1. Rod,

    This lines up exactly with my previous observations about the NRC. The people who demand absolute safety from Nuclear have another agenda – other than safety, since the replacement fuels are NOT as safe. The NRC leadership is mainly responsible for the situation we are in. Of course, that leadership is politically appointed, which makes this a deeply political problem.

    Thanks for the update.

    1. It is difficult for me to understand what “this” is, or what, exactly, “lines up with [your] previous observations about the NRC”–which would appear, from context, to be strongly negative. Here is a case where the NRC staff was presented with a proposal, carried out a detailed technical and economic analysis, as it’s required to do, and came to the conclusion that it was NOT necessary for licensees to undertake actions that would have imposed a significant economic burden without a commensurate safety enhancement. When presented with that analysis, the NRC Commissioners voted, 4-1, to accept the staff’s recommendation. What, precisely, is your problem with that?

      Blaming the “NRC leadership” for “the situation we are in” is, at best, naive, and at worst, absurd. The “NRC leadership” is not responsible for the low cost of natural gas and policies that encourage the wide use of fossil fuels. The “NRC leadership” is not responsible for the legislation establishing tax credits for wind power that have so badly skewed power markets that some nuclear plants may be forced to shut down. The “NRC leadership” did not make the decision to stop work on the Yucca Mountain site (although the former Chairman did suspend the licensing process, illegally, once the Obama administration took that action)–in fact, the NRC developed and put in place regulations to govern the licensing of Yucca Mountain almost 15 years ago, and was working diligently to review the application before Mr. Obama came to office. More to the point, the current “NRC leadership”–i.e., four of the five Commissioners–have proven by word and deed to support the safe use of nuclear power. (As for the “political problem,” it is worth noting, once again, that the NRC is statutorily bipartisan–by law (the Atomic Energy Act), no more than three Commissioners can be from one political party. In fact, compared to many other regulatory agencies, the NRC has generally been relatively free from political taint, though there have been exceptions–see Jaczko, Gregory.)

      Is the NRC perfect? Far from it. Has the agency taken actions that are open to question and have imposed excessive regulatory burdens on its licensees? Yes. But to take a complex set of issues involving national energy, economic, and regulatory policy and lay most of the blame for “the situation we are in” at the feet of a single agency is–frankly–just plain dumb.

      1. @ Old Nuke,

        The Situation we are in…. refers back to another conversation about the difficulty of getting a design through the NRC in anything like a timely basis or with any idea of the cost of the review and with the demand that a paying customer be found first before bringing any 4th generation or even 3rd generation designs to the NRC.

        Sorry for the indefinite reference.

        The political situation I am referring to is the overall climate that radiation is more dangerous than any other hazard which has led to a regulatory climate of ALARA (As Low as Reasonably Achievable – essentially ratcheting down toward zero).

        The Current NRC leadership is responsible for these two items which I see as the main stopping points for expanding our nuclear fleet. The leadership may be bi-partisan but it is subject to the idea that Safety means elimination. I.e. – that ALARA SHOULD be the ruling paradigm for regulations rather than As Low As Reasonably Safe. I personally think that background levels of radiation are safe around the world. Regulations that push below those levels are not reasonable – and are motivated by something other than safety.

        We are on the verge of eliminating Coal with regulations. This means that electricity will become very expensive. We have nothing to replace Coal with. We cannot currently build NPP’s of any kind on a timely basis because of the limits mentioned above.

        So, my strong negative feelings are focused on the specific issues I mention above. They are NOT focused on the agency’s overall performance.

        I believe it is morally wrong to eliminate coal and at the same time restrict the building of Nuclear power plants so that we are forced to pay enormous prices for a basic commodity. Each person who colludes in that process shares the guilt.

        1. Almost all of your response has nothing to do with the subject of Rod’s original item. Perhaps you should stay on topic rather than use any opportunity to air your grievances with regard to the way in which the NRC operates–especially since, in this particular case, you should be applauding the agency’s position.

          Your response also suggests to me that you know very little about the way in which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission operates, either at the staff or the Commission level. As for the assertion that the NRC “demand[s] that a paying customer be found first before bringing any…designs” to the agency for review, this is just plain wrong. The agency has reviewed any number of plant designs for certification well before a “paying customer” for the design was identified. However, the NRC does use the existence (or not) of a potential customer as a means of prioritizing the staff’s effort, as they do not have infinite resources. If it looks as if there are no potential customers, and will not be for many years, a design will go to the bottom of the priority list. (With regard to 4th-generation designs, I have not seen any indication that a US utility is prepared to buy one any time in the foreseeable future.)

          Timeliness of reviews is a separate issue–and here, I agree with you; the NRC’s record with regard to the completion of its design certification reviews in anything approaching the estimates promulgated several years ago is terrible. And it’s unlikely to get better, because one of the NRC’s true shortcomings is a reluctance to deal with technological innovation. Timeliness in construction is a different matter, and there we have little data; we’ll have to see how well Vogtle and Summer do in staying on schedule (and budget), and if there are delays, who gets the blame. But as far as the costs of reviews are concerned, I suggest you take that up with Congress–which wrote the law requiring the NRC to recapture about 90% of its budget through annual fees and hourly review charges to its licensees and applicants.

