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NRC Chairman Resigns 100

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the let's-all-get-along dept.
After years of accusations of creating a 'chilled work environment,' Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko resigned this morning (PDF). His largest achievement was perhaps killing the Yucca Mountain waste repository, and he oversaw the certification of the AP1000 reactor. It is unknown whether a new chairman will be appointed from within the NRC. Quoting the Washington Post: "The reason for his resignation is unclear. He is stepping down before the release of a second inspector general report rumored to be into allegations of Mr. Jaczko's misconduct. NRC spokesman Eliot Brenner told The Washington Times that the report had no impact on the timing of Mr. Jaczko's resignation announcement. Mr. Jaczko's statement was vague, saying that it 'is the appropriate time to continue my efforts to ensure public safety in a different forum. This is the right time to pass along the public safety torch to a new chairman...' While his statement did not specifically touch on the embarrassing revelations of his tyrannical approach to the job or its impact on NRC staff, he did sound a defiant note by claiming the NRC was 'one of the best places to work in the federal government throughout my tenure.'" Today also marks the start of the annual nuclear industry conference.
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NRC Chairman Resigns

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  • by darkwing_bmf (178021) on Monday May 21, 2012 @06:05PM (#40070905)

    In case anyone was wondering.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is what he deserves for pressuring Sony to fire Community creator Dan Harmon. #sixseasonsandamovie

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday May 21, 2012 @06:32PM (#40071117)

    It appears to be just as good a place as any to dispose of nuclear waste..... certainly better than leaving it in the plants, waiting for a disaster (like Fukushima where some of the stored waste was washed out to sea). Stupid politicians. Yucca has been shown to be stable. Just do it.

    • by jbeaupre (752124) on Monday May 21, 2012 @06:36PM (#40071153)
      • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday May 21, 2012 @06:39PM (#40071183)

        QUOTE: "That is why I proposed the creation of a Blue Ribbon Commission of experts to make credible, scientifically sound recommendations for a new approach to nuclear waste. I am pleased that President Obama and Secretary Chu agree with this approach, and on March 3, 2010, announced the creation of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Americaâ(TM)s Nuclear Future. The commission includes distinguished nuclear energy experts, geologists, policymakers, and environmental policy experts. The panel has published draft recommendations and is scheduled to present their final report on the best alternatives to Yucca in January 2012."

        They didn't come up with crap.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Because of three reasons. First, is that people believe that our nuclear waste is safer than it really is where it currently is. Second, people believe that our nuclear waste is extremely dangerous when transported and will radiated all over the place. And finally people would rather not think about it at all (hence why most nuclear transports are done in secret, not due to the whole "terrorist" thing).

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2012 @06:52PM (#40071279)

        Precisely, WA State has had serious issues with the way the Federal government has been managing the waste they left at Hanford, the process of cleaning up the dump has cost huge amounts of money and much of it has been stored in leaky barrels. IIRC they're restoring it in a sort of radioactive glass so that it doesn't leak into the ground water, but still.

        Yucca Mountain might not have been the only option, but at this point it pretty much is and I haven't yet heard where all that material is going to be stored.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday May 21, 2012 @07:00PM (#40071351)

        >>>First, is that people believe that our nuclear waste is safer than it really is where it currently is

        Well that's dumb. I'd rather have it buried underground in a safe manner, than sitting literally ~30 miles from my house in a pool of water, just waiting for an accident.

        >>>Second, people believe that our nuclear waste is extremely dangerous when transported and will radiated all over the place

        Also dumb. I've seen tests where nuclear cannisters were blown-up, and nothing happened. The cannister didn't even crack. (Again: Safer than leaving it in a pool of water 30 miles from my house.)

        >>>finally people would rather not think about it at all

        Well they must be doing SOME thinking, or they wouldn't be protesting Yucca Mountain disposal.

