Reform the N.R.C. – NYTimes.com

12 Mar

Like many regulatory agencies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is held captive by the industry it’s supposed to regulate.

…the Fukushima meltdowns, which were set off by an earthquake-triggered tsunami, raised questions about the vulnerability of America’s reactors to earthquakes. Indian Point, for example, is built above and near a series of faults. But the commission refused to do a full risk assessment and refused to consider earthquake damage as part of relicensing, announcing that “this is really not a serious concern.”

While such health and safety dangers from reactors are real, perhaps an even greater danger is the on-site storage of spent fuel, which is thousands of times more toxic than the uranium put into the reactor. While the reactor is surrounded by a concrete containment vessel, the commission allows spent fuel to be kept in a large, aboveground and unprotected pool of water.

The pools have been known to leak, and they are vulnerable to fire and terrorist attack. Fukushima presented an opportunity to address this lingering threat, and yet the commission once again failed to act.

How do we regulate the regulators?

There is a real need to reform the commission, whether one supports or opposes nuclear power. We need a fast-track, independent review of exemptions and the resulting weakened safety standards; we also need a similarly independent, rigorous inquiry into the commission and its ties to the nuclear industry.

Beyond reviews, Congress should create new, stricter requirements for action by the commission, including stronger rules against exemptions from safety and health regulations.

via Reform the N.R.C. – NYTimes.com.

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