I just had a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) moment. I have figured out why Chairman Jaczko seems to be working at cross purposes to the Secretary of Energy and the President by insisting that his job as an independent regulator of nuclear energy does not include efforts to encourage its growing use. The fundamental problem is that he does not understand energy technology enough to recognize the enormous environmental and economic advantages that nuclear fission technology has over fossil fuel combustion, the world’s dominant form of commercial energy – so far.
As Jaczko himself said in a recent speech, the mission of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is “to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety, promote the common defense and security, and protect the environment.” For those of us with real world experience in operating fossil fuel plants, planning military operations to protect fossil fuel energy supply chains, and operating nuclear energy facilities, it is impossible to fail to recognize the huge contribution that an increased used of nuclear energy would have in making the environment cleaner and the world safer by being less prone to resource scarcity-based conflicts.
An regulatory agency that is charged with protecting public health and safety, promoting common defense and security and protecting the environment, but does not do all it can to enable a safe, but rapid EXPANSION of nuclear energy production is failing in its mission accomplishment. Erecting barriers to knowledge dissemination, slowing license reviews by failing to request adequate financial resources, and blaming licensees for failing to answer repetitious and voluminous questions in a prompt manner means that the agency is failing to protect the environment by slowing the deployment of nuclear energy production systems.
The longer it takes to build nuclear plants, the more they cost. The more nuclear plants cost, the fewer of them get built. The longer they take to license and build once the process begins, the longer coal-fired power plants need to remain in service, often using duct tape and bailing wire because the owners plan to shut them down once the nuclear plant is operating.
Bottom line – it is the JOB of the Chairman of the NRC to ensure safe, adequate regulation that ENABLES the expansion of a technology that has a proven capability of protecting public health and safety, promoting the common defense and security and protecting the environment. If he cannot figure out that nuclear technology does all of those things, he is too ignorant to continue to serve in his current position.