While the recent government shutdown was still in progress, Jeff Donn of the Associated Press published a slanted story about a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That report had not yet been released to the public, but it was made available to Mr. Donn.
Though Mr. Donn is not responsible for selecting the headlines under which his wire service reporting is published in newspapers around the country, he is responsible for the content of his article. The opening sentence was selected for its attention grabbing potential:
The number of safety violations at U.S. nuclear power plants varies dramatically from region to region, pointing to inconsistent enforcement in an industry now operating mostly beyond its original 40-year licenses, according to a congressional study awaiting release.
I have several issues with that provably inaccurate statement. First of all, once the government reopened and I was able to obtain a copy of the GAO report that was leaked to Mr. Donn during the government shutdown, I did a search of the report for the term “safety violation” and found that the term does not appear in the report. I also took a look at the list of operating reactors that the GAO included as Appendix II in the report. One of the columns in that list is the “Date Commercial Operation Began”. It is a rather simple exercise in fact checking to scroll down the list to find out that 15 out of 104 reactors on the list began operating before September 1973. Since less than 15% of the industry is operating in the extended license period beyond its original 40-year licenses, the report does not support Mr. Donn’s assertion that the industry is “now operating mostly beyond its original 40-year licenses”.
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