You may think of the Associated Press (AP) as just another typical major media outlet, but I’ve seen on more than one occasion that people there also go out of their way to cover subjects thoroughly, carefully, and uniquely. A recent investigation of the nuclear industry and nuclear regulators in the U.S. is more proof of that. Here’s the intro to a piece published this week on the matter:
Federal regulators have been working closely with the nuclear power industry to keep the nation’s aging reactors operating within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards, or simply failing to enforce them, an investigation by The Associated Press has found.
Time after time, officials at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have decided that original regulations were too strict, arguing that safety margins could be eased without peril, according to records and interviews.
The result? Rising fears that these accommodations by the NRC are significantly undermining safety — and inching the reactors closer to an accident that could harm the public and jeopardize the future of nuclear power in the United States.
Sounds good, eh?
Well, to be quite honest, this is nothing new in the nuclear industry. Nuclear power never would have developed to the point it has and hardly would have developed at all if it wasn’t for the top dogs ignoring the advice of nuclear safety reviewers. If nuclear’s risks are really taken into account, nuclear is just a mad scientist’s dream.
But, we don’t live in a practical world, we live in a political world. The nuclear industry has money and influence. Politics is ruled by money and influence, and it seems the NRC is as well:
… the AP investigation found that with billions of dollars and 19 percent of America’s electricity supply at stake, a cozy relationship prevails between the industry and its regulator, the NRC.
Records show a recurring pattern: Reactor parts or systems fall out of compliance with the rules. Studies are conducted by the industry and government, and all agree that existing standards are “unnecessarily conservative.”
Regulations are loosened, and the reactors are back in compliance.
Could it be any other way? Well, I guess it could, but probably not in the U.S. (not now).
“That’s what they say for everything, whether that’s the case or not,” said Demetrios Basdekas, an engineer retired from the NRC. “Every time you turn around, they say `We have all this built-in conservatism.'”
And from nuclear safety scientist Dana Powers, who works for Sandia National Laboratories and also sits on an NRC advisory committee: “We’ve seen the pattern. They’re … trying to get more and more out of these plants.”
For much more detail on how this process works, what details have been changed, read the AP’s excellent, lengthy piece on this: AP IMPACT: US nuke regulators weaken safety rules.
More Nuclear Stories on Planetsave:
- Obama Administration Ordered a “total and complete” News Blackout Regarding Near Catastrophic at Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant?
- Electrical Fire Knocks Out Spent Fuel Cooling Pool at Nebraska Nuclear Plant
- In the Shadow of Fukushima… a Reminder of How We Nuked the People of Utah
- Germany Nuclear Energy to be Gone by 2022
- Switzerland Ditches Nuclear Power
- Mississippi River Gets Radioactive Water Dumped into It from Nuclear Plant
- Europe, China Put Nuclear on Hold; U.S. — Full Steam Ahead
Photo via Curtis Gregory Perry