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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 WindBourne (631190) on Monday May 21, 2012 @08:21PM (#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 lgw (121541) on Monday May 21, 2012 @08:53PM (#40071743) Journal

    I htought the entire point of Yucca mountain was to store the valuable "waste" for when we decided it was OK to use it (in a breeder reactor).

    If you do the sane thing and let spent nuclear fuel sit on site for a few years, it won't be "hot" any more, and can be handled like any industrial waste - toxic, sure, but nothing special. It's just that this particular waste is a strategic resource, against a future where we'd need to start stockpiling nukes at cold war levels once more.

  • Next (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TopSpin (753) on Monday May 21, 2012 @09:17PM (#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.

  • Interim solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2012 @10:10PM (#40072185)

    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 @10:41PM (#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 Required Snark (1702878) on Monday May 21, 2012 @11:11PM (#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.

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