1. Rod, I read and tweeted Nuclear Street’s post on Jaczko’s statement to the “Deliver Energy and Environment Conference”. Of the few points I remember taking away from it was basically ‘the NRC ensures safety and will not lift a finger to help or hinder nuclear power”. To me this sentiment seems to be at odds with itself. As they are the gatekeeper, their very nature is a bottleneck to the process, so to back into this safe bureaucratic position seems to be a bit of a leadership cop-out.
    He didn’t make any announcements about what new goals the Commission has for itself and it might not have been the place for it. We might assume since he wants less money for the NRC budget, the goals, if there are any, aren’t set very high.
    Here’s a technical question for you, maybe you can answer. Do you know if the NRC uses any type of extra-net type project and document management software for it’s licensee applicants? I can’t imagine doing what they do without some type of database system that can track the questions and all the other little issues that come up. Doing that all by phone and email would be a nightmare.

  2. Rod,
    I normally agree with most of your posts, but strongly disagree with this one.
    As chairman of the Nuclear REGULATORY Commission, he *must* be perceived as being fair and balanced. Were he to adopt the role of “cheerleader,” he would be summarily dismissed by the throngs of nuclear naysayers in government and elsewhere. The regulatory agency should be a neutral entity that objectively evaluates each submission and can be trusted to inspect each operating nuclear power plant.
    If, as you suggest, the NRC “does all it can to enable a safe, but rapid EXPANSION of nuclear energy production,” I believe its credibility as a regulatory agency would be shot. It would give anti-nuclear folks a legitimate argument that the NRC could not be trusted to evaluate the nuclear fleet while it is also a proponent of expanding its sphere of influence. It smells strongly of a Conflict of Interest … and our judiciary system takes a pretty dim view of anything that remotely smells like a conflict of interest.
    Although it’s unusual for me, I agree with the Chairman on this one. The NEI is fully qualified to be the industry’s cheerleader. Regulatory agencies like the NRC and NR and the IAEA are required to keep their noses to the grindstone.
    However, I completely agree with you that the NRC has a long way to go in terms of speeding up its license reviews and keeping the scope of its questions / concerns relevant to its mission. It should be a requirement that senior members of the NRC have 10+ years working in an operating environment, rather than being steeped in academia.

    1. @thermopile – Perhaps I was not as clear as I should have been – I am not asking for a cheerleader, but I am asking for an enabler who recognizes the value of the TECHNOLOGY that he has been assigned to regulate. I fully understand the need for high standards of quality and execution, but I do not think that it is appropriate for the nuclear regulators to be agnostic about the technology. That would be sort of like asking a guy like John Madden – who refuses to fly – to be the head of the Federal Aviation Administration.
      I could not care less if the anti’s don’t like that idea. That is the whole meaning of leadership – you do what is right, not what is popular.

    2. I have to side with Rod Adams on this one. If Mr. Jaczko believes it is his job “to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety, promote the common defense and security, and protect the environment”, then he has to encourage the growth of nuclear power. While there may be a public perception of lack of neutrality if the NRC should encourage the growth of nuclear power, the reality is that nuclear power displaces dirtier, less safe sources of power (e.g., the natural gas explosion at the Kleen Energy plant that killed 5 people). It is irresponsible government to take a “neutral position” on issues of this importance. I don’t see the EPA taking a neutral stance on public health and the environment, or OSHA taking a neutral position on safety, or the Department of Defense being neutral on defense and security.

    3. Although I think I understand your position, thermopile, you should take note that the verb in the phrase that you quote from Rod is “enable” (not say “stimulate” or “require”). All regulators should seek to enable the constituency that they regulate, rather than merely restrict it. Water regulators should be looking to enable clean and efficient water use, telecoms regulators should enable rational and approriate use of the EM spectrum, financial regulators should enable responsible and secure flow of capital. If the regulator is nothing but a traffic light, usually set red, it is not doing its job.
      Internally too an overemphasis on the negative will be damaging. I presume that the NRC staff are capable professionals who understand that nuclear power can be safe; but if they are confined to slowing down and discouraging new nuclear build then the atmosphere will soon turn sour.
      There is a correct balance point, of course, but the NRC is not there at present.

