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Power United States

AP Investigation Concludes US Nuke Regulators Weakening Safety Rules 199

Posted by samzenpus
from the what's-the-worst-that-could-happen? dept.
Raenex writes "An investigation by the Associated Press has found a pattern of safety regulations being relaxed in order to keep aging nuclear power plants running. According to their investigation, when reactor parts fail or systems fall out of compliance with the rules, studies are conducted by the industry and government. The studies conclude that existing standards are 'unnecessarily conservative.' Regulations are loosened, and the reactors are back in compliance. From the article: 'Examples abound. When valves leaked, more leakage was allowed — up to 20 times the original limit. When rampant cracking caused radioactive leaks from steam generator tubing, an easier test of the tubes was devised, so plants could meet standards. Failed cables. Busted seals. Broken nozzles, clogged screens, cracked concrete, dented containers, corroded metals and rusty underground pipes — all of these and thousands of other problems linked to aging were uncovered in the AP's yearlong investigation. And all of them could escalate dangers in the event of an accident.'"
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AP Investigation Concludes US Nuke Regulators Weakening Safety Rules

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:25PM (#36501770)

    It's not just nuke plants. U.S. infrastructure in general has been sinking into the shitter since the 70's. My own city's sewer system and coal-fire power plant are both in need of almost complete replacement. And don't even get me started on the bridges.

    Of course, the deterioration of some pieces of infrastructure are a little more dangerous than others.

    • I'd guess NYC but you're describing every other major city just as well.
    • by toastar (573882) on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:31PM (#36501846)
      Profits > Safety
      Safety > Freedom
      Ergo...
      Profits > Freedom

      Clearly this is what the founders intended
      • by MrKaos (858439) on Monday June 20, 2011 @05:54PM (#36506316) Journal

        Profits > Safety Safety > Freedom Ergo... Profits > Freedom Clearly this is what the founders intended

        It's no longer Capitalism, it's Corpratism. Now bow down and worship your master.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:33PM (#36501882) Homepage

      Look on the bright side: At least the bankers and defense contractors are doing OK...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jawnn (445279)

        Look on the bright side: At least the bankers and defense contractors are doing OK...

        Yeah, and they provide "jobs", you ungrateful peons, so shut your pie holes, or we're going to send another two million of them to China.

        • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Monday June 20, 2011 @01:14PM (#36502492)
          Jobs devoted to putting worthless craters in the sand and obliterating infrastructure. How about we stop spending money on destroying sh*t and spend it on building stuff? Roosevelt accomplished some pretty great things by going that direction. Too bad we're still relying on the very same old and now decayed infrastructure he built...
          • by elrous0 (869638) *

            How about we stop spending money on destroying sh*t and spend it on building stuff?

            What are you, some kind of commie?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            I know this is heresy, but maybe, just maybe, FDR shouldn't have built those things. Maybe private enterprise doesn't build things, not just because of short term interests, but because of the costs of maintaining things in the long run.

            The government can buy everyone a car. You'll just get a magical free car out there in your driveway. Catch is, you can never transfer ownership to anyone else. You have to buy the insurance, the fuel, do the maintenance, etc. Suddenly, that free gift is looking pretty ex
            • I understand where you are coming from and I'm certain there are plenty of items that shouldn't have been built. That said, most of the infrastructure out there was/is essential to economic development of the country. The Interstate and US highway, as well as the national electric grid are chief among them. We also could very well have afforded to maintain them but for short sighted leaders that misappropriated funds to play cold-war politics. Even now the cost of putting things right, especially when v
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is the norm through the "developed" world. I guess it is referred to as developed since anything new is not going to be built anymore. We just sit on the labor of our parents and grandparents, reaping rewards and then bitch that stuff breaks.

      It is time to start building new things and planning for the future. New reactors. New, fast rail. Better planned cities. Cities that are less noisy and more friendly to actual human than a car (eg. see Paris or New York vs. Chicago or Los Angeles).

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:36PM (#36501940) Homepage

      Of course, the deterioration of some pieces of infrastructure are a little more dangerous than others.

      And this, not waste disposal, not nuclear proliferation, not anything else, will be the functional death of nuclear power.

