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12 Comments

  1. Sad to see Commissioner Ostendorff is leaving. He brought his Naval ops experience to the highest levels of the NRC. His operations perspective will be missed.

    1. @Bill Rodgers

      Agreed. For whatever it is worth, Commissioner Ostendorff has recommended that his replacement be someone with substantial operating and maintenance experience.

      I can think of several retired civilians from Naval Reactors, in addition to numerous retired naval officers with experience in roles like commanding officer, squadron engineer, tender commanding officer, squadron commodore, “line locker”, ORSE board senior member, etc. that would bring incredibly valuable experience to the Commission.

        1. @Rob Brixey

          Maybe I did not have my hands on the switches or the wrenches, but I very definitely played a major role in both operations and maintenance. All of the positions that I listed virtually require having served and performed well as an Engineer Officer and many of the best of the people serving in those positions get involved — at the appropriate level — in the process of planning and executing maintenance, routine operations and special operating conditions.

          Hate to be an elitist here, but someone who is only a hands on operator or wrench turner is hardly qualified to be a commissioner of a billion dollar agency with oversight over hundreds of facilities around the country.

          1. If regulating safety of commercial airlines, one might include the perspective of a senior licensed Airline Transport Pilot. Without that perspective, I don’t see how they can effectively regulate.

  2. ‘For whatever it is worth, (Position XYZ) has recommended that his replacement be someone (just like him)’…. now there’s a surprise. But I agree with him. FWIW, without a qualified nuke plant operator on the Commission, the Commission is not qualified to perform its mission.

    And while we’re at it, let’s replace ALL the commissioners with someone “just like him”, and then have them report to a single authority “just like him” as the Kemeny Commission recommended after TMI2. And while we’re at it, let’s dump all the superfluous responsibilities (outside of reactor safety) assigned to the Commission, like uranium mining, on whomever regulates all other mining, etc. And while we’re at it, let’s replace the NRC inspection responsibilities with the cream of the crop of operators “just like him.” And while we are at it let’s deeply embed the new design approval authority directly in the design development process; so their questions and design understanding don’t have to come after the fact.

    But those “just like hims” do need some special training before they assume those responsibilities. Related to the fact that although the USN does have to operate on a budget, they are not a “for profit” enterprise.

    1. @mjd

      I cannot disagree. With regard to your last paragraph, there is little difference between rate regulated monopoly utilities that are granted a fixed rate of return and an independent government agency that operates under a politically determined budget. The decision-making process is remarkably similar; the primary difference is that there is a fixed delta between cost and allowed revenue called the investor return.

      1. And I can not disagree with you either. But the “investor return” directly concerns the utility, not the current regulator. The regulator pays lip service to the problem by talking cost/benefit of new regulations. But then they admit they haven’t really estimated the actual costs of implementation by the utility, and IMO the benefits are mostly warm fuzzy PR “feel goods”, or PRA intangibles.

        As far as the investor return for military budgets vs utility, for the military it’s intangible, “comfort” from fear is hard to equate to dollars. For utilities it’s a deposit slip in a checking account.

        1. @mjd

          I was not talking about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but the public utility commission that regulates the electricity rates and the authorized rate of return in states where electricity is still a rate-regulated, government supervised monopoly with defined service territories for integrated utility companies that generate, transmit, and distribute the power to the customer as well as send out the monthly billing statements.

        2. Re: …“investor return” directly concerns the utility, not the current regulator.

          That’s debatable at some level. When plants keep closing due to economic considerations, the regulator finds itself downsizing, ultimately closing. And that just isn’t how Uncle Fed works. To sell you a crutch, they first need a leg to break.

  3. “FWIW, without a qualified nuke plant operator on the Commission, the Commission is not qualified to perform its mission.”

    I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement. The Commission (I.e., the five or–as may be–fewer Commissioners) are responsible for setting nuclear regulatory policy, based largely on recommendations from the NRC staff (i.e., the hundreds of technical experts that are responsible for implementing the policies established by the Commission). It is not necessary that a Commissioner have nuclear plant experience to perform his or her job–though in some cases, it would undoubtedly be valuable. It is necessary, however, that the NRC staff–and the staff members who work directly for each Commissioner–have the requisite expertise to carry out their responsibilities, which would, in some cases, include plant operations. I know for a fact that several Commissioners have people with plant operating experience on their personal staffs, and many NRC staffers have that experience, as well–particularly those who serve as resident inspectors at nuclear power facilities.

    Keep in mind that the NRC regulates not only nuclear power plants, but a wide range of other, non-reactor facilities and functions. It would be impossible for any one individual to have experience in all areas of the Commission’s responsibility.

    P.S. For what it’s worth, by the way, Commissioner Svinicki is a nuclear engineer with broad experience in elements of nuclear plant design and operation. So while the Commission is losing a very valuable member in Bill Ostendorff, it will continue to have significant nuclear engineering experience on board.

  4. I was sorry to hear that Commissioner Ostendorff is leaving the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on June 30 and wish him well in his new energy security position at the U. S. Naval Academy. I hope the President will nominate a qualified replacement for him and for all the vacancies on this important commission and that the Senate will exercise its responsibility to examine the credentials and experience of the nominees before voting on the confirmation of the nominees.