          Overall, I suggest that most of your criticism is misplaced. The responsibility for the political situation lies with the politicians, not the NRC. Where there are “restrictions” in place concerning the building of nuclear power plants, they are driven primarily by State governments, not the NRC. And it is Congress and the Executive Branch that have set the tone as far as development and deployment of advanced reactor designs are concerned–the NRC was not responsible for the demise of the Integral Fast Reactor or the Next Generation Nuclear Plant. We no longer operate within the paradigm of the 1950s and 1960s, where the Federal government (via the Atomic Energy Commission) actually paid for the construction and operation of new reactor designs. If you want to see a change in this regard, you should focus on those who are actually responsible.

          1. @ Oldnuke,

            “Almost all of your response has nothing to do with the subject of Rod’s original item. Perhaps you should stay on topic rather than use any opportunity to air your grievances with regard to the way in which the NRC operates–especially since, in this particular case, you should be applauding the agency’s position.”

            Yes, I am off topic (slightly) and using the opportunity to air grievances. I am very thankful that the agency ruled well on spent fuel. My comments are aimed at Rod’s comments on the politics of the situation.

            “Not surprisingly, the politicians and intervenors praised the Chairman for her lonely stance. Here is a quote from a statement from Dr. Edwin Lyman of the UCS.

            That said, we commend NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane for her clear, logical and courageous comments accompanying her vote, which directed the NRC staff to continue its assessment.”

            NRC Chair Macfarlane is continuing the type of leadership – perhaps with more politeness – that Jaczko was doing which led to the illegal stopping of the review of Yuca Mountain.

            You are very right that I know little of the way the NRC operates. I am a layperson in this whole conversation. But I am not making observations about the whole NRC but about the politically appointed leadership which over the past several years has been successful at slowing the expansion of Nuclear power by making waste disposal technically illegal. I might be incorrect about this conclusion but that is the way that I as a layperson see it.

            I am glad that the 3 other commissioners voted well. I am glad the staff is well trained and dedicated but I am very well aware that the issue lies with the politics of the whole, which is the reason for my first comment. We are in a political situation – centered around the way the NRC is being politically manipulated to actually prevent the expansion of Nuclear power.

            The comments about the licensing of Small to Medium reactors comes from several of Rod’s articles posted over the past few years. I distinctly remember reading that the NRC would prioritize licensing requests by asking that developers bring a customer.

            “As for the assertion that the NRC “demand[s] that a paying customer be found first before bringing any…designs” to the agency for review, this is just plain wrong. The agency has reviewed any number of plant designs for certification well before a “paying customer” for the design was identified.”

            Can you name me one SMR or 4th generation design which has been reviewed?

            I understand that the NRC has asked for a reduced budget. That decision was made by the Chairman in the face of many designs for both SMR’s and or 4th generation designs that were under development. That is a political decision that tells the developers / potential manufacturers to go away, don’t bother us, we don’t have any intention of actually allowing you to license your design.

            So, If I am wrong about saying that the NRC is actively preventing Nuclear developers from licensing their designs I am very happy. I would be thrilled to know I am wrong about needing a customer. It would be great to be able to submit a design to the NRC and have the actually review it in a timely basis.

            Please do not take my comments on the politics surrounding the NRC to be a criticism of the people working in the agency and the normal operations of keeping existing reactors safe. It is a criticism of those who use the NRC to actually prevent new nuclear power from coming on line and who use it to hamstring existing Nuclear using waste as an excuse. (Yes the commission voted well).

  2. Has anyone found the actual meeting/vote records on the NRC web site? I have searched everywhere and can find no mention at all of a meeting, voting records, etc. Usually on a Commission vote there is a report, including dissenting opinion discussion. I’d really like to read the dissenting opinion, but can find no records for this vote even happening on the NRC web site. Any help?

    1. mjd,
      Everything you asked for (meeting summary, voting records, including dissenting opinion and supporting opinions) was on the ADAMS site on Wednesday, May 28, 2014.

      Don S.

      1. @Donald M. Scheef May 29, 2014 at 9:31 PM. Can you provide the ADAMS Accession Number for that report? I have found the Non-Concurrence Process Report for the NRC Staff member who did not concur. It is ML13282A632. But I am still unable to find the Commissioner’s report using general search criteria in ADAMS. Thanks, mjd.

        1. The document in question was a Commission Action Memorandum (COMSECY); the specific number is COMSECY-13-0030. Rather than searching in ADAMS, on the NRC website, go to “NRC Library,” and click on “Document Collections.” From there, click on “Commission Documents” and then on “Commission Action Memoranda (COMs and COMSECYs).” Finally, click on 2013, and you will see the COMSECYs listed in numerical order. The entry for COMSECY-13-0030 contains the original paper, the Commission’s voting record, and the Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM) that was issued. The enclosures to the paper include the non-concurrence report.