      FTFA:

      Commercial nuclear reactors in the United States were designed and licensed for 40 years. When the first ones were being built in the 1960s and 1970s, it was expected that they would be replaced with improved models long before those licenses expired.

      But that never happened. The 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, massive cost overruns, crushing debt and high interest rates ended new construction proposals for several decades.

      Instead, 66 of the 104 operating units have been relicensed for 20 more years, mostly with scant public attention. Renewal applications are under review for 16 other reactors.

      No engineer in their right mind would have suggested keeping generation 1 nuclear plants running 'forever'. Perhaps they could be run for long times with strict attention to detail and risk and significant monetary expense, but that's not happening. This is not going to end well. Not at all.

      • "No engineer in their right mind would have suggested keeping generation 1 nuclear plants running 'forever'."

        No engineer in their right mind would have forgotten that dirty hacks are forever perennial.

        • by ultranova (717540)

          No engineer in their right mind would have forgotten that dirty hacks are forever perennial.

          Bit every engineer employed a by quarterly-profit driven corporations most certainly would. That's what they get bonuses for, after all.

    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      agreed. It's a systematic refusal to proactively spend money on repairs, and to only reactively spend money when you get caught after a problem.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:53PM (#36502186) Homepage Journal

      Either everyone is cutting costs or seeing how much slack they can get away with.

      Fukushima was a wake-up call - seems we stupid simians need one every 20 or so years, to remind us we can poison our own air, water and food supply if we don't take it seriously.

      There's also a good chance the American Way of trying to maximize profit has encouraged everyone to cut corners, where much of it was just common practice of American public and private sector before. The difference between public is cutting spending, where private wants to keep the money for that big check for the CEO and to look all pretty to Wall Street.

    • I read somewhere that one of the first signs of a civilization deterioration is the inability/unwillingness to repair infrastructure.

      While looking for a reference online, I found this [wikipedia.org], and it's eerily accurate.
      • by ackthpt (218170)

        I read somewhere that one of the first signs of a civilization deterioration is the inability/unwillingness to repair infrastructure.

        While looking for a reference online, I found this [wikipedia.org], and it's eerily accurate.

        What's fascinating is seeing how much infrastructure was build in the US from the 1950's to the 1960's and how little has been done since. Further, it takes a major effort to repair and maintain what was built - bit of a burden on the resources of the people, isn't it? In the midwest, did we really need a road every mile??

        • It does take resources to maintain things, but isn't it cheaper in the long run that to replace it? And while I do agree with you on the road department, it's not only that, but also with key buildings like the power generators in the article. It makes me wonder if they ever, ever constructed a train system in the US, if they would be able to maintain it.
    • by TheLink (130905)

      Thing is the Federal Reserve has already in effect created USD9 trillion or more ( http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&q=federal+reserve+trillion [google.com] ).

      For perspective the US Interstate highway cost about 425 billion dollars (in "2006" dollars) to build.

      So as an outsider (non US citizen, not in the USA) I wonder why not print another trillion or so to fix and build some stuff before China and the rest of the countries wise up? Would it really screw the USA much more? At least the US people would

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        The reason is the same reason the "Stimulus" mostly went to banks. If that money actually went into real construction and infrastructure projects, it would have been more inflationary than it was.

        The reason just printing up a Trillion dollars in new debt and spreading it around did not spark the recovery the politico's sold it to the public with, is the very same reason it did not trigger the total collapse of the dollar the gold bugs thought it would. It by and large ended up filling holes in balance she

    • My own city's sewer system and coal-fire power plant are both in need of almost complete replacement.

      That's a problem with your local city, I.E. don't confuse local problems with global problems. My own city has no power plants, but has just finished a decade long upgrade of it's water and sewer systems. (And I know of many other cities that are working on their infrastructure as well.)

      And don't even get me started on the bridges.

      Can we just shut the f___ up about bridges? Ever since the 1970's t

      • And don't even get me started on the bridges.

        Can we just shut the f___ up about bridges? Ever since the 1970's the Chicken Little's have been screaming about the bridges and how they're all going to fall down any day now. Yet, the sky persists in not falling. Yes, bridges have fallen - but it's literally a one-in-ten-million event. So what? (And no, you can't trust the various reports. They depend on self reporting, and the locals flat out lie to raise their position on the lists so the get to the head of the line for pork.)