    4. Rod, donb,
      I realize I’m committing a faux pas by replying to my own post, but I thought it would make the discussion flow better…
      donb, the analogy of the DoD not being neutral on defense and security underscores my point perfectly. President Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex becoming too powerful, and one can make the argument that the complex has enough clout that it can set policy. That’s harmful — it provides a very large, self-serving incentive to engage in wars and military endeavors that are questionable in value. (Eisenhower’s original draft said to be aware of the CONGRESSIONAL-military-industrial complex, but he deleted “congressional” because he didn’t want to upset Congress at the time.) The movie / documentary “Why We Fight” is a very interesting and thought-provoking piece on this — it’s available on NetFlix.
      As for the FAA, it’s interesting to note that the mission statement of the FAA is very similar to the NRC’s:
      It emphasizes safety and efficiency. It doesn’t mention expanding the airline industry or building new planes.
      I do note that the current head of the FAA was a former pilot for 25+ years ( http://www.faa.gov/about/key_officials/babbitt/ ). And donb, I don’t have a good counterpoint to your OSHA and EPA examples. They enforce safety AND help set policy. I guess everybody views worker and environmental safety as an inherently good thing, and it’s okay that the regulators can also set policy in that area.
      Maybe it’s just tone. You’re right, there’s no reason the head of the NRC shouldn’t be more of a “user” or “operator” of nuclear power, like the head of the FAA. But I still believe the *stance* of the regulatory agency has to be seen as fair and objective. The SEC doesn’t recommend individual stocks, and the NTSB doesn’t recommend which car to buy.

      1. @thermopile – I agree that the SEC does not recommend individual stocks and the NTSB does not recommend which car to buy. However, the SEC does not act like it is not sure whether or not the stock market is a good thing and the NTSB is certainly not agnostic about whether or not people should travel or not.
        The NRC should recognize that the people in the US, through their congressional representatives, have already spoken about whether or not nuclear energy is good for the country, its environment, and its public health. All we ask is that the NRC keep some eyes on the industry to keep it adequately safe (without any realistic expectation of perfection), just like the FAA keeps its eyes on air travel to keep it adequately safe (and the flying public all recognizes that it can never be perfect).

    5. On the issues of common defense, and the environment, the NRC is no longer leading the way. Nuclear power will improve these things, and that the Commission is failing to consider the major harms to the environment that are being done by fossil electricity, and the major dangers to US security that are caused by foreign oil is myopic.
      The simple answer is that Jackzo needs to get his Commission to deliver results in protecting the environment and promoting the common defense by getting designs approved with all deliberate speed.

  3. What is the emphasis in the NRC’s charter? Community safety! Jaczko must be accountable and held accountable to that charter. Community expectations are that new build should easily meet and exceed the requisite NRC regulations that apparently the current fleet are meeting – and it should exceed them by a magnitude or better , therefore the NRC should be seen as not meeting its charter by enabling the timely construction of new safer build. The current fleet that is operating so well now was oversighted from its conception by a more enabling AEC agency albeit with its own communication and accountability problems.

    1. Wooshy – can you point to this “NRC charter” that you mentioned. Here is a quote from the NRC web site regarding its stated MISSION:
      NRC Mission
      To regulate the nation’s civilian use of byproduct, source, and special nuclear materials to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety, to promote the common defense and security, and to protect the environment.
      The “community expectations” that you mention also include people like me who expect that the NRC will take its stated mission seriously. It has to recognize that undue delays in licensing new reactors a nation that burns more than a billion tons of coal and dumps at least 3.6 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year generating electricity is not following through on its responsibility to “ensure adequate protection of public health and safety, to promote the common defense and security, and to protect the environment.”
      How can one achieve an order of magnitude better safety than the currently operating nuclear plants?

