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Power Government

90% of Nuclear Regulators Sent Home Due To Shutdown 358

Posted by Soulskill
from the homer-simpson-asked-to-come-in-for-overtime dept.
An anonymous reader writes "More than 90% of nuclear regulators are being sent home due to the Federal Government shutdown, as the agency announced today that it was out of funds. Without Congressional appropriations, the nuclear watchdog closes its doors for what appears to be the first time in U.S. history. CNN reports that while a skeleton crew remains to monitor the nation's 100 nuclear reactors, regulatory efforts to prevent a Fukushima-like incident in the United States have ceased."
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90% of Nuclear Regulators Sent Home Due To Shutdown

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  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @04:19PM (#45084959)

    The idea that anything bad could happen is just crazy talk. This is the United States!

    • by Talderas (1212466)

      Very little as apparently the article thinks the NRC is responsible for foiling terrorist plots to go after nuclear reactors.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @04:32PM (#45085149) Journal

        Very little as apparently the article thinks the NRC is responsible for foiling terrorist plots to go after nuclear reactors.

        Personally, I'm more worried about increased negligence from operators without somebody breathing down their necks than I am about terrorists.

        (The most recent example, luckily nonnuclear, being the juxtaposition between the marathon bombers and the West Fertilizer company. Kill three people with a backpack full of explosives and all of greater Boston goes full tactical on you. Blow up 500,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, killing 15 and leveling a good portion of the nearby town? Eh, we try to avoid burdensome regulations here in Texas...)

        • by Talderas (1212466)

          Read the article. The onsite inspectors and regulators aren't being furloughed.

          • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @05:34PM (#45085929)

            87,000 IRS employees are still staying home without pay. That makes it all worth it.

          • if TL;DR then try to work through this whole paragraph:

            Let me stress, however, that all of our resident inspectors will remain on the job and any immediate safety or security matters will be handled with dispatch. We can — and will without hesitation — bring employees out of furlough to respond to an emergency. We must, in this regard, err on the side of safety and security.

            You here that Taliban weirdos? We're still on to you guys. Don't mess with the big stuff.

    • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @04:26PM (#45085055)

      Having a bunch of bureaucrats sitting around doing nothing but shuffling papers provides no additional safety.
      Sending them home provides no less safety.

      The article and the summary would suggest everyone walked away from the control room, or at the very least, that the plant operators will now start drilling through the containment walls to roast hot dogs, or sell all the fuel to Iranians on the black market. More Scare tactics.

      Everyone in the lapdog press is running around crying Oh No'es but NOTHING bad is happening.
      The country is once again reminded how useless most layers of government really are.

      • Everyone in the lapdog press is running around crying Oh No'es but NOTHING bad is happening.

        Well, nothing bad other than millions of Americans suddenly becoming essentially unemployed, even if temporarily, for which I can see no possible negative effect. /sarc

      • by Xeno man (1614779)
        This is what immediately springs to mind. There are two possible scenarios. Either the safety of everyone is being completely ignored due to paperwork and politics, or 90% or the staff is completely unnecessary to provide that safety. I'm sad about either scenario.
    • by lgw (121541)

      Nothing bad could happen due to regulators being off for a few weeks. These aren't reactor operators we're talking about (who would mostly be employees of utility companies, not government employees in the first place). These are people who write and enforce regulations. It will take quite some time for their absence to matter (especially since they might return any day).

    • by tttonyyy (726776)

      In all fairness nothing is likely to go wrong unless a reactor is being experimented on, or an unusual catastrophic event/mechanical failure occurs (even a fully staffed reactor doesn't necessarily mean they'll be avoided). Lack of staffing should be the least of our worries!

      • by icebike (68054)

        If a "mechanical failure" occurs, the last people you call are the regulators.
        You call your own technicians.
        You seem to have a very odd understanding of what these paper pushers really do in life.

        • by thaylin (555395)
          yes but you only have a few hours to call the regulators, literally.
          • by icebike (68054)

            How many hours do they have to respond.
            Big deal, you make the call.
            Their answering machine and your telephone log relieves you of any fault.

            Mean time you solve the problem by the book, and document it the same way you always would.

      • by Dzimas (547818) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @05:01PM (#45085583)
        Unusual events are more common than you think. I remember being on call and receiving a weekend call, because a nuclear facility's environmental monitoring system was "acting up" and monitoring reports were including impossible errors. That sort of stuff can usually be traced back to a data entry or automated import error -- accidentally flagging the data as gigabecquerels instead of terabecquerels, and so on. It's usually a simple issue that can be identified in a couple of minutes, and there's some good natured banter with the tech on the other end while we figure out what's going on.

