Senator Boxer expresses admiration for Chairman Jaczko and disrespect for all other NRC commissioners

On December 15, 2011, at the end of a long hearing in which four dedicated, experienced, mature commissioners from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) testified that Chairman Jaczko was an abusive leader who filtered information and berated professional staff members, Senator Barbara Boxer offered the opportunity for closing statements from her colleagues on “the other side of the asile”. She then offered her own concluding remarks.

Here is the video.

Here is a key exchange that needs to be searchable and shared.

Senator Barrasso: We have four members of the commission who are here, two Republicans and two Democrats, all unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate, three appointed by President Obama. It is historic to sign a letter like this and it is courageous and I want to thank you for your commitment to public safety and to public service. I am grateful that you are all members of this Commission. Thank you for being here with us today. Thank you Madam Chairman.

Senator Boxer: Thank you so much. I want to thank all of the Commissioners for being here. I want to say to the Chairman, you are one strong, good man. You’re a good man. And as I look at the history of nuclear power in this country, the people who are calling for safety get pounded.

And I get back to that because there is just no proof (emphasis in original) to what my colleagues are saying about your leadership when just at the time that they’re writing a letter complaining about all this and that, you are being rated by your own staff and your own employees as 1 out of 30 of effective leadership in terms of the way you run the place. I am disturbed at what is going on and I had hint of this the last time we met. And I urged you at that time to please, all of you, sit down and do what’s right for the country.

A lot of us took our chances when we voted for you. Ok? On both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the aisle. Because this agency is not about partisanship, it’s about safety of the highest degree. Because look at what happened at Fukushima. God forbid something like that ever happens. (emphasis in original) It has stood that country on its head and whether it ever recovers, history will note. But it will never be the same. So we’re not dealing, you know, with some harmless waste material. You know that. You’re all smart on this.


I had the opportunity to speak to a senior manager at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about The Best Places to Work survey that Senator Boxer was talking about. I asked him how the NRC could have scored so high when there was such a high level of discontent among the senior staff and the commissioners. He reminded me that the Commissioners are not part of the survey.

He also told me that the rank and file workers at the agency think about the career civil servants when they think about the way that their agency is managed. Those career managers, people like Bill Borchardt and Martin Virgilo are the people who have implemented the family friendly policies, enforce the openness, and treat workers with dignity and respect. The most savvy among the professional staff also realize that those people are the ones who would take the heat if there was a substantial drop in the satisfaction rankings.

For the large majority of workers at a federal agency, there is little contact with the political appointees at the very top of the agency. That is similar to the way it works in most large organizations where the CEO and the board rarely have direct influence on the lives of employees.

The manager I spoke to also reminded me to look closely at the survey results and notice the trend. In the 2010 survey the NRC earned the top spot with an overall index score of 81.8. In the 2011 survey, they were number 2 with an overall index score of 79.1. The computed overall index dropped by 3.3% from 2010 to 2011. Management, teamwork, and leadership scores all dropped from 2010 to 2011.

I hope that Boxer’s concluding remarks get wide circulation among the people who have been so upset by the reign of Chairman Jaczko that they complained to the other commissioners. I hope that it encourages them to realize that they now have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to come forward and share their stories.

There are whistleblower protection laws and they do not just protect those who have well placed political patrons. Those laws are designed to improve the operation of the government by empowering people to do the best job that they know how to do even when that includes exposing appointed leaders or managers that use harassing, controlling techniques to get their way while pursuing agendas that are different from the mission of the agency where they are temporarily working.

In related news, on December 16, 2011, Tepco and the Japanese government declared that all of the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power station are in a stable, cold shutdown condition. They are now making plans to allow residents to return to the areas that have been off limits for the last 9 months as long as those areas have a radiation level that will result in annual exposures of less than 20 mSv (2 Rem).

To put the risk of that level in context, the overly conservative Linear No Threshold dose response assumption model used by the International Committee on Radiation Protection calculates that a dose of 100 mSv received over an extended period of time will increase the risk of dying from cancer by 0.5%. That risk is considerably lower than the risk imposed by smoking or by obesity. Moderate smoking has been calculated, using the LNT model, of adding a cancer risk that is equivalent to a dose of 1,000 to 2,000 mSv (50 to 100 years of 20 mSv per year). Obesity has been calculated, again using the LNT model, to add a cancer risk that is equivalent to a dose of between 200 and 500 mSv (10 to 25 years of steadily being exposed to 20 mSv per year.

