senate.

Peter Bradford, former commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and former chair of both the New York and Maine state utility regulatory commissions, says:

It is both astonishing and shameful that – when evidence of the consequences of lax regulation and lax oversight washes ashore on tides of oil in the Gulf states and tides of red ink in housing and financial markets – Congress would consider cutting regulatory corners for new nuclear power. Regulatory delays are not causing nuclear power’s problems today. Instead, investors and lenders will not provide capital because of the high risks of reactor cancellation, cost overruns, and cheaper energy alternatives. Putting deregulation provisions for nuclear power in any climate/energy legislation will not save significant licensing time, but it will send the Nuclear Regulatory Commission exactly the wrong message from Congress – speed over safety. Congress will be flat lining effective regulation, not streamlining it.

Diane Curran, Esq., partner, Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg, LLP, says:

The parallel here to the Gulf oil permitting is the proposed short-circuiting of legal processes that are designed to identify and address risks ahead of time. Proposed legislation would, for example, eliminate the independent review now conducted by NRC judges on uncontested issues and would make it easier for the government to avoid consideration of less dangerous alternatives to reactors. The BP spill provides an object lesson regarding the risks of eliminating legal processes for rigorous government oversight of safety and environmental risks because BP was allowed to start drilling without conducting the type of rigorous environmental analysis that is normally required by federal law. In the case of new reactors, the NRC has already seriously weakened key aspects of the legal processes for reactor review. Climate/energy legislation must not make matters even worse.

For more on the specific provisions of concern in proposed climate and energy legislation, actions Congress should take to ensure nuclear reactors are safe, and an audio recording of these and other experts talking about this matter, visit PSR‘s news release on this matter.

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Image Credit: Funky64 (www.lucarossato.com) via flickr/CC license




2 comments
  1. Energy_PE

    PSR is a well known anti-nuclear pressure group that is good at making emotional arguments with no basis in fact. The nuclear licensing process is very heavy on lawyers and hearings, which is a legacy of the 1960's when every plant really was a research project. Light Water Reactors are now a 50 year old, extremely well understood and reliable technology. DOE experiments in the 1980's validated the TMI experience, demonstrating that even a total meltdown has very limited offsite consequences because of the chemical and physical properties of the materials. As long as new plants are using these same basic designs (which they are) these massively expensive regulatory reviews add no value to public safety. Regulatory uncertainty is THE reason investors are reluctant to back new nuclear plants. The rest of the world knows this and is rapidly leaving us behind, burning coal.

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