Monday, August 21, 2006

NRC Chairman to Nuclear Industry: "Show me."

New NRC Chairman Dale Klein in a speech delivered to the NEI dinner at the latest meeting of the Nuclear Strategic Issues Advisory Committee (NSIAC):

Most of the metaphors related to vision have to do with the vastness of the skies, and limitless horizons. Mine has more to do with my roots. More than a century ago, an educator and politician named Willard Duncan Vandiver coined the saying that has defined my home state of Missouri for all time.

Speaking to an audience in blue-blooded Philadelphia, he said, "I came from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."

We've grown a bit in Missouri since then - we have some Republicans, and we even have a nuclear plant. But some things don't change.

When I hear it said we're going to build 50 nuclear plants in the next 20 years, I say, show me - show me the designs, and then show me the hardware and the construction, and then show me you have the people and procedures in place to run those new facilities in a way that will ensure public safety and security. And by the way, show me that you're maintaining the highest standards of safety performance for the plants already in operation.

In other words, my vision is that first and foremost NRC needs to continue to be a strong regulator. We will hold our licensees accountable. My vision also is that we, the NRC, articulate our requirements clearly, and that in addition to being demanding, we are responsive.
He continued:
We will ask hard questions, but not in a vacuum. I am a great believer in milestones - back on the farm in Missouri, we called them "chores" - and in metrics. We will do our utmost to set out our requirements, and to let the industry know - collectively and individually - where it stands at all times.

The bulk of our questions and metrics will concern technical issues - design, construction, safety, and security. But we are also very concerned about a much more basic - human - dimension. Where is the industry going to get all of the talented people to run these advanced new plants safely while shepherding today's fleet of plants through the balance of their extended lives?

I don't think I need to run the numbers for you - NEI's own surveys chronicle the tens of thousands of professional and skilled craft workers needed to keep the current fleet in operation, including the replacements for the operators, engineers, health physicists and others who are taking their invaluable knowledge with them into retirement.

And how many more professionals and craft workers will be needed for the new plants whose applications are starting to arrive at NRC?
It's a very interesting speech that lays out a critical industry issue in a very accessible way. Read it right now.

UPDATE: Rod Adams is making a connection between this speech and the Marshall Loeb article referenced above.

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