        Well, not to get your dander up, but in my city, the major bridges get major upkeep every few years. Repave the road deck, check the supports, etc. And then about once a decade or so they do a *really* major overhaul. Then again, those bridges do get a few million cars driving over them every year, so they might be an exception, but that maintenance schedule suggests they really should be looked after regularly.

    • by GooberToo (74388)

      Too true. I was shocked to read, this decade, the US had three cities which has power reliability less than most third world countries. In fact, those same three had less power availability than Iraq did when they had those constant rolling blackouts and power outages, immediately following the "termination of military action."

      The infrastructure is completely rotting in the US. Worse, WE HAVE ALL PAID FOR IT TO BE MAINTAINED AND REPLACED. This is part of our taxes and utilities fees. Which means ALL America

  • Some people are concerned about waste (which is a good thing to be concerned about) and some are concerned about accidents.

    I am concerned about regulatory capture, which is the consistent theme of government regulation. This is just one example of many. Yes, it will lead to accidents in the future. But I think examining the root cause is useful.

    Almost any kind of government regulation is eventually going to result in the regulatory body being co-opted by those doing the regulation. This will happen largely invisibly, and most of the time will only be readily apparent when disaster strikes. And then, the problem will be blamed on a few corrupt individuals and it will be 'fixed'.

    It, of couse, was systemic, and not the result of a few corrupt individuals. And all that will be fixed is perception while the problem continues to persist. We see this in the oil industry, the telecommunications industry, and now we're seeing that the same is true of the nuclear industry.

    Of course, this was a problem in Japan too. It's quite obvious that the company running the Fukishima reactors consistently understated the severity of the issue while it was happening, and I expect that a detailed investigation will show that the plants should probably never have been operating in the first place.

    Regulatory capture. It's inevitable.

    This is my biggest worry. I'm not at all sure how the problem can be fixed either.

    • by Sprouticus (1503545) on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:36PM (#36501938)

      your premise, that capture is inevitable, is false in my opinion. If regulating bodies are/were properly funded this would not be the case. The problem is to fund them properly, the governement would have to pay the regulators more than they would get in the industry itself. That is how you prevent losee of people to the industry and thus create minimal conflict of interest.

      Actually by doing this you reverse the flow, making being the regulator the end goal, so that the best in the field are regulators.

      The problem of course is the cost is really high for this. Especially in areas such as finance.

      • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:41PM (#36502006)

        your premise, that capture is inevitable, is false in my opinion. If regulating bodies are/were properly funded this would not be the case. The problem is to fund them properly, the governement would have to pay the regulators more than they would get in the industry itself. That is how you prevent losee of people to the industry and thus create minimal conflict of interest.

        Actually by doing this you reverse the flow, making being the regulator the end goal, so that the best in the field are regulators.

        The problem of course is the cost is really high for this. Especially in areas such as finance.

        Regulatory capture is not so much about a revolving door between industry and regulator as about how companies use regulation for their benefit and to keep out competition. While paying regulators more would help lessen the revolving door it would not do much about the underlying reasons behind regulatory capture. You'd just have better regulators to capture.

        • by artor3 (1344997)

          But if being a regulator paid better than the industry did, why would someone risk losing such a great paying job by taking bribes? The reason regulators get bought off now is because, worst case scenario, they lose their job and accept a higher paying job at the company that bought them.

          • But if being a regulator paid better than the industry did, why would someone risk losing such a great paying job by taking bribes? The reason regulators get bought off now is because, worst case scenario, they lose their job and accept a higher paying job at the company that bought them.

            Regulatory capture has nothing to do with taking bribes or other illegal activity. It's about using regulatory power to the company's advantage.

            • Yes, it can take many forms, for example if big company X and big company Y are both losing market share to small companies A though W they both lobby to support a measure requiring that every company in the field should have to file a fuckton of paperwork but they make sure it's a fixed cost per company in the field.
              say 100K.
              (but it's for the sake of accountability or safety or some other nice sounding thing, doesn't really matter if it's not useful at all)

              for the big companies it makes little difference s

          • by PickyH3D (680158)

            This implies that simply because the regulator makes more than he could if he worked within the industry, then he could not be bribed.

