Skip to main content

BP Spill Commission Recommends Self-Regulator for Oil Industry Based on Nuclear Model

The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling has released its final report. For those of you with enough time and the inclination to delve into reports, there’s an interesting nuclear angle to this story

Borrowing an idea from the nuclear power Pres. Obama Inspects the Damageindustry, the oil-spill commission backs the creation of an industry-run organization modeled on the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations that was created after the Three-Mile Island disaster. That organization helps establish best practices and technology for reactors.

Well, I have to admit, my first reaction when I hear the words “self-regulating industry body” are not always warm and fuzzy. But with INPO, the nuclear industry has shown how it can work as a supplement to existing government regulation. As the report notes:

Nor is there anything casual about an INPO inspection. It is thorough and careful, extending for five to six weeks: two weeks of preparation and analysis of pre-delivered data from the site, two weeks on the site, a week of internal review and report writing by functional and cross-functional sub-teams, and perhaps another week reviewing with the INPO president.

Of course, there’s nothing written in stone here, and no official agreement that the oil industry will create an INPO-like body. However, that’s what one of the co-chairs, former Sen. Bob Graham, would like to see:

Our commission is urging the offshore oil and gas industry to follow in the path of other high-risk industries such as nuclear power and chemical, which have established industry organizations to assure the highest standards of safety and complement effective governmental regulation. Each of these organizations was established in the wake of a disaster — Three Mile Island and Bhopal. It is an open question as to whether the offshore industry leaders will see Deepwater Horizon as a similar mandate and opportunity to act.

Time will tell. However, there was an interesting tidbit in a press release from the American Petroleum Institute in response to the commission’s report:

API has begun the process of creating an industry safety program for deepwater operations that will build on API RP 75 [API’s “safety and environmental management standard” for offshore operations] and help to further drive a culture of excellence throughout the offshore industry. That program will draw from the best practices in the nuclear and chemical industries and use independent, third-party auditing to measure performance.

This much is certain: INPO has been an effective tool in complementing NRC regulation and enhancing the industry’s safety culture. It’s nice to see them get recognition for a job well done in the form of a recommendation to use their organization as model for enhancing safety in the energy industry.  

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…