        This time around, there appeared to be no mistakes - - there were inexplicably high radiation levels in an improbable location. Things get pretty serious at that point, and there's a very specific timeline for notifying regulators and taking remedial action. In this case, they verified the readings and determined what had gone wrong within hours. You can't simply fix the fault and continue on as normal, though. There was contamination outside the facility that needed to be addressed according to steps that the federal regulators deemed sufficient, and on an acceptable timeline. In the current shutdown, I'm not sure how well that process would work -- you need a fairly experienced team to work out the most effective remediation solution that balances cost, environmental impact and public safety. There's also the issue that if a regulatory specialist is conducting a site inspection, they aren't available for other work.

    • Yup, the things practically run themselves.
    • by Russ1642 (1087959)

      In the short term there should be absolutely no impact. If the shutdown lasts more than a year then I'd start getting concerned.

  • by conner_bw (120497) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @04:20PM (#45084965) Homepage Journal

    Meanwhile an October 17th debt ceiling that will cripple the world economy goes mostly unnoticed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r (612664)

      What do you mean goes mostly unnoticed?

      This should be fun, we already have another salmonella outbreak this time drug resistant too.

      • by conner_bw (120497)

        > What do you mean goes mostly unnoticed?

        Ie. Let's shut down the government because of a healthcare disagreements! And keep talking about healthcare disagreements! (and not that other thing that has nothing to do with anything don't look over there.)

      • by Chemisor (97276)

        we already have another salmonella outbreak this time drug resistant too.

        The immune system naturally purges salmonella infections in about a week. Antibiotic treatment is not required and is not recommended. The only people who worry about this are the handful of immunosuppressed individuals who already have many other things to worry about. To the remaining 99.99% of the population a "salmonella outbreak" is at most a week-long inconvenience.

    • You know what the sad thing is? Even with the government "shutdown" we're apparently managing to spend money so fast that we'll hit the debt ceiling just as soon. You'd think that the cuts would make enough of a dent to push it back a few days, but no.

      • by thaylin (555395)
        We dont have to spend money to hit the debt ceiling, our debt will do it for us, damn interest.
        • by intermodal (534361) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @04:41PM (#45085313) Homepage Journal

          Technically, the Federal Government takes in more than enough to pay the interest and principal payments on the debt every month. I love how everyone pretends that's the first thing to get screwed, when the reality is that there are a lot of other agencies, programmes, and other entities and expenditures that disappear before we "default". All this talk about "default" and "full faith and credit" has been nothing but dishonest propaganda.

      • by gtall (79522)

        You don't understand the cost of the Federal Gov. Last I checked, wages and such cost approximately $88 Billion/year (http://blogs.marketwatch.com/capitolreport/2013/10/01/send-furloughed-federal-workers-home-for-good-wont-save-much-money/) and that's from the discretionary side. Grandma, disability, medicaid, medicare, etc. is 2/3 of the approx. $3.8 trillion budget. So while much of the government (I would argue the effective part) is on furlough, Grandma is not, and boy will she be pissed if the pols put

    • by mythosaz (572040)

      Meanwhile an October 17th debt ceiling that will cripple the world economy goes mostly unnoticed.

      Mostly unnoticed by whom?

      The debt ceiling is the #2 political story right now, and delivered as a tie-in to the lead news story of the shutdown.

      It's listed in the first story that Google News shows me about the shutdown -- and the shutdown is the first thing on the page. In short, the second story on Google News is debt ceiling.

  • Like they were going to stop earthquakes???

    • by thaylin (555395)
      It is not just the earthquake that caused the meltdown, it was poorly designed safeguards against the earthquake.
    • Like they were going to stop earthquakes???

      It depends on how you define "incident"

      If you mean "Prevent the natural disaster that occurred" then obviously they couldn't do anything. If you mean the cluster-f#@k that followed involving incompetence, lies, and not doing as much as you could to try to clean up afterwards... then yeh this plays into that.

      Let's face it, if it hits the fan and there IS a natural disaster... you want to keep the amount of incompetence to a minimum. Having almost everyone who's responsible to monitor the reactors and coord

    • Like they were going to stop earthquakes???

      How's that joke go - "What do you call 90% of an agency's bureaucrats standing out in front of a tsunami"?

  • Checklist:

    1. Is it glowing?
    2. Is there a smoking, glowing crater where the plant used to be?

    If both are no, the back to napping.

    • by tttonyyy (726776)

      Checklist:

      1. Is it glowing?
      2. Is there a smoking, glowing crater where the plant used to be?

      If both are no, the back to napping.

      Perhaps an urban legend (I can't find a reference), but didn't operators of nuclear reactors used to sit on one legged chairs, so they couldn't nap at the controls?

  • In order to prevent people from feeling the economic pain of Obamacare it is necessary to inflict economic pain.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      You act like these morons thought this out at all. Their Orange leader has not a single sensical thought in his head. Probably all that fake tan. All they know is if it says Obama on it they must fight it. No matter if it is a republican plan to begin with or not.

