US nuclear oversight too lax: science group

Feb 28, 2012
The North Anna, Virgina, #1 and #2 nuclear power generation stations operated by Dominion Virginia Power are seen at Lake Anna, Virginia, in 2011. A study of safety lapses at nuclear power facilities in the United States found that owners of atomic plants too often either close an eye to problems or fail to adequately address them, a watchdog group said Tuesday.

A study of safety lapses at nuclear power facilities in the United States found that owners of atomic plants too often either close an eye to problems or fail to adequately address them, a watchdog group said Tuesday.

The report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in its study found 15 cases of safety equipment problems and security shortcomings at 13 nuclear plants last year, calling that number "high."

Titled "The NRC and Safety in 2011: Living on Borrowed Time," the UCS report said no plant employees or members of the public were harmed in the incidents.

But the lapses nevertheless were deemed serious enough to warrant special inspections by the US (NRC), which is tasked with oversight of the industry and which itself had a mixed record in responding to the problems.

The science group said that in some instances the NRC did an outstanding job of addressing safety problems before they could lead to a potentially dangerous situation.

But there were also times when the federal agency did a less-than-adequate job of cracking down on nuclear plant owners, who in some cases have flouted agency regulations for decades.

"Last year's record shows that the NRC is quite capable of being an effective watchdog that protects the public and saves the from its worst tendencies," said Dave Lochbaum, lead author of the report and the director of UCS's Project.

"But the agency too often does not live up to its potential, and we are still finding significant problems at nuclear plants that could too easily trigger a serious accident."

The group said that lax NRC oversight has allowed some problems to fester for decades, and found that 47 nuclear reactors -- nearly half of the 104 nuclear plants operating in the United States today -- still do not comply with fire regulations established by the NRC in 1980 and amended in 2004.

It also said that there are 27 reactors with inadequate protection against earthquakes.

"The fact that US plant owners could have avoided nearly all the near-misses in 2011 if they had addressed known problems in a timely manner suggests that they and the NRC have not learned the lessons of these accidents," said Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer with 17 years of experience working at .

"Someday their luck may run out," he said.

The vulnerability of nuclear reactors to earthquakes was underscored after problems following a magnitude 5.8 quake that rattled the US East Coast last August, damaging two reactors at the North Anna plant in Virginia, some 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the epicenter of the temblor.

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5 / 5 (1) Feb 28, 2012
The report is online and can be downloaded at

Executive Summary IX
1. The Cop on the Nuclear Beat 1
The Reactor Oversight Process 1
The Focus of This Report 2
2. Near-Misses at Nuclear Power Plants in 2011 5
Braidwood 9
Byron 9
Callaway 12
Cooper 13
Millstone Unit 2 15
Monticello 17
North Anna 19
Oconee 21
Palisades (first incident) 23
Palisades (second incident) 24
Perry 26
Pilgrim (first incident) 29
Pilgrim (second incident) 29
Turkey Point Unit 3 31
Wolf Creek 32
Observations on the Near-Misses in 2011 34
3. Positive Outcomes from NRC Oversight 36
Flooding at Fort Calhoun 36
Mistake at the Hatch Plant 37
Earthquake Hazard at LaSalle 39
Observations on Effective NRC Oversight 41
4. Negative Outcomes from NRC Oversight 42
Missed Opportunities from NRC Inspection Insights Stalling Fixes to Known Safety Problems 44
5 / 5 (1) Feb 28, 2012
It would be most helpful if someone could find the sources of cash for these studies.
Initially I would check the railroad associations who have the most to lose from renewable and nuclear power sources.Only Senator Reid has caused more damage to the nuclear industry.
1 / 5 (1) Feb 29, 2012
When you look up the criticism section on wikipedia on the UCS you will find the usual suspects:

Libertarian television personality John Stossel has also accused the organization of having a "left-wing" agenda, calling them "scaremongers."[36] In 2007, the conservative think tank Capital Research Center accused the UCS of waging a "jihad against climate skeptics",[37] and televangelist Jerry Falwell even cautioned Evangelical Christians against "falling warming hocus-pocus" propagated in the mass media, with the UCS "leading the charge"

Right wing nuts and televangelists. When those characters start attacking an organization with the 'jihad/scaremonger/hocus-pocus' lingo you can be pretty sure that they're the good guys.
1 / 5 (1) Feb 29, 2012
I wouldn't invest into nuclear fission under perspective of cold fusion too. The only reason why to keep it alive is the military program. The problem arises, when the investments into both technologies are ignored in the same way.

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