There are many well-documented studies that indicate that annual doses of 20 to 50 mSv per year (2 to 5 Rem) will stimulate adaptive responses and improve public health results.

We need to keep volleying the Fukushima ball back into the court of the people like Boxer who keep tossing it our way. It is not an ace serve; the results of the devastating earthquake and tsunami have shown that while it is a really good idea to keep water in a light water reactor, to maintain at least a minimum amount of power supply, and to ensure that hydrogen gas is properly vented or otherwise not allowed to accumulate, the overall effect of the worst that nature can throw at a nuclear plant is really not all that bad.

Not one person has be made sick or has died from exposure to the modest mass of radioactive materials that were released from the plant. It is highly unlikely that anyone ever will. Japan will begin to repopulate the evacuated areas. My prediction is that they will do a far better job of recovery in the Fukushima prefecture than the United States did in the New Orleans area after hurricane Katrina or in the area of South Manhattan after 9-11.

Additional Reading

Atomic Power Review – House Oversight Committee / NRC hearing, Dec. 14

About Rod Adams

19 Responses to “Senator Boxer expresses admiration for Chairman Jaczko and disrespect for all other NRC commissioners”

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  1. Kit P says:

    When it comes to nuclear power, let me remind everyone that it is the nuclear industry that safely designs and operates nuke plants. The NRC as a regulator just spot checks that we are doing a good job.

    Very specifically it is not the NRC’s job to make energy policy.

    This is why I do not get too upset about Jaczko and the NRC. Focus on the wrong thing and you have a myopic view of the world. For example, Rod writes:

    “but the fact remains that not a single plant was started ”

    It seem that dems think renewable energy plants are built with a magic wand. It seems that Rod also believes that we build nuke plants with a magic wand.

    Rod systematic approach to energy is root blame. Rod will always fail. A systematic approach to success includes thing like root cause analysis and life cycle. While this approach will not always lead to a successful outcome, it is not doomed to fail.

    Going back twenty years it was projected that some places would have an inadequate supply of electricity. In California, they failed to build new power plants to meet growth. In Texas, they met the challenge. When Bush became president, illogical Bush haters blamed the governor Texas for the problems in California. Governor Davis, Governor Lock, Secretary of Energy Richard, and POTUS Clinton should were criminally negligent when they endangered my children in Washington State by sending the last bit of hydroelectric power to California in the winter. The long term effect was the destruction of thousands of job in the aluminum industry. Fortunately, it was a mild February and the drought broke.

    I do not want to list all the stupid things that POTUS Clinton did but two more will suffice. I has spent a lot of time on Yucca Mountain. The report was on POTUS Clinton’s to make a decision. Waiting! POTUS Clinton was also sitting on the Kyoto treaty. DOE/EPA documents on the subject would not even mention nuclear in the Executive Summary. POTUS Clinton did not want to take any credit nukes reducing ghg because he wanted to shut down all nukes.

    So at a time when the idea of new nukes could not be mentioned, POTUS Bush arrived on scene. POTUS Bush and made the decisions that need to be made. Yucca Mountain moved forward and Kyoto treaty was put in the round file. Bush haters went nuts!

    Part of a systematic approach is first coming up with a written policy.

    Rod has not read the NATIONAL ENERGY POLICY, May 2001. Bush haters went nuts! The idiot twins from California, Pelosi/Boxer talk about a ‘secret report’ that was available on the internet. I have heard very few of any party reach the shrill level that Bush was attacked on energy and the environment. Rod does not like Bush because of something to do with the military but what does that have to doe with energy?

    It not that I have a problem with English majors having an opinion on energy, it is that they do not make the effort to become knowledgeable on the topic. Since Rod will not do his homework, I will do it for him.