            Why not? Tons of unethical people make it to the top, only to decide that they want even more money.

            The worst case scenario should be that they go to jail. As does the briber (those responsible, and not the entire company as one rotten apple does not necessarily have to poison the tree).

            As for the solution to the problem? Start sticking to requirements and guidelines. Excepti

      • So, basically, you are suggesting that you put the tax payer on the hook for how much the companies are willing to hire regulators away from the regulatory agency. The problem is that even without regulatory capture, people with experience enforcing the regulations are valuable for the companies being regulated. The fact of the matter is that most government regulations are subject to interpretation. The best way for a company to ensure that it is in compliance with the regulations is to hire someone who wa
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        your premise, that capture is inevitable, is false in my opinion.

        Even if it was true, the premise that regulatory capture happens invisibly is demonstrably false.
        Regulators generate endless reports, notices, commentary periods, requests for information, etc etc etc
        Everything there is to know about regulatory capture in [industry] will laid out step by step in public documents.

        You avoid regulatory capture three ways:
        1a. Sufficient funding for regulators to hire inspectors who can have a meaningful presence in the industry being regulated
        1b. Sufficient funding for lawyers

    • Regulatory capture. It's inevitable.

      Not sure if it's inevitable, but it's definitely a concern. It's especially a concern when at least one goal of the regulatory agency is to not inflict too much harm on the industry it is regulating. You know, kinda like in the US, where regulatory agencies are regularly pilloried for standing in the way of a business doing its business.

      This is my biggest worry. I'm not at all sure how the problem can be fixed either.

      Step 1: Make a decision on whether it is important for you to control the dumping of externalities onto the public, or whether you want corporate success.
      Step 2: Remove one

      • Step 1: Make a decision on whether it is important for you to control the dumping of externalities onto the public, or whether you want corporate success.

        I think active regulation is a short-term way to handle this. The goal in all regulation should be the creation of an objectively applied set of rules that force the externalities back in.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      It is not inevitable. You find those regulators who were willing to bend the rules and you jail them. For long times. You end the revolving door between regulators and those they regulate and you pierce the corporate veil in any case of regulation violation. If the engineers said the piping was bad but the managers did not replace it to get bigger bonuses, then those managers can rot in a cell.

    • Regulatory capture. It's inevitable. This is my biggest worry. I'm not at all sure how the problem can be fixed either.

      Just privatize the regulating bodies, silly!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What the hell do you expect when the regulatory bodies are hostile to licensing new plants, which would use newer, safer designs and technologies, and when they do deign to license one they smother it in enough red tape to quadruple the cost?

    • by couchslug (175151)

      They are hostile because business is not to be trusted, is never to be trusted, that has never been different, and can never be changed.

  • Reading: zero.

    This is the result of the "invisible hand" in regards to projects so overwhelmingly expensive that they're too big to fail for the stakeholders.

  • by AcidPenguin9873 (911493) on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:39PM (#36501980)

    Folks, this is why we need to find a way to pay for true investigative journalism. This sort of thing is NOT going to be uncovered by crowdsourced reports or bloggers with (other, non-journalist) day jobs and bills to pay. Wikileaks relys on insiders having a motive for revealing information; there are merits to that method but it doesn't cover all cases.

    Those of you complaining about how journalism is crap, this is an example of non-crap journalism.

    I don't know a great way of funding journalism like this. The Associated Press is funded by member newspapers who use their stories in the local papers. No one is paying for the local papers because of Google News and the like, so if those papers go under, AP's funding is probably in some jeopardy over the next 5-10 years. I would be fine with paying the AP directly somehow, but I still don't see a means of making that work.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:53PM (#36502182)

      Maybe if the "news outlets" did more if this kind of thing, rather than the never ending celeb gossip drivel, they'd still have a business? When the "news" is fluff about a kid getting his hair cut and several quoted tweets from twatter, it's pretty clear why no one pays any attention to so-called news.

    • by robot256 (1635039) on Monday June 20, 2011 @01:03PM (#36502320)

      That's why I contribute to my local NPR station. They, and the programs they run from NPR and Public Radio International, all do real investigative journalism (and post transcripts on their website in addition to free podcasts and radio broadcasts). I feel like my $100/yr is going to a good cause and I listen all the time. That said, at my house we also receive two daily newspapers, so we contribute to the AP that way.