        • by Belial6 (794905) on Monday May 21, 2012 @07:33PM (#40071599)
          I'm not sure if a Pavlovian response to the word 'Nuclear' can really be counted as thinking....
        • by lgw (121541)

          I'd rather have it buried underground in a safe manner, than sitting literally ~30 miles from my house in a pool of water, just waiting for an accident.

          So your saying it's fine, as long as it's not in your backyard? It has to go in someone's backyard, might as well be yours.

          • by cpu6502 (1960974)

            FINE put it in my backyard..... buried a mile deep in sealed canisters. I don't care as long as it's not sitting in a pool of water, just watiing for a leak. Keeping a dangerous radioactive fuel in that fashion is stupidity.

            • by lgw (121541)

              We're only storing it because it's valuable, so it's going to be stroed in such a way that it's not so difficult to retrieve. If we just wanted to dispose of the waste, that's just not a hard problem - there's a tiny amount of it (on the scale of industrial waste), and as long as it's more than 5 or so years old, it's not especially dangerous (on the scale of industrial waste).

        • by Sarius64 (880298)
          It's unfortunate that you believe burying this waste will be sound policy. A better strategy would be using the waste as fuel within a liquid flouride thorium reactor (LFTR). We should have LFTR all over the nation as it is the safest generator of electricity and could solve major problems developed by the poor choices generated by past administrations for nuclear designs.
        • by Nethead (1563)

          IIRC, you're a downwinder. [wikipedia.org]

    • Interim solution (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ship it to France.

      Apparently they have the facilities [nytimes.com] to reprocess it into new usable fuel for their reactors.

      Apparently America is too stupid to do the same.

    • Everything (Score:4, Interesting)

      by WindBourne (631190) on Monday May 21, 2012 @09:41PM (#40072389) Journal
      First off, it never should have been built in Nevada. The best site was west Texas. But it was a decision that Poppa Bush made, hence the reason why NV was chosen.

      Second, there is loads of energy in nuclear 'waste'. We should be burning it up. Right now, we are talking about transporting loads of 'waste' all over the USA. Instead, on all of the sites that are to be retired, we could instead put up a number of new GE IFR reactors. These would then be loaded with a small amount of normal nuke fuel, that is then mixed with on-site waste. Then in the future, nothing but on-site 'waste' fuel would be added. So, would there be waste from this? Absolutely. But NONE of it would be useful for a regular bomb (but it would work for a dirty bomb). In addition, the worst of it would be done within 200 years, rather than 20,000 years.
      Note the difference with this approach. Basically, you have a site that has active cooling, transmission lines, generators, etc. and some old reactors. You put up enough GE reactor to replace one or more of the old ones, start it, and then start the destruction of one or more of the old reactors. Basically, you keep the site going to provide power. At the same time, we put up a NEW reactor that is based on a NEW design with physics behind it that prevents melt downs.
      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        You are talking about an unproven (at commercial scale) technology that will cost tens of billions to develop by the most optimistic estimates. Although the risk of meltdown is reduced it doesn't help with the risk of accident during handling of hazardous materials, which is where most accidents occur.

        The IFR is not silver bullet, and the fact that no-one is willing to invest the cash in developing them should tell you something. Even in the UK where we have decided to build new nuclear plants with massive

        • What is unproven? Thorium? Works great. See Fort. St. Vrain plant. Never a single issue with the reactor (the back end was a TOTALLY different issue).
          The IFR? Well, S-PRISM is being developed right now by GE and will be trialed at DOE around 201[56]. Things actually look good for it.

          Yes, the plant IS more expensive. After all, it has to re-process 'waste' fuel, in an automated fashion. And GE has a deal with the UK. Basically, once DOE has trialed it and NRC approves it, the UK will allow it to be built
          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            What is unproven? Thorium? Works great. See Fort. St. Vrain plant. Never a single issue with the reactor (the back end was a TOTALLY different issue).