  4. The FAA is similar to the AEC in that it also promotes aviation in addition to regulating it:
    [note it “encourages” commercial aviation]
    Every once in a while someone talks about splitting the FAA the way we did with the AEC, but it hasn’t gone anywhere yet. My guess is that air travel is practiced by the general public while most folks do not work with nuclear reactors. Familiarity provides the illusion of knowledge and a greater willingness of acceptance of the technology in question.

    1. The other issue is that the railroads are not as well connected in Congress as the coal lobbies. That influence was one of the major pushes for the split. Unfortunately, I cannot link to my sources; they were a lot of dead tree transcripts of congressional hearings held during the legislative process in 1972-1973.

      1. Did you mean airlines instead of railroads? Maybe you could post some of the “juicier” hearing transcipts as a pdf link.

        1. Robert – no, I meant railroads. They would have been a big winner if they had been able to discourage air travel by splitting the FAA like the AEC was split. The analogy is that a major source of political push to split the regulatory from the promotional parts of the AEC came from coal interests; in transportation that push would have come from passenger railroads.

  5. That was a blinding flash of stupidity that you had Rod. Again! Try not to sound as stupid as the average anti-nuke.

    1. I don’t see where the EPA exerts influence over the design of dirty coal power facilities, aside from specifying that they not pollute above certain levels. I don’t see coal plants waiting 7 years to have a certified design approved. I don’t see explosive natural gas plants having detailed safety regulations and operating specifications imposed upon them (or at least ones that work imposed upon them). I don’t see licenses being yanked from oil power stations if they have a bad whistleblower track record. Did that Kleen Energy exploding gas turbine have a resident inspector?
      All of this the NRC does. What’s so special about nuclear? If anything, it’s far more inherently safe than explosive fossil power stations. This is a perfect example of double standards and the 45 degree tilted playing field that nuclear is hobbled by.

  6. As a culture we are set the challenge of transitioning from coal to a non-GHG producing energy technology. I am open to considering other technology choices but I think the best choice that is scalable and safe is nuclear energy. We need something like 170 new 1200 MW(e) nuclear plants to fully replace coal and bright and conscientious guys like Dr. James Hansen suggest that the replacement of coal should come sooner rather than later. In this effort it does not really help us to have the chairman of the responsible regulatory agency hostile to the technology he regulates actively exerting his influence to go beyond reasonable efforts to insure safety and take actual measures designed to slow the progress and revival of nuclear technology. As a practical matter the United States needs to find a way to regain the capability of building new nuclear to preserve American quality of life. An antagonistic chairman and antagonistically oriented regulatory agency does not meet the current needs of the nation. Something closer to the FAA model (or frankly the old AEC) would be better for the current needs of the Country.
    The Blog Headline said it well “Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way” Chairman Jazko as the Country needs more safe low cost nuclear energy.

  7. Chairman Jazko is typically perceived as more skeptical of the value of nuclear power than his predecessor, Dale Klein. He certainly is more of a stickler-he was the minority opposition on reinstating Bellefonte. On the issue of advocacy vs. agnostic independent regulator however, he is almost word for word a parrot of Klein.
    On the reduced budget, deep sixing Yucca Mountain has reduced their workload as has several of the new plants putting their COL submittals on ice.

  8. I agree with Rod. The NRC should be an enabler. In the same way OSHA is for safety and the Labor Dept. is supposed to be (and why it was set up) as a regulator of and protector for, the worker.

  9. Rod,
    You asked: “How can one achieve an order of magnitude better safety than the currently operating nuclear plants?”
    from Westinghouse – http://www.ap1000.westinghousenuclear.com/ap1000_safety.html
    The AP1000 meets the U.S. NRC deterministic-safety and probabilistic-risk criteria with large margins. Results of the Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA) show a very low core damage frequency (CDF) that is 1/100 of the CDF of currently operating plants and 1/20 of the maximum CDF deemed acceptable for new, advanced reactor designs. Selective maybe and agreed there is no argument about current plants safety records. Thanks for the correction over NRC mission.