      The Associated Press is actually set up in a similar manner [ap.org]: "The Associated Press is a not-for-profit cooperative, which means it is owned by its 1,500 U.S. daily newspaper members." That means it is set up the same way as NPR. If you want to support the AP then you should pay your local papers. If you don't want the paper (or them to incur the cost of it) see if they have an online-only membership. Unfortunately, a lot of papers don't have that if they don't have a paywall, so that's something we should start pushing for.

      The future of journalism is definitely nonprofit, which means it will be supported by good samaritans like ourselves. The value of information in the eye of the public has dropped so much that it can no longer be sold as a commodity and must be provided as a public service.

    • Folks, this is why we need to find a way to pay for true investigative journalism.

      It's not that big a mystery, just pay quality journalists. Open a newsfeed site, mandate that only proper journalism will get rewarded, and charge people a subscription to see it.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Report facts only, and no celeb or sports crap and I will go for it.

        • I'm fine with opinion when it's labelled as such. A well-informed opinion backed with facts can be an interesting, informative, and insightful read, especially on subjects where the average reader may not be qualified to accurately assess the impact of the story.

    • Those of you complaining about how journalism is crap, this is an example of non-crap journalism.

      In some ways, yes. In others, not so much.

      In particular, the article fails to point out that in many cases relaxing of safety standards is routine when it's legitimately discovered that the original standard was too stringent. Famously in the case of nuclear power, (then) Capt Rickover considerably relaxed safety standards and removed safety systems while proceeding from the prototype to the first oper

    • Pro-Publica is a new and viable model for non-profit investigative journalism. They constantly impress me (take a look at their awards [propublica.org]) and put most other news orgs to shame. If only other public media orgs would take notice and stop being such MSM wannbes. I'm looking at you NPR.
    • by wiggles (30088)

      There are great ways to fund investigative journalism. Here are a few:

      http://homedelivery.nytimes.com/ [nytimes.com]
      https://services.chicagotribune.com/ [chicagotribune.com]
      http://www.latimes.com/about/mediagroup/shop-and-subscribe/ [latimes.com]
      http://service.usatoday.com/ [usatoday.com]

      More investigative journalism comes out of daily newspapers than anywhere else. Subscribe to your local newspaper.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:40PM (#36501990)

    Sometimes, this is what engineering is about. When faced with a difficult problem, sometimes the design solution is rewrite the problem. It's a fact of life. Conservatism is the easy side to fall on when you write requirements. The time and effort it would take to write just-conservative enough requirements doesn't justify the cost of doing so. With equipment built and in-place, it is now worth the time to find out what you really need.

    And yes, I realized there is a flip-side to going to far with this. But that's why we pay engineers - to make tough decisions when money, equipment, and lives are on the line. -- www.awkwardengineer.com [awkwardengineer.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kevinNCSU (1531307)
      Naaaaahhhh, I'm sure the requirement writers knew everything there was to know about all the equipment, tolerances, lifespan, safety margins and risk of every piece of equipment that was going to be used in the nuclear industry for the next 50 years and any deviation or revision to their good documents is the heresy of a government-corporate conspiracy.
    • by Mspangler (770054)

      It's called "fitness for service". It's a pretty standard exercise. I've been through a couple myself in the chemical industry.

      http://www.fitness4service.com/publications/pdf_downloads/ReliabilityConfJaskePaper.pdf [fitness4service.com]

      The root question is how much safety margin do you do you really need? If the unit was designed for 600 psi, and you have found you now operate at 500 psi, you have more safety margin than originally planned.

      This happens quite a lot on plants that were a bit experimental when they were first built

    • You can adress the 'known unknowns' with a high Factor of Safety and when more research and experience bears it out, those FOSs can be justifyably lowered.

      It is the 'unknown unknowns' that can jump up and bite you - especially if the lazy and greedy are allowed to extend the service life far beyond what any competent and moral Engineer would ever agree to; aka, 'test to failure'.
    • by SomePgmr (2021234)
      Even as a casual reader that isn't the slightest bit familiar with the workings of a nuclear reactor, this concept does make perfect sense to me.