            From Wikipedia:

            "Facility contractors introduced safety concerns on several occasions. In one of the more serious incidents, contractor personnel damaged hydraulic units, allowing hydraulic fluid to spray over reactor control cables. The same crew then performed welding operations to equipment located above the control cables. Hot slag fell onto the material used to contain the hydraulic fluid and ignited it, along with the fluid on the control cables. The fire involved the cables for five minutes, and 16 es

            • What is unproven? Thorium? Works great. See Fort. St. Vrain plant. Never a single issue with the reactor (the back end was a TOTALLY different issue).

              From Wikipedia:

              "Facility contractors introduced safety concerns on several occasions. In one of the more serious incidents, contractor personnel damaged hydraulic units, allowing hydraulic fluid to spray over reactor control cables. The same crew then performed welding operations to equipment located above the control cables. Hot slag fell onto the material used to contain the hydraulic fluid and ignited it, along with the fluid on the control cables. The fire involved the cables for five minutes, and 16 essential control cables were damaged. The contractor personnel then failed to inform plant personnel of the situation and the reactor was in operation for several hours in this condition."

              Sounds really safe. Plus it was not a commercial scale nuclear plant, so wouldn't prove the economic and safety viability of one anyway.

              The IFR? Well, S-PRISM is being developed right now by GE and will be trialed at DOE around 201[56]. Things actually look good for it.

              So your evidence that the technology is proven is a research reactor that suffered numerous problems and something that hasn't been built yet. I bet you wonder why people are not lining up to invest in these things.

              And GE has a deal with the UK.

              They are not even in the negotiations. Too expensive, even with massive subsidy.

              You should have read the entire wiki, rather than individual parts that you wanted:

              The plant was technically successful, especially towards the very end of its operating life, but was a commercial disappointment to its owner. Being one of the first commercial HTGR designs, the plant was a proof-of-concept for several advanced technologies, and correspondingly raised a number of early adopter problems that required expensive corrections.

              Basically, the reactor part worked great. Nobody faults it. What failed is that GA had done some work in the back-end that was a disaster. Yet, NONE of that affected the thorium reactor.
              Now, as to the small size:

              The reactor had an electrical power output of 330MW (330 MWe), generated from a thermal power 842 MW (842 MWth).

              Sorry to disappoint you, but the average reactor size of the 60s was about this size.

              The Japanese reactor actually had ONE issue. They have had very few flaws. Yes, that one was major, but it is now known. T

            • You need to read this. [wikipedia.org]
              Basically, that was the prototype for IFR. Most importantly, it worked GREAT.
    • by wmbetts (1306001)

      I get that it needs to be stored somewhere, but the residence of that place need to approve it. You shouldn't be able to force something on a population that doesn't want it and that's the main problem. The majority of the people here don't want it.

  • no brainer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eponymous Hero (2090636) on Monday May 21, 2012 @06:34PM (#40071133)
    it's always "the appropriate time to continue ... efforts ... in a different forum" when you're about to be slammed with "allegations of ... misconduct."
    • by sithkhan (536425)
      Amazing how the kind submitter was unable to place this in the fine summary, and that as of this posting - yours is the first comment to remark upon his behavior.
  • I guess people were on him to get angry enough to go nuclear and have a meltdown..
    • by Widowwolf (779548)
      Screwed up my own joke dammit I guess people were waiting on him to get angry enough to go nuclear and have a meltdown..
    • by SeaFox (739806)

      Wouldn't a chilled work environment help prevent things from getting steamed and exposing some dangerous situations?

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Monday May 21, 2012 @07:21PM (#40071501) Journal
    We need a number of new reactors. In particular, we need the micro to medium size reactors that can be built in a factory. In addition, we need GE's IFR (to burn up nuke 'waste'), as well as thorium reactors.
    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      Sounds like you need a few hundred billion dollars. Good luck getting funding for all that as worldwide demand for nuclear decreases.

      • And yet, the development is going on. Basically, the question is, how can we speed it up to get SAFE reactors to the site? I do not think that nuke is a total solution, but it needs to be part of our energy matrix.

