1. Regarding EPA, the Supreme Court just struck down a regulation because the EPA had not done a cost-benefit analysis.

    “The agency responded that it was not required to take costs into account when it made the initial determination to regulate. But the agency added that it did so later in setting emissions standards and that, in any event, the benefits far outweighed the costs.”


  2. In other news, in a 5-4 decision the US Supreme Court ruled this morning that the EPA unreasonably interpreted the Clean Air Act when it decided to set limits on the emissions of toxic pollutants from power plants without first considering the costs of the industry to do so.

    This ruling is confusing. EPA’s argues that considering costs first puts the cart before the horse, that they should determine whether there is a problem before considering how much it will cost to fix it.

    The Court apparently disagreed.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of eliminating all particulate and heavy-metal emissions from coal power plants. And all CO2 emissions as well. I also suspect the most cost-effective way of achieving this goal, in terms of tons of emissions avoided per unit cost, is to simply replace coal plants with clean-burning nuclear fission, rather than a band-aid approach of more expensive more effective particulate and metals-scrubbers on existing plants.

    But for EPA to concur will require both some modeling on their part, and a wider understanding of low-dose radiation risks and fears that goes to the heart of NRC’s Request for Comment.

    1. Having grown up in the Los Angeles basin, born in ’52, I can only imagine what it would be like had the EPA never existed. There was a time as a child that I could barely see across the play ground of my elementary school during bad smog days. And, mind you, this was before the Ventura Freeway connected the west valley to the east valley, and traffic since then has increased exponentially many times over. The EPA, like it or not, has played an essential role in counteracting the pollution caused by fossil fuels. It is fashionable to bitch and moan about regulations, but one can only imagine what corporate america would be like without the constraints placed on it by bodies such as the EPA. Who would you rather have deciding on an allowable amount of industrial or automotive particulate emissions, the EPA, Exxon, or GM?

      1. I am comfortable with the EPA making recommendations, but Congress should be writing the laws.

        1. “……but Congress should be writing the laws”

          Uh huh. May the highest bidder win.

          What does your average congressman concern himself with; your lungs, or his bank balance and his campaign coffers?

          1. If you are looking for a defender of any part of our government right now, don’t look toward me. However we have a constitution, and ignoring it seems to just lead to more problems.

          2. Which is why we need a Constitutional Amendment requiring lapel cameras (good for cops, better for politicians), and allow horse-whipping of corrupt politicians.

    2. I find this puzzling as well. The official govt. public health and safety standard is ~$10 million per life saved. All regulations should meet that criterion. (My view is that nuclear regulations, overall, amount to billions per life saved, and that a bottoms up review of all existing regulations is in order.)

      But it’s puzzling because I thought that (unlike NRC), EPA always presented analyses which showed that all of their proposed regulations met the $10 million standard by a wide margin. Some rules, for which EPA analyses showed a cost of only ~$10,000 per life saved have gone down to political defeat (due to the undue power of the coal/fossil industry).

  3. While I support this effort, I wish I could convince myself that it will make a significant difference, with respect to nuclear power costs.

    If this passes, will NRC take the view that meltdowns are OK? Will they respond by allowing all reactor components to be classified as NITS? Reactors built with commercial (or standard industrial) grade components (with no dedication process)?

    Public dose standards, which effect things like required amounts of shielding for containers, waste disposal processes, and (I suppose) routine operational emissions, do not affect the things that primarily drive nuclear power costs. It is the ingrained mindset that no expense shall be spared to avoid and/or mitigate dreaded plant accident (meltdown) events that is driving nuclear power costs.

    Yes, a change in standards would affect various procedures and actions in a post-meltdown scenario (evacuation thresholds, cleanup standards, etc…). However, the costs of (once-per-several-decade) meltdowns are fairly small in the grand scheme of things (on the order of 0.1 cents/kW-hr, over the whole industry). The amount we’ve spent avoiding meltdowns exceeds the cost of meltdowns by several orders of magnitude.

    Such a policy change would probably allow the industry to drop Price-Anderson, which may have some political benefits.

    1. Price Anderson is required by law, Industry can’t “drop it”, Congress has to change the law. There is an exception allowed if a licensee can prove to NRC they are financially capable of providing the required legal financial liability limit, but good luck ever getting that approved. I agree there are benefits to getting rid of it. Participation by INPO in your business is required to be in the NEIL insurance pool; dump Price Anderson then dump INPO. Real O&M money to be saved there, which makes or breaks economic viability in some markets these days.

      1. I wonder how much credit INPO can take for the improved nuclear fleet performance since the 1980’s. Certainly the sharing of information has helped. But there have been many times that INPO recommendations were adopted just to make INPO go away.

      2. Forgive my lack of clarity. Yes, I meant the industry would allow Price Anderson to be eliminated or modified, probably by Congress. Perhaps in exchange for regulatory relief?? It would largely take away one of the anti main talking points (i.e., the “uninsurability” of nuclear).

        Heck, if we had sane policies concerning the response to a release, based on repudiation of LNT, the current ~$20 billion cap may be enough. At that point, decommissioning the plant (w/ melted cores) would be, by far, the largest expense. (That alone may exceed $20 billion.) At least the cost occurs over a long time period.

  4. The EPA ruling was based on specific language in the Clean Air Act, which generally does not impact NRC regulations. Therefore this ruling does not apply to NPPs, and it would take a separate lawsuit for the court to review NRC’s application of ALARA (or any other standard) based on cost.

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