      • This wasn't Boehner, he has more sense than that. The fight against Obamacare was a rump coalition led by Ted Cruz, and you are right, he is a moron that didn't think it through at all.

        In the last few days, other republicans have figured that out, as a result the orange guy has gained a lot of power in the party, and will change the fight to be about cutting spending on *something*. He'll probably get it, too.
  • by ScottCooperDotNet (929575) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @04:25PM (#45085041)

    If your nuclear systems become unsafe in under 30 days, are they really safe at all?

    Some people are confused about why the lapse of appropriations is affecting the NRC when we collect fees for 90 percent of our budget. The bottom line is this: the NRC is not funded directly by the fees we collect. Fees collected by the NRC must be deposited in the U.S. Treasury, and the Congress provides us an appropriation.

    Sounds like the NRC should be funded solely by fees paid by the companies they regulate.

    • by thaylin (555395)
      If you do that then congress has no control over the organization they created.
    • by malakai (136531)

      Sounds like the NRC should be funded solely by fees paid by the companies they regulate.

      I think we need to move the majority of government services to this concept. Sure, there are exceptions. But a lot of what the government does is necessary for commerce. And Commerce pays the government for those services. So let's take out the middle man, and allow entities like this to collect and manage their own funds. If they consistently go broke and come back to congress for more money, either OK a fee increase or

    • by Talderas (1212466)

      Sounds more like, "We get to raid NRC fees for funds for other shit and starve the NRC whenever we feel like it." -Congress

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Conflict of interest. If the NRC is funded by those it regulates, it has an incentive to keep those funds coming, which won't happen if it shuts down plants.

    • by guru42101 (851700)
      I think a lot of areas should be funded solely by the fees paid. Especially ones involved in regulation.
  • by SloWave (52801) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @04:27PM (#45085071) Journal

    At least the Springfield Nuclear Plant is in good hands.

  • 10% staffed... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by malakai (136531) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @04:27PM (#45085073) Journal

    Another way to look at this, is that the NRC determined it only needs 10% of it's work force for 'essential' operations. Makes me wonder why we pay for the other 90%.

    Also, it's amazing to go through the list of government services and see which shutdown and which remain open. Often the ones remaining open work off of 'user' fees. For example, certain meat packing plants pay for food and safety inspectors being on site. Passport fees will keep most passport operations flowing.

    One wonders why that power plan companies don't simply pay the NRC directly, like food inspectors.

    This fee system seems like an elegant way to run a business....

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I agree that the NRC inspections could be paid by user fees.

      I disagree that when a team elects a 'bare essentials' skeleton crew, that suddenly 90% of the workforce is unnecessary. This is the kind of thinking that lays off a dev team and outsources 10% of the manpower to India and expects the same product. Just because you can pick a couple of people to perhaps be on call when the world ends, does not mean the 90% are unnecessary. This mentality is what produces failed projects and missed deadlines.

    • Makes me wonder why we pay for the other 90%.

      Who else is going to deny every application to build safer, more modern reactors?

  • regulatory efforts to prevent a Fukushima-like incident in the United States have ceased.

    I didn't know the Nuclear Regulatory Commission prevented earthquakes. Japan's government wasn't shut down when Fukushima happened, why didn't Japan's regulators stop it?

  • It's not like a "Regulator" can actually fix anything if it goes wrong. "No disaster here move along". Now they could prevent the operators from saying "No disaster here move along." That's a little bit important but again not a disaster.
  • by intermodal (534361) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @04:30PM (#45085127) Homepage Journal

    It takes two to tango. Both the congress and president are to blame. Appropriations may originate in the House, but they also have to pass the Senate and either get signed by the President or overriden after a veto by a highly unified body of legislators over at the Capitol.

    If the House is holding true to their strategy as used so far this round, they've probably approved this expenditure piecemal and been rejected or not taken up by the Senate. Call it political if you like, but any politician that refuses to do so deserves to to be run out of Washington on a rail.

  • That would impress me at all if the ACTUAL work being done to keep nuclear reactors safe was not all done by the workers actually monitoring the reactors. The government organization is in charge of the REGULATIONS around nuclear reactors. Regulations existing reactors all conform to already...

    It might hamper a new nuclear reactor being built; but since there are so many other people trying to do that anyway I can't see we'll notice much of an effect.

  • regulatory efforts to prevent a Fukushima-like incident in the United States have ceased

    As usual when we read a panicked outburst like this in the summary, we know it isn't true. For instance, TFA says ""We are going to make sure that we continue our oversight of the plants because the resident inspectors will be on duty, and we are prepared to respond to an emergency on short notice," then goes on to mention that additional help will be recalled if there is in incident. In other words, the same thing that happens if there is an incident at midnight on a Saturday.

  • by swschrad (312009) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @05:27PM (#45085863) Homepage Journal

    believe it is in everybody's plant license that they must be continually regulated.

    rolling blackouts, anybody?

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