        I myself would like to see us come up with an electric policy in which we limit an energy type to less than 1/3 of the input. For example, fossil fuel should account for no more than 1/3 of our energy, which is currently 60-65%). AE, with wind, solar, geo-thermal, and hydro is around 15-20%. An
  • Next (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TopSpin (753) on Monday May 21, 2012 @08:17PM (#40071867) Journal

    A house committee watched while Jaczko's four fellow NRC board members, two of which were appointed by Obama, publicly condemned him while sitting to his immediate left and right. In recent congressional history, that scene is only trumped by Vollmer claiming executive privilege.

    Understand that their world, political appointees near the very top of regulatory bureaucracy, is one of connections. You don't do dramatic things in public unless you really, really mean it, because whatever you do will be with you forever. Jaczko has to be some kind of way over-the-top SOB to wind up in that situation before Congress.

    He's never offered one genuine, unqualified note of concession about any of it. Everyone else is wrong. "I believe strongly in safety" is as close as he's ever gotten to an explanation. Turning the NRC board of commissioners into a snake pit is somehow supposed to promote safety.

    You-know-who will just foist another anti-energy extremist on the NRC after the election, so don't bet on any improvement.

    • by Jerry (6400)

      He's never offered one genuine, unqualified note of concession about any of it. Everyone else is wrong. "I believe strongly in safety" is as close as he's ever gotten to an explanation. Turning the NRC board of commissioners into a snake pit is somehow supposed to promote safety. ...
      and he oversaw the certification of the AP1000 reactor.

      Believes in "safety", eh? He should read this [google.com].

      • by tp1024 (2409684)

        Strange how they cite liner corrosion of the AP1000 as a problem before a single AP1000 has ever been build.

        Critique where it is due, not where it is not. If inspections are a problem, this is a problem of inspections, not of the AP1000. Period.

        • by Jerry (6400)

          Not any stranger than Westinghouse claiming that a non-existent reactor is the safest ever made. IF you had read the PDF you would have noticed that what was being pointed out was that the AP1000 reactor core has only a single wall of isolation from the environment, whereas previously built reactors had two. Yet, despite having two walls, past records show that the NRC was ignoring leakages and failures in other two-walled reactors in order to fast track approval for the AP1000. IF the documented leaks

  • Because I can say Clean Atomic Energy! with the reverb and the exclamation point and everything!

    Yeah we'd be atomic everything in a year!

  • We know that Obama is very serious about global warming, because in a speech he said we need to consider all low-carbon energy sources "including nuclear".

    And the actual policy changes coming out of the Obama administration? Almost total opposition to all things nuclear, and scuttling the waste storage at Yucca Mountain. Why, it's almost as if Obama is actually opposed to nuclear power.

    It remains to be seen if Obama actually believes in global warming, in which case his policy seems to be "destroy energy

    • by cdrguru (88047)

      Unfortunately, everything that Obama has actually done shows a path to reducing energy availability and energy use rather than changing the way energy is generated in the US. He has said openly that he wants to financially destroy coal generation, and I believe him. No changes have been made in the licensing and permitting process for nuclear generation, which means a very small group of people (one, perhaps?) can block construction at any point in the process.

      Obviously he believes in two things: AGW is r

      • by Sarius64 (880298)

        Obviously he believes in two things: AGW is real, and resource use in the US is out of line with the rest of the world and must be reined in.

        I could believe this up until the point where the administration refuses to invest in wind and solar solutions that cannot viably provide the energy needed for the most basic needs of the American populace. Not only invest in it but continually fail due to their inability to comprehend market competition and/or solution oriented systems for most of America. Even Obama's supposed home town of Chicago could never rely on wind or solar to solve any significant percentage of its energy needs due to the low re

        • by Creepy (93888)

          LFTR is ignored because the nuclear lobby is entirely backed by owners of light water reactors. It would be stupid for them to back competing technology - heck, they used their leverage to get Jakczko ousted because he was pro safety and they were pro profit. One of the previous lobby groups (the current lobby is a amalgamation of several separate ones from the 1970s) also managed to get Nixon's ear to get Weinberg ousted from Oak Ridge in the 1970s when he wanted us to invest more in molten salt reactors i

  • by Required Snark (1702878) on Monday May 21, 2012 @10:11PM (#40072599)
    There is another way of reading this: Jaczko was rocking the boat, and interfering with the cozy relationship between the regulators and the nuclear industry. Therefore he was forced out, because he was challenging the status quo.