          1. OldNuke, perfect! I now have it. As a retired Operator you probably can’t believe the pleasure I find in following a procedure that actually works the first time! Your ability to successfully navigate the NRC document e-pile gives away your age more than your user name. That ADAMS thing has me stumped, not user friendly. But I will add the ADAMS help desk works like a fine tuned machine, quick, high performance.

  3. A number of politicians, including Senators Boxer [Democrat], Markey [Democrat], and Sanders [self-described Democrat Socialist, and against VY too], and professional intervenor organizations, including the UCS, were disappointed by the 4-1 vote.

    Alison MacFarlane who voted against – Democrat.

    This isn’t partisan. It’s a fact. And again, no, I am NOT a Republican. But I am disgusted with the anti-nuclearism (apathy at best) of this abominable Administration and its lackeys in Congress.

    1. I keep noticing your disdain for the current administration, and Democrats in general.

      You claim not to be a Republican, but you seem to have the Republican script down pat.

      What I see missing from your narrative is your willingness to name names on YOUR side of the argument. Which non-democrats do you think are going to ride to the rescue of nuclear energy, Paul? Lets see some names, on the right, that are championing nuclear energy. Surely we can name many on the right, (and some on the left), that are heavily invested in fossil fuel. Many names too, on the right, who are global warming deniers. In fact, some of the more popular right wing jackasses are denying the reality of global warming. This aspiring little fop wanna be McCarthy, Cruz, comes to mind. ( If he doesn’t scare the sh*t out of ya, you ain’t paying attention.)

      So, you are quite good at naming left wing enemies, Paul. How about being specific about who on the right you consider to be friendly to nuclear energy.

      You get a Republican into the Oval Office, thats gonna change things in regards to nuclear energy?? If you believe that, than how ’bout expounding on WHO, and what you claim they are going to do that is so positive for nuclear energy’s future.

      Generally, I’m not so sure its a good idea to hold the right up as the champions of sound science. Unless you want to credit Neanderthals with inventing the wheel.

      1. You know POA,

        I agree that Paul is not putting up names of people who will be president and Nuclear friendly. But your statements about the right not being champions of sound science sound very strange coming from a person who keeps saying that he does not know the science behind Nuclear power. I really don’t think this is the right location to discuss those issues. You will find some scientists here (Bryan) who doubt the catastrophic effects of CO2 but still support Nuclear power.
        is a climate scientist who disagrees with the consensus. He states that CO2 has some effect but that there are many other effects that need to be taken into account. His blog is quite technical.

        So, we have a very smart guy that is saying he doubts the crisis is as extreme as other scientists say.

        At the same time, I have noticed that there is an avoidance of discussions of Nuclear power on conservative political sites. This has been very frustrating to me and I am concluding that advertising by fossil fuels drives editorial policy.

        1. Gee, where’s that list of names?

          Not partisan?

          Gimmee a break, Paul.

    1. @ Eric_G

      Which is why incumbents are SO SO eager to pass laws to limit campaign contributions. Why allow the people who want to replace you to spend their money to do it? Money in elections means name recognition. The possibility of winning. Spending a bunch more money past name recognition can backfire because people get tired of hearing you.

      The money to incumbents in office goes as a sort of protection racket. “My staff will write a very complex law that can’t be understood so that when my staff leaves my office they can be hired as consultants for businesses….” So businesses pay money to make sure that at least laws under cut their competition and give them an effective monopoly.

      Oh, am I talking about the current situation with the NRC?

  4. Rod….is there are reason I can post on the other threads, but not this one?

    You’re better than that, Rod. Reconsider.

    1. @POA

      I have started closing the comment thread to older posts. There are several reasons for that decision. If there are particular posts where people want to reopen the discussion, I am open to requests.

      That said, the filter that determines when a post needs moderation before appearing sometimes acts in mysterious ways. I have always warned people who were treading close to my limits before blocking them. You have no worries on that front – so far. 🙂

  5. Rod – If I count from January 3rd 1967, my first day of Class 67-1 Basic Nuclear Power School, I have been a nuke for some 47-1/2 years. I know a lot but I have never stopped learning. When folks I meet find out what I do for a living they always want to discuss it with me. Typically when we finish they invariably tell me “noboby ever told us that – they just try and make us afraid of nuclear”. This happens all to often and it is a real shame. We do a very poor job at educating our young about nearly everything and it is no surprise that we have created a largely scientifically illiterate society. We will never be able to select the best scientific options under these conditions. The solution begins with scientific literacy. I could go on forever but I should give others a turn – Thanks

    1. @mike williams

      Despite all of the good things that Rickover did, I give him a major portion of the blame for the lack of basic nuclear education among our population.

      Just imagine how different it would be if all of the hundred thousand or so former Navy nukes had not been told to be quiet about what they learned in Nuclear Power School, prototype and on their ships.

      After all, the power plants are just engines; they are not weapons systems any more than jet engines hanging under a B-52 are weapons systems.

      In my opinion, teaching people about nuclear energy is easy – as you mentioned, most people are fascinated once they start understanding the near magical properties.

      Why have nuclear professionals kept this exciting stuff so mysterious for so many years?

  6. Rod: Good analysis of the NRC policy regarding storage of spent fuel.

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