Jaczko explains Yucca shutdown and license applicant discouragement
On November 3, 2011, Thalia Assuras of EnergyNow conducted an extended interview with NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko regarding Yucca Mountain, used fuel storage, the lengthening process of getting a license from the NRC, the reasons why nuclear license applicants are getting discouraged, and the possibility that the courts might direct the NRC and the DOE to complete the process of licensing the Yucca Mountain facility.
Another huge factor in the economic calculations that utilities have to make is the amount of time that it takes to obtain approvals. The longer the lead time, the more uncertainty they have to include in terms of electrical power demand, interest rates, inflation, and the risk that the estimates of task duration are incorrect. When the uncertainty of a new nuclear project is placed against the certainty of building a new gas fired power plant, there is a need for a resounding victory for the nuclear plant before the board of directors will decide to choose the less certain course of action.
One more thing that really irks me about this interview was the fact that the Chairman refuses to admit that ordering an evacuation of people beyond the area where there are plans for that evacuation is a terribly risky decision. If there was any justification for a 50 mile evacuation, I would be the first one to advocate including that in the planning requirements. It is criminal to think that you might need to undertake such a complex evolution and still decide that you do not need to do any planning for the eventuality.
However, I think that evacuating people from areas where the measured doses are within the range of variation of normal background radiation is downright stupid. There is no need to impose the risk of relocation on people who will not be harmed if they simply remain in place and take a few simple precautions like avoiding locally produced milk for a few weeks, taking some air samples and wearing a simple paper mask if they need to go outside during the first few days when exposures might be elevated.
The protective action guides (warning – 13.7 MB, slow PDF download required) produced twenty years ago were far more correct than whatever feeling made the Chairman decide that a 50 mile evacuation was justified, especially since there were no facts or measurements that should have stimulated such a response.
If the designs are safe and the staff supports them why the delay? Can only come to one alternative, politics. It is very hard listening to his non-answers, non-committal especially in a non-hostile interview.
The economics for nuclear is determined by the licensing and construction times. All of which are under the direct control of the regulator… ughh this guy.
He has the nuclear industry by the balls. Why did we appoint this joker?
He was appointed because Senator Reid (Jaczko’s old boss) wanted to kill Yucca Mountain.
Wasn’t he initially appointed to the Commission by President Bush as a compromise to get a Supreme Court Justice confirmed by the Senate?
He was originally appointed by Bush as part of a deal conducted with Reid. Jaczko went straight from working for Reid to serving on the NRC.
…and then appointed Chairman upon Barry coming into office.
Here is my best attempt at a direct quote of what he said just after the 6:30 mark in the video that irks me and with the stuttering and uh’s seems to possibly be a disingenuous statement:
“Uh, in some cases, well, uh, I-I think what’s clear is that the licensing process is uhm, is, uh, uh more affordable than the construction.”
The licensing and construction costs CANNOT be thought of as independent items. Construction cannot even begin without a license. Licensing activities cannot be economically supported if a revenue-generating plant is never completed and connected to a grid.
I am no fan of Yucca Mountain. We would be better served if the fees for its construction and operation, which are still being collected, were used for the development of advanced reactors so that the ‘nuclear waste’ could be used for what it is — fuel for advanced reactors.
That said, Yucca Mountain is still the ‘law of the land.’ I was flabbergasted when I heard Mr. Jaczko’s facile dismissal of the Yucca Mountain issue by his statement that the NRC has simply “moved on.” It is as if Yucca Mountain is simply some sort of historical anomaly and of no importance to the present. (Oh, by the way, don’t forget to keep paying those fees.) After watching that interview, I feel like I need to wash my computer monitor.
So, I guess it’s okay for this crumb bum and the NRC to “move on” when it comes to obeying federal law (NWPA). I wonder how well someone like me would fair if I decided to “move on” when it came to other federal law, say, about paying income taxes? I wonder how that would be viewed by the judge reviewing my case while my butt sat in jail? The only “moving on” likely in that case would be to a federal pen. Why aren’t Jaczko and Reid headed there?
Reid won reelection last year. (Thank you, Tea Party.) Jaczko is protected by a powerful senator.
Rules are for the little people.
How is the Tea Party responsible for Reid winning? He’s Democrat just like Obama. The Tea Party wanted Reid out.
They produced a candidate that appealed less to the center than Reid did.
“Moderation in all things, including moderation.”
Cal’s right. The Republicans in Nevada should have nominated someone who was electable. Reid was vulnerable at the time.
Instead, they nominated the candidate that Reid wanted to run against, and it’s utterly naive to believe that the Tea Party didn’t have an important role to play in that mistake.
Once again I despair of having people read and understand the UN 2006 Chernobyl report. It was crystal clear that unfounded anxiety – from over-aggressive response to trivial radiation threats – was a huge driver of population health problems.
I just read similar comment of yours at HuffPo. I can’t decide if people are really that anxious about “hot particles” and if so, how much has Arnie Gundersen contributed that anxiety. It also doesn’t help to have the NRC chairman issuing 50-mile evacuation orders for American in Japan. I think the US government was upset that the Japanese were too busy dealing with a natural disaster of biblical proportions to update the Fukushima Emergency Facebook page so Jaczko was asked to stick a finger in the collective eye of the Japanese government.
