Political battles hampering function of important agency

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is supposed to be an independent regulator with the mission of regulating the use of radioactive materials to adequately protect public safety, promote the common defense and security, and protect the environment. Unfortunately, the Commission has become a political battle ground that makes life difficult for the people appointed to lead the agency.

The challenging environment at the top cannot help but trickle down to the staff where important technical work and safety oversight is supposed to be the primary task.

Dr. Allison Macfarlane, the current chairman of the NRC, announced yesterday that she was stepping down at the end of 2014 to return to academia. She will become the Director of the Center for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University. Instead of engaging in stressful public testimony where people who are supposedly her political allies — I’m looking at you, Senator Boxer — question her integrity, she will return to her chosen profession and spend time teaching students, writing thoughtful papers and organizing conferences on important public issues.

Though it has not been discussed much in public, I suspect that Dr. Macfarlane has received some nasty direct or indirect communications from Senator Reid associated with her inability to find some devious way to stop last week’s release of volume 3 of the Safety Evaluation Report for the Yucca Mountain waste repository.

I’m throwing out a wild guess, but perhaps Reid loudly compared that release to the more successful, albeit illegal, maneuvers that Greg Jaczko initiated in order to halt the license review process in the first place.

Though I was critical of Dr. Macfarlane’s initial appointment based on her lack of management experience and her tangential “nuclear” experience as a geologist interested in final disposal of nuclear material, I’ve been impressed by her ability to create a more productive atmosphere and to repair some of the damage done by her predecessor. She is a straightforward person who approaches issues thoughtfully and independently.

Unfortunately, in today’s virulently partisan political environment, independent thinking is rarely rewarded or even encouraged. Too many of today’s elected officials take the position of “you’re either for me or against me.”

Dr. Macfarlane, please accept my apologies and my best wishes in your future endeavors. You’ve done well under trying conditions that should not exist. Those who should remain outside of the process once appointments have been made seem to be motivated to make an already difficult job into an almost impossible job.

Antinuclear activists are too modest

Jim Conca has published a couple of recent posts on Forbes.com about the premature closure of nuclear power plants in the United States. One titled Are California’s Carbon Goals Kaput? focuses on some of the environmental aspects of the San Onofre debacle; the other, titled Closing Vermont Nuclear Bad Business for Everyone focuses on the […]

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Continuing conversation with NRC Chairman Macfarlane

On September 11, 2014, the American Nuclear Society hosted a roundtable discussion for nuclear bloggers with Allison Macfarlane, the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The meeting was broadcast as a webinar, but there were also seats available in the conference room from which Dr. Macfarlane and Margaret Harding (the ANS moderator) were running the […]

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Atomic Show #223 – Diablo Saudi UAE Ukraine S Korea

On September 7, 2014, I gathered a group of nuclear energy observers to discuss a variety of topics of interest to people who believe energy is important. We talked about Diablo Canyon’s earthquake resilience, Saudi Arabia’s interest in a rapid growth in nuclear energy production, the certification of the APR+ in South Korea, the progress […]

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Is it really necessary to have a deep geologic repository for used nuclear fuel?

Though I have often received quizzical, almost uncomprehending looks from my type ‘A’ colleagues on submarines and in my other jobs, I’ve often been guided by a simple principal of decision-making – “If it’s too hard, quit.” Please don’t think that means I’m the type of person who can never get anything done or who […]

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Atomic Show #222 – How Proposed EPA CO2 Rule Rewards States for Replacing Nuclear With Gas

On August 20, 2014, Remy DeVoe, a graduate student in nuclear engineering at the University of Tennessee, published an earthshaking piece on ANS Nuclear Cafe titled Unintended Anti-Nuclear Consequences Lurking in the EPA Clean Power Plan. Unfortunately, there has been a bit of a delayed reaction; so far, only the most carefully tuned instruments have […]

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Atomic Show #221 – Acting Locally

On August 25, 2014, a group of atomic energy advocates gathered to share experiences and advice about how nuclear energy advocates can more effectively act locally. We discussed ways to find people who are interested in atomic energy, ways to develop social interaction, ways to show our humanity, and ways to make it fun to […]

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Esso Italiana paid political parties for specific “corporate objectives” including oil instead of nuclear

In 1972, an Exxon internal audit disclosed that Esso Italiana, Exxon’s Italian subsidiary, had been making payments to Italian political parties that were tied by amount to specific corporate objectives. One of the objectives that was listed on documents seized by Italian authorities was halting nuclear energy development in Italy in favor of burning more […]

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Another Blogger For Nuclear Energy – Power for USA

Update: (Posted 08/21/2014 at 7:35) Donn Dears and I have continuing exchanging comments on his blog post about the destruction of nuclear energy. Atomic Insights readers might be intrigued by the way that the experienced, retired GE executive is responding to the “smoking gun” type stories I have shared with him. End Update. I was […]

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Atomic Show #220 – Atoms for California

Wind farm land impact is not limited to turbine foundation

Andrew Benson from Atoms For California contacted me last week to find out if I was interested in having a conversation about the history of nuclear energy in California, with a special focus on the history of the antinuclear movement in that trend-setting state. It sounded like a great idea for an Atomic Show so […]

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Armond Cohen: Looks at Lovins’s claims with questioning analysis

A few hours ago, I posted a blog titled Amory Lovins-speak: Three misleading statements in a 15 second sound bite. That post included a video embed of Lovins presentation during a March 28, 2014 symposium sponsored by the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth titled Three Mile Island 35th Anniversary Symposium: The Past, Present, and […]

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Amory Lovins continues Sowing Confusion About Renewable and Nuclear Energy

On August 5, 2014, Amory Lovins published a commentary on Forbes.com titled Sowing Confusion About Renewable Energy. He was responding to an opinion piece published in the July 26, 2014 issue of The Economist that was based on a working paper titled The Net Benefits of Low and No-Carbon Electricity Technologies written by Charles R. […]

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