    Note that none of the criticism was about technical issues, it was all about "style". Jaczko was publicly critical about failings in the safety culture at the NRC and the industry, and his position became more pronounced after Fukushima. He was saying that we were at risk for a similar accident because the NRC was not holding the reactor operators to a high enough standard. So if his concern about poor risk management is correct, and they want to get rid of him, the best option is a personal attack, which is exactly how this is playing out.

    In that vein, there were just a reports on KCBS in Southern California about serious safety lapses at the now closed San Onofre nuclear plant:

    The NRC allows San Onofre to compensate for its failure to keep enough separation between the main and back up cables by hiring workers to conduct hourly fire inspections in the areas where the cable are too close together. But some of those fire watches were never done.

    We’ve obtained a previously classified report which shows one worker “deliberately failed to conduct required fire protection surveillances and falsified fire watch logs.”

    And the report says it went on for five years between the dates of April 2001 and December 2006.

    Then in 2009, another fire watch employee was “observed smoking what appeared to be marijuana in the licensee’s protected area.”

    In both cases, the fire watch employees were fired – but the NRC did not fine or discipline Southern California Edison for its part in failing to recognize five years of non-existent inspections.

    If that isn't bad enough, the NRC is now cutting back on evacuation planning requirements.

    Without fanfare, the nation's nuclear power regulators have overhauled community emergency planning for the first time in more than three decades, requiring fewer exercises for major accidents and recommending that fewer people be evacuated right away.

    Nuclear watchdogs voiced surprise and dismay over the quietly adopted revamp — the first since the program began after Three Mile Island in 1979. Several said they were unaware of the changes until now, though they took effect in December.

    At least four years in the works, the changes appear to clash with more recent lessons of last year's reactor crisis in Japan. A mandate that local responders always run practice exercises for a radiation release has been eliminated — a move viewed as downright bizarre by some emergency planners.

    ...

    The Web archives of FEMA and the NRC show no news releases on the changes during December 2011 and January 2012. The revisions took effect Dec. 23, at the peak of the holiday season when Americans tend to focus on last-minute gift shopping and social gatherings.

    Given this context, there is a good case to be made that Jaczko being forced out is an example of how meaningful criticism is punished by inbred bureaucrats. This is exactly the same mechanism that lead the Japanese regulators to ignore tsunami warnings at Fukushima and make equally bad decisions about on site back up power.

    Don't be surprised when we have a serious nuclear accident here in the US. With this kind of broken regulation, it is inevitable.

    • by tomhath (637240)

      FTA:

      "Testimony of his peers revealed that Mr. Jaczko is prone to 'continued outbursts of abusive rage,' 'ranting at the staff,' 'raging verbal assault' and inspiring panic attacks in subordinates, particularly women. This was on top of an inspector general's report that mentioned staff complaints about Mr. Jaczko creating 'an intimidating work environment.' In the face of such evidence, Mr. Jaczko's defense that he's just 'passionate about safety' is pretty weak tea."

      What you say might be true, but all evidence points to the guy being a total jerk. The NRC's place is to make the nuclear industry safe and productive; he didn't seem to be working toward that goal.

      • by Creepy (93888)

        All of these traits were exhibited by Steve Jobs, and he made Apple one of the most productive companies in the world. Just because the guy's a dick doesn't mean he isn't right - IMO the nuclear industry is lax when it comes to safety and more concerned about their bottom line than their workers. It also stinks of a smear campaign, but I'd have to know more to know if it is - guy doesn't follow lock-step with what the nuclear industry wants, so the nuclear industry uses its leverage to get him ousted.

  • His position got nuked.

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