      So I guess the real question is, are they lowering the bar on all these tests to a more practical (and still entirely safe) level, or is it a slippery slope manifested by the extreme cost and complexity of keeping these things online?

      I mean, at some point, you've gone too far. I'm not sure where we're at on that... and I'm pretty sure only the people who are
    • by Solandri (704621)
      Or to put it another way, you have two choices in how to regulate something which (at the time) is relatively new and for which you don't have enough long-term operating data to build a characteristic failure history:

      - You can start off with overly conservative regulations, then ease off on them as time and accrued operating evidence allow you to better refine safety margins
      - Or you can start off with inadequate regulations, then gradually ramp them up as accidents indicate they are not strong enough.
  • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:44PM (#36502054) Homepage

    The biggest issue is ultimately the short sighted consumer (read: voter) who wants everything and as cheaply as possible...

    If there were a real market for clean safe energy that cost twice the amount of regular juice someone would supply the demand. Same thing with sweat shops producing our clothing, electronics, everything. Humans aren't ultimately that smart.

    Yes, I'm cynical. But also an idealist. Maybe one day we'll learn?

    • by kaiser423 (828989)
      It took over a year of investigation to figure out that this was the case with our nuclear power plants. You can't expect individual humans or even small collectives to undertake that type of investigation for most of their services. Especially for a system that's easily gamed --- how do you ensure that all coal plants, mines, etc are being operated safely? You can't without a government, and even they'll miss lots of things, and many safety standards can be beefed up or slimmed down within a day or two
    • by SomePgmr (2021234)
      If there were a real market for clean safe energy that cost twice the amount of regular juice someone would supply the demand.

      I'm sure you're right. And various technologies are coming online, bit by bit. But I don't think customers (including me) are being irrational when they reject power at twice the price.

      Given the opportunity to pay the same price or a small premium, you'd see plenty of people switch. I mean, people do pay considerably more for hybrid cars and such. They like the idea of bett
  • Regulatory agencies once had teeth for the purpose of enforcing their regulations. We have been seeing this with other agencies such as the FCC which ruled that activities which violate net neutrality are prohibited. Not long after that, we see other government rule that the FCC has no authority over the internet.

    And since nuclear power is in the forefront of the news for now, people are noticing the same happens in nuclear power. Big business doesn't want to reinvest its profits back into the company and wants to take them home with them instead. They complain to regulators saying "we can't afford this!" Most regulators are powerless to do anything but rule based on the policies and standards they have to work with. So they "appeal" the matter with senators and congressmen who make phone calls to other peoples' bosses who, in turn, arrange to have policy match the current situation forgetting that these regulations and requirements are designed to prevent horrible disasters.

    I think the people who are willing to put the public at risk should also be required to live among that same public so they and their families can suffer the same disasters as the rest of us.

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      You can't build new plants, you can't fix current plants, you have to continue to provide power to people.

      I don't care how you do it, just do it.

  • Isn't that the real story here? A journalist actually investigated a story and uncovered something interesting.
    • There's plenty of investigative journalism, real journalism, still happening. What's different is that this was done by a large mainstream news organization.
  • According to their investigation, when reactor parts fail or systems fall out of compliance with the rules, studies are conducted by the industry and government. The studies conclude that existing standards are 'unnecessarily conservative.' Regulations are loosened, and the reactors are back in compliance.

    I hate to come down on the side of Big Industry, but this is exactly how things should go. First of all, of course compliance problems spur studies on whether the standards are too conservative. If there's

    • This is exactly how NASA treated anomalies with the Space Shuttle solid rocket boosters. Each time they'd have the engineers look at the problem, then decide it was really probably OK, and that the strict rules in place were overly cautious. Everything went fine, until the flight of STS-51-L [wikipedia.org].
      • by Sneftel (15416)

        You left out a few words there. What you meant to say is "Each time they'd have the engineers look at the problem, and then the managers decided it was really probably OK."

  • by Picass0 (147474) on Monday June 20, 2011 @12:55PM (#36502214) Homepage Journal

    There are currently two nuclear plants impacted by the Missouri flooding - Fort Calhoon and Cooper Nuclear Plant. I live in Omaha - ~40 miles from FC and ~50 from CNP.

