Skip to main content

On Vermont Yankee and States’ Rights

Over at the ANS Nuclear Cafe, Meredith Angwin who blogs at Yes Vermont Yankee, makes the case for why the NRC has jurisdiction over nuclear plants:

Watching the POP [Vermont Public Oversight Panel] at work, it was clear to me why the NRC has jurisdiction, and why nuclear regulation cannot be a state privilege. Nuclear energy cannot be regulated by a group of people who may be eager to please their legislative employers. There needs to be objective criteria, assessed by full-time experts, in order to keep a plant working well.

Having the internal workings of the plant doubly-assessed, by a group of people chosen politically, could get in the way of plant operations. It could even possibly degrade safety. Part-time inspectors with political agendas? This is not the same as having the Occupational Safety and Health Administration come to the plant. Trained OSHA inspectors go to many industrial facilities.

The NRC catches a lot of guff in the nuclear industry: The NRC is slow to act. The NRC is an expensive, overgrown bureaucracy. The NRC is headed by political appointees.

But still, down in the trenches at the inspection level, the NRC knows what it is doing. The inspectors are trained and professional. They don’t have political agendas. They won’t accept a cup of coffee from the people they are inspecting.

After watching the POP activities, it is clear to me that nuclear regulation is the business of the federal government. The Atomic Energy Act was the precursor of the NRC, and kept the nuclear safety regulation at the federal level of the government. That is how it must remain.

Thank you, NRC, for your day-to-day professionalism.

Hope ANS didn’t mind us copying many of the good parts, though there is still plenty left for others to check out.

Comments

Meredith Angwin said…
David, thanks for the good words and the link!
Meredith

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 Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…