  10. Zero is also the number of COL’s that the NRC has approved – mainly because they did not get their first one until about three years ago.
    I fully support the need to be thorough, cross all of the t’s and dot all of the i’s, especially for the first few plants of each design. The single step process will have failed if there is something in the process that allows it to be challenged later, after a lot more money is at risk.
    That said, my point here was not that the chairman needs to be a cheerleader, but that he should not be expressing doubts on whether or not the technology is both valuable from a security and common good perspective and because it is a positive contributor to the environment. It is one thing to be tough but fair to applicants, it is quite another to imply that your only position is one of absolute agnosticism where you would be just as happy if there were no plants at all as you are with 104 of them.

  11. Rod
    I understand your point, it is stupid.
    The energy mix for making electricity is a public policy decision. It is not the job of the NRC to speak to this issue. It is the job of NRC to enforce regulations related to nuke plants. Got it!

    1. Kit – do you speak and read the English language? What is it about the NRC’s mission that you do not understand? Here is the mission statement from the About page:
      To regulate the nation’s civilian use of byproduct, source, and special nuclear materials to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety, to promote the common defense and security, and to protect the environment.
      The public policy decision has been made that an expanded use of nuclear energy will contribute to the protection of public health and safety and will promote the common defense and security.
      Just read the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and then go back and read the energy policy acts dating back for the past 30-40 years.
      It is most definitely NOT the job of the NRC to be a roadblock or an orifice.

      1. Rod, I do not understand why you allow kit P to post here. Not only does his abusive language undermine any credibility that he would otherwise have, his comments undermine the educational nature of this blog. If a person cannot make a comment without insulting others, then his contribution is of no value.

        1. Lynne – good point. Perhaps it is time to halt the indulgence; my patience has just about ended. However, sometimes it is a more effective tactic to allow someone the ability to ignore the old saw:
          Tis better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. In Kit’s case, I think he has had ample opportunity to remove all doubt about his tactics and ability to make a contribution to the discussion. After all, he has not only defended coal burning as completely harmless, but he also told us all that he still doubts that there is any linkage between smoking cigarettes and poor health.
          Perhaps it is time for me to take your advice and use the moderating tools at my disposal.

  12. It is a little hard for the relatively new readers of the Blog to understand the vitriol in some of Kit P’s posts. There are allot of people who really enjoy Atomic Insight’s Blog and the often insightful and wise observations shared (for a truly modest cost) regarding a key industry for America’s future.
    I just hope the frequent attacks do not get you down Rod or subtly incline you to take up gardening or some other useful past time instead of being so generous in sharing your not inconsiderable knowledge about nuclear energy on your Blog.

  13. It is a little hard for the relatively new readers of the Blog to understand the vitriol in some of Kit P’s posts.
    It can be difficult for long-time readers to understand without the insight that Kit P is (in spite of his alleged support for nuclear power) an anti-nuclear activist.

    1. Apologies for replying to my own comment, but I think I may need to expand on it a little. Rod has very skillfully articulated the case for the anti-nuclear movement very likely being a front for fossil fuel interests. If this is so, what is the best response of fossil fuel partisans? They cannot fight against Rod’s logic because they run a high risk of exposure, giving the game away completely, a propaganda disaster for them. A much better strategy is to pretend support for nuclear power, but attempt to undermine Rod’s reputation to try to remove the threat which he presents, and which clearly has them worried.

      1. I agree that this may be part of a strategy. Ad hominum attacks and gratuitous insults are signs of a weak argument, and are frequently employed by those who cannot support their point of view with facts. I enjoy the tone of civil discourse on this blog. Rod has never discouraged posters from respectful disagreement and is most patient.

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