    FC had been in shutdown mode for refueling and is supposed not at any risk from the water surrounding it's sandbags on all sides. That said just over a week ago they had a fire lasting 40 minutes and loss of power to the spent fuel cooling pools.

    CNP in Brownville, NE is at full capacity despite rising waters and the possibility Gavins Point Dam might increase it's water flow further. Protocol demands a shutdown if the river reaches 902 feet above sea level, and the current level for the Missouri is officially 900.56 at CNP. No hurry or anything.

  • I've got an idea: instead of fudging the regulations in order to keep old reactors running on ancient technology, why don't we build new nuclear reactors like we haven't done decades! What a concept!

    • Why? I can tell you. Contrary to popular opinion, it is damn sure not of some ill-defined "hippies" preventing it. If you give a profit driven industry the choice between a) keep running at 40 year old reactor, which is completely amortized by now and is basically printing money for free, while the public is liable for any accident or b) invest heavily in a new reactor.... Well, what do you think they'd chose?
    • That would require a shedload of money that, even if a utility company would spend it (and they very well might), still wouldn't get the job done due to the nuclear handwringing in a post-Fukushima political climate.

      You though the NIMBY-ism was bad before, just try to start a new nuclear generating station project now.

  • this what you get for voteing in MR burns safety takes a back seat to profits and kick backs.

  • a Devil... You get some, then you can't get enough soon enough. If you shut a nuke down, you have to somehow make up for the electricity it was producing. Given enough outdated nukes, it becomes a challenge to shut them down. At some point, it will be too late, and you'd have to shut lots of them down at once, but you won't have resources or time to make up for the loss in energy production. Maybe that point has already been reached and passed.

  • It's really too bad we are relaxing regulations to keep Older nuke plants around instead of relaxing regulations to make it easier to build new much safer ones. Our national strategy for nuclear safety is completly ass-backwards.
  • Who'd have expected such prescience from The Onion [youtube.com]?

  • Of course, just like finding an excuse why to invade a country that just so happens to have all the oil you need, you can find reasons why decisions were a little too severe in restricting nuclear power plant security....I mean who cares about how corroded a nut has to be before being replaced, it is not like having a few of them pop could mean a reactor leaks.....then again...I wonder if this reactor was sitting in the white house backyard, how much of those "strict" decisions would have been changed...and

  • by Issarlk (1429361) on Monday June 20, 2011 @01:32PM (#36502772)
    USA is not cramped like Japan, there's plenty of space and a 100km wide forbiden zone wouldn't be much of a bother.
  • by anorlunda (311253) on Monday June 20, 2011 @02:00PM (#36503280) Homepage

    The original article does a hack job on the basic premise. It says that expert after expert cited "sharpening the pencil" as the justification for relaxing standards. The AP author wields a very broad brush and characterizes all of that as "fudging the answers"

    The implication is that the tens of thousands of people world wide employed in engineering analysis to sharpen the pencil of nuclear plant analysis are all liars and frauds. Then throw into the pot all the regulators from all the companies who conspire. Of course the AP author cites no sources nor gives any basis for his allegation of fudging. Nevertheless, many gullible readers will praise him as a fearless investigative journalist.

    I'll confess. I was once one of the engineers employed to do the analysis to help sharpen the pencils. Believe me, if all they wanted was fudged answers, I could have sent them a fudged report then gone out sailing instead of sweating to get it right. Of course people strain extra hard to prove the desirable result if possible. But in 30 years with four companies in three countries, I never ever saw any instance of fudging.

    Is there any other field in which one can get away with generally branding engineering analysis and scientific research as fudging? Oh wait, how about climate research? Are Slashdot readers ready to believe an unsubstantiated accusation that all that work is fudged?

  • by senorpoco (1396603) on Monday June 20, 2011 @02:28PM (#36503712)
    Regulations are just the big government trying to force itself on the market and get in the way of ordinary everyday citizens attaining radioactive super powers. Thomas Jefferson would believe it is every American's God given right to be exposed to potentially harmful levels of radiation, heavy metals, pesticides spliced into crops and chemical waste in order to form a more perfect union.

"When it comes to humility, I'm the greatest." -- Bullwinkle Moose

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