Wednesday, September 17, 2008

NRC Throws a Punch in Massachusetts

MA.State.House.iStock_000000831934Small The Nuclear Regulatory Commission tends to float a bit above the political fray - you could say it sticks to its knitting, keeps it head down, insert additional cliche here - so it's a genuine surprise that it has made salient comments - any comments at all - about state legislation that blasts nuclear energy.

But that's what happened in Massachusetts:

In July, the Bay State's House passed a resolution in support of efforts to have independent safety assessments conducted at nuclear power plants in Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire [we don't know how Vermont and New Hampshire feel about this, but knowing New Englanders, probably snorts all around].

Then there's this:

The Legislature also resolved that it's time the nation begin its transition "away from nuclear power to an affordable, clean and sustainable national energy policy."

And what has inflamed the pawk the caw types?

The resolution had several bullet points that were of concern to the House of Representatives. Those included were accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and an earthquake that affected nuclear reactors in Japan.

TMI? Chernobyl? How, uh, 1990 of them. And thus does the NRC put things into better perspective:

"I understand the concerns raised by the Commonwealth," wrote Samuel J. Collins, an NRC regional administrator, in response to the resolution. "However, I feel it is necessary to address some of the statements and assumptions conveyed in that document to dispel any misconceptions you may have with our regulatory role, performance, or processes."

We won't go over all of that here, because you know what Collins is going to say,though by all means read through the story - Collins responds to everything in a measured fashion and proves himself an excellent spokesman.

What's notable here is that the NRC has not let this legislative mischief go without comment. The implication of their response is that while issues around nuclear energy should be fully discussed, and that men and women of good will will have variant viewpoints, one must still start with the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions and good legislation.

We'd guess that Massachusetts lawmakers are up to some election year politicking and pushing some go-to fear buttons rather heedlessly. Wonderful to see the NRC throw the warm water of facts into the gummy mix.

Picture of the Massachusetts State House.

4 comments:

Bill said...

Mark Flanagan: "- so it's a genuine surprise that [the Nuclear Regulatory Commission] has made salient comments - any comments at all - about state legislation that blasts nuclear energy."
and
"What's notable here is that the NRC has not let this legislative mischief go without comment."

Am I being unduly cynical to think that the NRC is responding, not so much to defend nuclear energy, but to defend the *NRC*?

"That ISA was a unique, one-time inspection in response to a specific set of concerns," wrote Collins. "The NRC's Reactor Oversight Process, implemented in 2000, incorporates nearly all of the key inspection elements addressed in the Maine Yankee ISA. The Commission remains convinced that the oversight process is more effective than an ISA because it is a continual assessment process and it provides for increased oversight of plants and programs that exhibit declining performance."

Anonymous said...

If you have time (lots of time), take a look at the comments posted to the newspaper article.

Joffan said...

The NRC defending the NRC is good enough. The example of Vermont Yankee's license renewal is an example of past failure to do so, where (apparently) three different bodies are all covering the same ground, wasting the time and effort on both sides that could be used more productively. ISAs are a similar waste of time - they appear to stem from the conspiracy theory that the NRC are not independent of the reactor operators.

Anonymous said...

The Maine Yankee ISA was performed at the request of the governor - who caught wind of the allegation that Yankee Atomic had been "cheating" on their SB LOCA analysis for the plant. As far as I know, the ISA did conclude that the allegation was correct. Industry behavior like that fans the flames of the conspiracy theorists, and it's hard to blame them in cases like that.