NEI's Senior Vice President of Communications, Scott Peterson, passed along the following note concerning last week's report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, "U.S. Nuclear Power Safety One Year After Fukushima."
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has weighed in on the U.S. response to Fukushima and their conclusion is clear: We’re moving too slowly….No, wait, we’re moving too fast!...Check that, too slow!Scott also contributes on occasion to the Huffington Post.
Taking a page from Goldilocks, who couldn’t seem to find the right size chair, UCS can’t seem to find the right speed for applying lessons learned in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan a year ago.
After first praising the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for reacting quickly to the events in Japan, a new UCS report prods the agency to move faster. Then report declares that “speed is not always a virtue.” In the most remarkable twist of logic, UCS criticizes the nuclear energy industry for “acting too hastily by launching a voluntary program” to improve safety.
Really? Moving too quickly to improve safety?
At least the UCS report got something right. The industry is not waiting for orders from the NRC to act. Our FLEX strategy protects against the two main safety issues at Fukushima¬—the loss of electrical power and the loss of cooling capability—by stationing emergency backup equipment in multiple locations, including regional centers.
Every U.S. nuclear operator has committed to order additional equipment by the end of the month, and more than 300 pieces of backup emergency equipment has already been delivered or ordered. Rather than applauding these proactive safety measures, UCS complains that the industry is “jumping the gun” by getting ahead of the NRC.
The industry and the NRC are in general agreement on the issues that need to be addressed, but the regulatory process takes time. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the NRC fast-tracked the industry’s safety response by issuing a series of orders, with a deadline of October 2004.
After the industry met that deadline, the NRC began a rulemaking process to codify the orders and essentially get its procedural/bureaucratic house in order. Along the way, it added a few more requirements that weren’t finalized until close to the end of the decade. In that case, UCS distorts the facts to complain that the industry’s response was too slow.
Now that we are moving even more quickly to respond to Fukushima, UCS says we are going too fast. Does UCS seriously believe we should just sit and wait while the NRC process unfolds? We see ways to strengthen our defenses against extreme events now, and we are acting. To do otherwise would be an abrogation of our responsibility.
The NRC will oversee our safety enhancements, and will not hesitate tell us to do something more or something different—backed by the agency’s full enforcement authority—as the regulatory process plays out.
That approach might not satisfy Goldilocks or UCS, but we think it is juuuuust right to ensure that lessons learned from Japan are applied as quickly and efficiently as possible.