I was pleasantly surprised by Jaczko’s performance. He has learned the first rule of getting out of the hole, stop digging. Of course the questions were softball. It may be that he is learning about professionalism from the staff of the NRC.
Rod you may want to bone up on the difference between the design certification process and the COL process and who pays the costs.
I am also not aware of any delays on the part of the NRC for DC and COL. Since the submittals the economy has slowed allowing more breathing room to get new nukes built to meet the demand. Clearly the NRC has considered delays because of events in Japan as they should.
Some think it is a delay when they had a perception of how long the DC and COL would take. I have to answer some of the NRC’s questions. Often my initial reaction is that is a stupid question. Then I read what we wrote and go what, who wrote this. It was not wrong, just very confusing. Several hundred man hours were involved in the rewrite. I also looked at what another vendor had written. Two simple sentences while we took a page and a half. Had the nuclear engineers sent a draft to the mechanical engineers who design the systems to meet the design requirements, the problem could have been avoided.
The bottom line is that the FSAR should not be gift warped for the likes of Ralph Nader. It is a legal document and it needs to be bullet proof. Many big projects nuke and other projects have been built in the wrong place or did not take into account environmental factors. The Teton Dam is an example.
The beauty of the DC and COL process is that paper is easier to fix than concrete.
@Kit P – I’m not sure why you think I misunderstand the difference between a design certification application and a construction and operating licensing application.
For the purpose of this post, it does not matter – both types of applications require the applicant to pay the NRC $273 per professional staff hour to review the massive quantities of paper required. The applicant has no control over schedule or budget and the NRC can willfully decided to be distracted by other priorities that consume resources while using the excuse that their budget is determined by congress. The problem is that I understand the federal budgeting process pretty well and I understand that there are provisions for an agency that has large unexpected, but mandatory expenses to go back to Congress in the mid year and ask for more resources.
I have no real issue with ensuring that any lessons learned from events be rolled into the process of approving new licenses, but only if those lessons are applicable to the new design. I have a REAL problem with an agency that puts its assigned work on a shelf while it allows itself to be distracted by an event 12,000 miles away. Every day of delay means a large amount of additional cost for the licensee. As days add up to months and perhaps even years, it adds more and more uncertainty into the economic calculations and reduces the attractiveness of nuclear energy to investors.
It is disingenuous to claim to imply that the decision processes are simply a matter of economics over which the NRC has no control. Schedule is an important factor in any economic project of rates of return.
Quote “I have a REAL problem with an agency that puts its assigned work on a shelf while it allows itself to be distracted by an event 12,000 miles away. Every day of delay means a large amount of additional cost for the licensee. As days add up to months and perhaps even years, it adds more and more uncertainty into the economic calculations and reduces the attractiveness of nuclear energy to investors.”
With pictures of fallout on the US being available online, in addition to the offer of help to Japan due to TEPCo/Japans lack of forthrightness at the time, is there any wonder that eyes, time and cash were turned to Japan. There is no way that the public would condone NOT getting involved when they feel threatened by something they do not understand. This especially when the US was held in part responsible (rightly or wrongly).
The billion buck hole’s been dug. Use it for SOMETHING for Pete’sake!
Taxpayer James Greenidge
This just posted on the NY Times, pertinent to our discussion here.
Rod, the NRC is not delaying anything. The new process is designed to avoid that. Utilities have resource management plans that look many years into the future and some call for new nukes. As an example, say the new plant is needed in 2022. You get your COL 2013 and order all your long lead time components. Then you start construction in 2015 so that you have margin to meet the 2022.
Let say tat 2015 rolls around and the demand is lower and the new nuke is not needed till 2025. You trade your long lead time components to a construction project of the same design.
What is being avoided is delays in getting an operating permit after construction was complete.
It is also the industry and NRC’s job to be ‘distracted’ by daily events. A good lessons learned program is essential. What did be learn from the Thresher and carrier fires? When was the last time a navy nuke was killed performing is duties? I do not recall any in the 70s.
Tell that to Southern Company and the people who will be laid off because th Vogtle COL has been delayed by the failure of the NRC to meet and approve the staff recommendations on th AP1000. While you are at it, explain the delays to the similarly sized crews at VC Summer.
Rod the NRC has not failed to issue either a DC of COL. Nor have they delayed anything. It take as long as it take. If you are going to be in the nuclear industry instead of teaching school, you need to learn these things.
If a utility request permission for early construction they risk money that the pouring safety related could get delayed. A business risk assumed by the utility is not a burden of the regulator. If the utility had the choice of using the old process. TVA asked the NRC to reactivate the construction license under the old process for Bellefonte risking a delay at the end. The devil you know compared to the new devil.
Furthermore, I have not heard anyone at those utilities say anything other than the projects are on schedule and under budget.
The new process wasn’t an option for Bellefonte, considering that the “B&W 205 design” (IP now owned by Areva) is a design that is not a part of the design certification process.
I think you meant that TVA is using the old, Part 50, process with separate construction and operating licenses for the possible usage of the Clinch River site for the first installation of mPower reactors rather than using the “new” Part 52 combined license process.
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