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16 Comments

  1. ‘I will be monitoring things from a secret undisclosed location reported to be near my home. Remember that our core mission is the safety of existing plants. Anything past that is icing.
    Eliot’

    God help us. At first glance I thought this was a joke. I hope this is a VERY junior employee.

    1. @Steve – there is a certain portion of the reply that is a joke, provided in a lighthearted manner.

      However, the part about everything other than the operating plants being “icing” was provided in all seriousness. Eliot is most definitely NOT a junior employee.

    2. Steve and Rod,

      That “icing” comment was precisely what leapt from the page/screen for me.

      Just wow.

  2. Rod,

    Thanks for poking at the NRC more directly. I was very concerned by Mr. Virgilio’s statements and while he didn’t not identify which programs would be affected, it was clear to me that he was target new plant licensing. Everything for the current operating fleet would have higher priority.

    Every reactor design past AP1000 and ESBWR should consider themselves on notice for insufficient resources to do the job. Every COLA beyond Vogtle and Summer should do likewise.

  3. @ Rod,

    These budget issues at the NRC should come as no surprise to you. Our nation has been at war for ten years now and we’ve yet to have an honest budget process that applies national means to a realistic end. Every year, the funding for the wars has been emergency in nature even though we knew that we were in it for the long duration. I feel sorry for the rank and file at the NRC. They know what they need to do in order to meet agency objectives, but they are most likely receiving political pressure not to come up with new budget numbers except for the occassional cut drill.

      1. Yes, but similar to the aviation trust fund, it all goes into the general fund and the NRC can only spend what they’re authorized to spend.
        The first thing the NRC should have done was submitted an initial budget request to address Fukushima issues. This should not be an after-the-fact process.

        1. “The first thing the NRC should have done was submitted an initial budget request to address Fukushima issues. This should not be an after-the-fact process.”
          I believe that was exactly Rod’s point

      2. Fees? The NRC works on a ‘cost plus’ invoicing system where its own inefficiencies are passed on to nuclear operators who simply act as captive customers.

        No incentive to improve performance or be accountable. It is the most vicious of all budgeting/strategic framework where you do not have any desire to better yourself.

  4. If the FAA can handle the triple obligations of design certification, oversight of existing fleets as well as accident investigations, there is no reason the NRC can’t do the same thing. If more money is needed then it is the obligation of the Chairman to put together the plan to request more funds from Congress despite the nation’s budgetary problems.

    The FAA faces this issue of unplanned budgetary expenditures due to accident investigations on a regular basis. So if Chairman Jaczko wishes to have a history of being a true and competent manager versus that as a borderline anti-nuclear ideologue then he should have his people already working on this issue. He should have already had his people reviewing how similar organizations such as the FAA handle additional requests for money since he committed the NRC to following this current path the minute he took emergency control.

    However based on the email exchange above and the news releases on the Yucca Mt budget issues , I’m not optimistic Dr. Jaczko will be proactive on this issue. He has consistently proven to me, as a very interested party in seeing the expansion of nuclear power for many reasons, as one who consistently puts the politics of nuclear power ahead of his responsibility of running the NRC in an orderly fashion. I suspect instead he is already working on the bureaucratic equivalent of “throwing-up-my-hands-what-could-I-do” defense if asked at a future date why the licensing of new reactors and new designs are stalling out.

  5. From Eliot’s e-mail:
    Remember that our core mission is the safety of existing plants. Anything past that is icing.

    This says it all. It is any wonder that no nuclear power plant has yet been built under NRC rules during its whole existence of over three decades?

    The core mission of the NRC needs to be the promotion of safe nuclear power plants by means of the licensing process. This may seem to be a subtle shift, but it is not. Since nuclear is the safest form of power generation (even including Fukushima), its use needs to be encouraged by a timely and predictable licensing process.

    The tragedy of the situation is that the NRC still has to beg Congress to spend money on the licensing process, even though it is the licensees who fund the process, not the taxpayers.

  6. @donb – I have resigned myself to to not seeing the NRC promote or encourage nuclear power in any way. I would be satisfied (for a year or two, anyway) if they took seriously the need to enable its future development.

    1. @Joffan — I would take enable future development as well. As it is, the NRC seems to dream up as many ways possible to inhibit future development. Just try to license anything that isn’t a light water reactor if you want to experience this first hand.

      Bill Rodgers has it spot on — look at the FAA as an example. Here you have an agency that is able to certify the design of a “plastic” airplane, certainly different from conventional aluminum designs. They have worked with aircraft manufacturers and airlines to make flying the safest way to travel without shutting out all new designs for the last 30+ years.

    2. The NRC seems to be far more disabling than enabling in regards to new build nuclear power plants (NPPs), to the overall detriment both of the U.S. economy and of overall U.S. nuclear technology leadership.

      Simply consider the fact that sitting here as of 9/1/2011 no U.S. new build NPP project has been both started and completed since the NRC was formed out of the breaking-up of the AEC.

  7. From my perspective as a manufacturer, I am also concerned about the availability of critical components, such as pressure vessels.

    If we granted a construction license today, we would not take delivery of a vessel for 8 years? 9 years? Or more. Even with additional production capacity in China, the backlog puts the U.S. at a huge disadvantage. I fear the ship sailed and we watched it leave port.

    1. @John – smaller reactors are specifically designed to avoid the supply chain issues that you mention regarding pressure vessels. I hope you know that the United States never stopped producing nuclear energy production systems – we just stopped producing commercial power plants in the 1000 MWe range. We have produced a dozen or more nuclear propulsion power per per decade for nearly 5 decades in a row.

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