Seventy Years of Nuclear Fission: Short on Confidence; Long on Waste

By: Tuesday January 29, 2013 12:55 pm

On December 2, 1942, a small group of physicists under the direction of Enrico Fermi gathered on an old squash court beneath Alonzo Stagg Stadium on the Campus of the University of Chicago to make and witness history. Uranium pellets and graphite blocks had been stacked around cadmium-coated rods as part of an experiment crucial to the Manhattan Project–the program tasked with building an atom bomb for the allied forces in WWII.

 

NRC Halts License Approvals Pending New Guidelines on Nuclear Waste

By: Wednesday August 8, 2012 3:00 pm

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Tuesday it would suspend the issuing of new reactor operating licenses, license renewals and construction licenses until the agency crafted a plan for dealing with the nation’s growing spent nuclear fuel crisis. The action comes in response to a June ruling by the US Court of Appeals that found the NRC’s “Waste Confidence Decision”–the methodology used to evaluate the dangers of nuclear waste storage–was wholly inadequate and posed a danger to public health and the environment.

NRC Report on San Onofre: Close Enough for Government Work

By: Friday July 20, 2012 2:12 pm

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission released its report on recent failures at the San Onofre nuclear facility on Thursday, stating that, as far as the government regulator was concerned, the operators of the power plant did nothing wrong when they reported major design changes as simple equipment replacement.

According to the NRC, no laws were broken. Southern California Edison (a division of Edison International, the majority owner of SONGS) did not mislead regulators about the extent of the changes. Federal officials were not lax in their oversight. Things may not have gone exactly as planned, but no one on this side of the Pacific was to blame. Maybe the Japanese at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the folks who built the replacement parts, have some ‘splainin’ to do, but SCE and the NRC performed just like they were supposed to.

And that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?

Court Says Regulators Must Evaluate Dangers of Nuclear Waste

By: Saturday June 9, 2012 7:52 am

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission acted improperly when it failed to consider all the risks of storing spent radioactive fuel onsite at the nation’s nuclear power facilities, so ruled a federal court on Friday.

In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the US court of appeals for the District of Columbia found that the NRC’s “Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision”–the methodology used for evaluating the dangers of long-term waste storage–was woefully inadequate.

House Postpones Witch Hunt While Nuclear Industry Awaits Results of Latest Power Play

By: Monday June 4, 2012 2:20 pm

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce indefinitely postponed its Thursday hearing on the “politicization of the [NRC] and the actions and influence of Chairman Jaczko.” Gregory Jaczko, of course, announced his resignation on May 21, and President Obama nominated Allison Macfarlane as his replacement three days later. Here’s more behind the deal.

Obama Taps Allison MacFarlane as New Head of Nuclear Regulatory Commission

By: Thursday May 24, 2012 6:24 pm

As predicted, in choosing Macfarlane, Obama tapped someone who is on record as opposed to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. Macfarlane quite literally wrote the book on the subject–she is the editor (along with Rodney Ewing) of Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste, a review that is predominantly very critical of the choice of the Yucca site. Because confirmation has to move through the Senate, it would need the consent of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), a longtime opponent of the Yucca project.

Power Play: Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Jaczko Resigns after Push by Industry

By: Wednesday May 23, 2012 3:45 pm

The Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory Jaczko, submitted his resignation Monday morning. Jaczko’s announcement is hard to separate from pressing questions about the safety of commercial nuclear power, the debate over the future of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, and the influence of wealthy and well-connected private industry on public policy.

The Thing That Couldn’t Die: Yucca Battle Continues in Congress and in the Courts

By: Friday May 11, 2012 2:10 pm

It is hard not to think of this black and white bubbe meise while reviewing the most recent chapters in the battle over the future of the partially excavated, purportedly moribund Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in southwestern Nevada.

Obama Sides With GOP Against Reid in Battle Over Nuclear Regulator

By: Friday April 20, 2012 2:30 pm

In a move that could be seen as election-year expedience, a friendly nod to the nuclear industry, or a sign of a coming battle with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), the Obama administration announced Thursday that it would nominate Kristine Svinicki for a second term on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Reid had gone public just a day earlier with his objections to Commissioner Svinicki getting another five-year appointment when her tenure expires at the end of June.

The War on Gregory Jaczko: Attempt at NRC Coup Evidence of Bigger Problems

By: Wednesday December 14, 2011 4:15 pm

Readers of this space know that the pace of safety reforms for America’s nuclear facilities, especially in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima disaster, has been alarmingly slow. The recalcitrance–if not active hostility–exhibited by the nuclear operators and their government handmaidens borders on the criminal. So, it might sound more than a little bit shocking to hear that the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory Jaczko, is now under attack. . . for trying to implement new safety standards too quickly.

That’s not how House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is putting it, of course. In doublespeak that would make Orwell proud, Issa has written to the White House, issued a report, and fallen just shy of calling for Jaczko’s head.

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