    In a clear change form his predecessor, POTUS Bush stared the debate with things like this:

    “Figure 1-2 The U.S. Needs More Nuclear Plants”

    From policy flows programs and legislation. In May of 2001 and for several years there was not market for new nuclear power plants in the US. Got it straight from the horses mouth, the CEO of my company that designs new nuke plants. Before I accepted a my present position which required me to move my family, I asked the same CEO what had changed. One thing was China stopped exporting slave labor coal and the second was the 2005 Energy Bill that provided incentives for 4 new nukes.

    So in point of fact, Rod is wrong. More than 30 new nukes have ‘started’ under POTUS Bush.

    Construction of a nuke plant does not start with pour of safety related concrete. It starts with a feasibility study that costs millions. That is followed by a letter to the NRC that indicates hundreds of millions will be spent on a COL.

    So when a policy goes from -104 nukes to +30 more nukes, I would say we should give credit where it is due. In the end, it is not POTUS or the NRC that builds nukes. We do in the nuclear industry. If we do a good job, Rod will see 134 operating nukes before he retires.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Kit P

      Rod does not like Bush because of something to do with the military but what does that have to doe with energy?

      I spent 33 years in the US naval service. A major portion of the mission for that service is to maintain the sea lines of communication. A substantial portion of the risks that we take and the lives that we have expended in the Middle East during the past 50 years has to do with our perception that there are no viable alternatives to burning oil imported from that area of the world. President Eisenhower once sent an envoy to King Saud and told him that America no longer needed his stinking oil because we had developed a better energy source.

      He was right.

      Your CEO was short sighted. Instead of waiting for the market to develop, why didn’t he and his cronies go out and help the market understand the inherent advantages of fission over fire. Perhaps he is like you and just does not yet get it. Fission wins hands down in any fair fight. The only reason it is not yet a fair fight is that the incumbent oil & gas industry has – so far – purchased more effective marketing and more insistent politicians.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @ Kit P

      second was the 2005 Energy Bill that provided incentives for 4 new nukes

      The Energy Policy Act of 2005 also included the poison pill that has caused most of the 30 projects that we initiated to fail and be put back on the shelf, leading to a lot of disruption in the lives of thousands of affected engineers and technologists.

      That poison pill was a small statement that exempted the natural gas industry from the federal Clean Water Act. That single, Dick Cheney encouraged rule change is the primary reason that hydraulic fracturing suddenly became economical. The technology is nothing new, just listen to the way that the gas industry defends itself every time anyone challenges them on risks. They say they have done millions of frack jobs over the past three decades and never had a single (well, maybe one or two) instance where anyone has proven that aquifers were contaminated.

      If the technology is old and if we have known that shale rocks have gas trapped in them, why did fracking suddenly get cheap? The key was removing the overhead associated with adhering to federal clean water standards and leaving regulations up to ill prepared states who had little oversight infrastructure but lots of hungry local politicians willing to look the other way and plenty of often absentee landlords willing to sign drilling leases.

      • Daniel says:

        Considering that the US is short of blue gold and that it must import a lot of its drinking water from Canada, this Clean Water Act exemption does not make much sense.

        Also the drinking water quota agreement has ended between the US and Canada and negotiation are ‘stretching’.

        The US was paying Canada about 1\100th of the international fair market fait value for a barrel of soft water.

        I know this is not getting much air time on this board but water is a scarce resource for millions of humans. SMRs will be needed in the US faster than we think to desalinate water.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @Daniel – I concur. Water is not scarce on earth, but clean, fresh drinking water is. The only missing ingredient between dirty or salty water and clean water is a whole bunch of cheap, emission free energy. Reactors can supply that in spades; smaller reactors do it in more useful increments than large ones.

        • Daniel says:

          Canada’s supply of fresh water is 20 per cent of the world’s supply – ranking it at the top –.

          Whatever the case, Canadians consume 350 litres of water a day per capita, second only to the Americans as the most profligate wasters of water in the world.

          It has been said that water will be “the oil of the 21st century,” or “liquid gold,” and that it will cause wars between nations. Whatever happens with regard to global water, and the environmental, economic and political fallout, Canada will be a major player. Talks have intensified during the past few years on whether Canada should take advantage of its bountiful supply of water by selling it for profit – like gas, oil and timber.

  2. Ioannes says:

    Rod Adams is one of the smartest, most well-spoken engineers in the nuclear industry that I know of. His writings when focused on nuclear energy rarely contain anything inaccurate of incorrect. Everyone interested in our industry should read what he writes on nuclear power. BUT he is a liberal progressive democrat just like Barabara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi and all the rest. As I have said before, if your belief system is giving you results that you don’t like, then you need to start questioning your belief system. As Father Robert Barron points out in the following You Tube video, beliefs matter, and they really do:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=carFbpDsRPI

    You always get what you believe in. If it’s liberal democracy, then expect no nukes. (PS, our’s is a Constitutional Republic, NOT a national democracy – two wolves and one sheep voting on what’s for dinner.) That Obama refuses to do anything about corrupt Jackzo (in spite of Rod’s urging otherwise) means Obama must be removed from office (and that’s not the only reason for Eric Holder and others come to mind, but we’ll start there since this is a nuke forum).

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Ioannes – what would you consider France and Sweden if not liberal democracies?

      For the record, I think I might be a libertarian – I really believe in people and believe in allowing them to have free choice to live their lives as they see fit.

    • Kit P says:

      Rod is not an engineer not does he have very much experience in the commercial nuclear industry. I do not care how many years he has in the navy or how well spoken he is if he can not get his facts right.

      Nuclear power has an inherent advantage for subs. It does not have an inherent advantage for stationary power plants. Nuke plants have a large inventory of fission products that can kill employees and people who live around nuke plants.

      That is one huge disadvantage. This is why I have a problem with navy nukes who do not know anything about doing business in the real world.

      I am not sure what Rod would do to make nukes cheaper but in the real world complaining about the fossil industry will get you no where. Each part of the energy industry must meet standards. Rod is just about clueless when it comes to regulation of nuke plants and even worse when it comes to anything else.

      I did not read provisions in the 2005 Energy Bill for the natural gas industry because I do not work in that part of energy industry. If one of the results is the US increasing the supply of NG, then I will have to add that to the reasons to think it is good policy.

      Rod does not understand the power industry. Our job is to ensure a reliable supply of electricity. Our part of the nuclear industry is to ensure safety first. If Rod is worried about the environmental impact of NG, he should go back to college and learn how to help over there.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @Kit P

        Nuke plants have a large inventory of fission products that can kill employees and people who live around nuke plants.

        And what do you call the large fuel requirement for fossil fuel plants? One thing for certain – that “large inventory” at nuclear plants has never escaped to kill employees or people who live around nuclear power plants anywhere except at Chernobyl. (I guess you can also count SL-1, but the steam would have done the job even if there was no radioactive material at all.)

        I did not read provisions in the 2005 Energy Bill for the natural gas industry because I do not work in that part of energy industry.

        There are many industries that I do not work in, but that does not stop me from reading about them, studying the fundamentals of their markets, and understanding what creates winners and losers. It also does not stop me from understanding the political decision making that is a significant part of nearly every business.

        Yep, I am, as I always freely admit, an English major who can read and write. I can even do math reasonably well.

        By the way, for anyone who is not Kit and does not already know everything they need to know, here is a link to some very interesting sketches of many nuclear power plants. Take a hard look at those plants, figure out how much of the facility is the nuclear reactor core and then tell me that you cannot figure out how to remove some cost from the construction of those plants if the designers were allowed to simplify the plants and trim some of the unnecessary systems. Add some simplification and some cost and schedule reduction by reducing the multiple regulatory barriers to construction and pretty soon you have a financial model that can win even against short-sighted cheap gas.

        Library of nuclear power plant wall charts.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @Kit P

        If Rod is worried about the environmental impact of NG, he should go back to college and learn how to help over there.

        I have no need to go back to school for that topic, though I might go back to learn something new. I already know how to help reduce the impact of natural gas extraction and consumption – reduce the demand for natural gas and you reduce its environmental impact.

      • Sam B says:

        @Kit P
        Quote: “Rod is not an engineer…”

        Neither is Obama, Boxer, Bush, or whoever – they have a lot less experience than Rod but they do make the big decisions and also, importantly, constantly give opinions on all matters nuclear – from Chernobyl to Fukushima.

        Political problems cannot be solved by technical means! They require a political approach. Nuclear power can be abundant, cheap and safe – IF the people who set policy want it. I’ve researched the matter enough to know it beyond a reasonable doubt.

        If they don’t want it, they have all political tools necessary to delay, obstruct, confuse, etc

        • Kit P says:

          Let me correct you Sam. Nuclear power IS abundant, cheap and safe. At least in the US.

          I think Sam is an example of an American who do not know how their government works as it applies to the power industry. For the most part, the choice of energy sources for the power industry is a state and local matter not a federal matter.

          We need new power plants to meet projected growth in demand and replace old power plants. One project I have worked on this year, it not expected to be commercial until 2020. It is not that the project is being delayed, it is just when it projected to be needed.

          I do not see a debate about our choices as a problem. This debate is not occurring in China. Since we are better at planning for demand, we have time to plan some time for debate.

        • Sam B says:

          Kit,

          Electric energy at the current price isn’t in demand because of the recession which is due to what? Could it be, to wrong trade, financial and business regulations? But then again, the message is that we do need renewables, expensive as they are, to add to the deficit and trade imbalances, we also need austerity and all that.

          The fact that the economy shrinks faster than the energy component of it isn’t an asset, it’s _another_ liability.

          As I said, political power can do a lot of good, not everything, but a lot. The situation changes drastically when we look at the negative side of things – political power is capable of destroying everything, slow or fast, or at whatever pace – all it takes is a little loss of vigilance.

        • Wayne SW says:

          Since we’re listing the non-engineers of some prominence, throw Gregory Jaczko in the lot as well. I say that knowing full well it risks angering Rod to include him in a group with Jaczko, but I’ll share the mud as well, being initially trained in nuclear physics (experimental, not theoretical), re-trained as an engineer.

    • Sam B says:

      @Ioannes
      Quote: “You always get what you believe in.”

      I’m sorry Ioannes, the history disagrees with you. The Allies believed one thing about their handling of Germany before WW2 and what happened was the exact opposite. The Germans also believed one thing when they started WW2 and what happened was the destruction of Europe and themselves. Rushed believes are the deadliest sin ever.

      There is no doubt that believes matter but having believes assures nothing by itself.

      When (apparent) Republican supporters say “belief system”, they do it with an air of superiority as if theirs is a well defined and proven artifact. However, “conservatism” spans the range between the traditional conservatism of Edmund Burke and the militant communism of Trotsky – with a few twists, that’s called neo-conservatism and it is (mostly) the “belief system” of the contemporary Republican leadership. For apparent reasons, it is as ill defined as it can be, constantly shifting and twisting like haywire.

      Not to pick on one side only, the neoliberalism of the Democratic leadership has nothing to do with the liberalism of FDR. It is also ill defined and constantly shifting. Personally I can’t tell these apart, to me, both belief systems look like an entangled knot, or like Siamese twins. The results of the governance of these believe systems are similarly indistinguishable.

      May be you have to follow your own advise and reexamine a thing or two?

  3. Jason Kobos says:

    From Barbara Boxer talking about Fukushima

    “It has stood that country on its head and whether it ever recovers, history will note.”

    During WW2 Tokyo was firebombed killing at least 100,000 people and leaving over a million homeless. Later the 2 atomic bombs were dropped killing around 100,000 instantly and about another 100,000 shortly succumbing to serious burns and acute radiation sickness.

    I am confident in saying that they recovered from that terrible war.

    To go out and publicly question the ability of the Japanese people to fix this problem and move on either shows a gross ignorance of history or severe misunderstanding of the severity of this accident.

    • Kelly says:

      @Jason,
      I agree with you, but I’d like to submit another possibility:
      “To go out and publicly question the ability of the Japanese people to fix this problem and move on either shows a gross ignorance of history or severe misunderstanding of the severity of this accident.”

      …or deliberate hyperbole to overstate the severity of the accident, for emotional effect. She doesn’t have to be ignorant; she can be trying to mislead for propagandist effect.

  4. Daniel says:

    On Thursday DEC 22, the NRC will meet to approve the AP1000 design.

    All 4 commissioners will then present a motion to approve the COL licence for Vogtle.

    Jazcko has again stated that he sees no need for this and that the 30 day waiting period must be observed before the COL is granted.

    The other 4 commissioners disagree. Dr J has improved, can’t you see ?