BRC and NRC Battle! What is Most Needed? Policy vs Know How

Friday May 13 was the date of the last Blue Ribbon Commission hearing on Nuclear Waste. A recurring theme for the six hour marathon meeting was that technical issues are processed far too slowly by the NRC. The NRC has been delaying their announcements about conclusions drawn from the Fukushima events for two months. The delays affect progress and affect decisions regarding nuclear energy projects. Their procedures for investigating the risks or the promise of innovations take months or years to reach their conclusions and even then reveal a lack of understanding of the actual risks and seem to measure their decisions based on the temperature of the general fever of doubt by the public.

The kinds of conclusions suggested by the BRC from documents available on the BRC website make very pessimistic predictions. They conclude that it will be decades before reprocessing is practical. They still proceed as if the Oak Ridge National Laboratory studies on Molten Salt Reactors never happened.

Another overwhelming recurring theme was that transportation of nuclear waste is the biggest issue about finding permanent or interim storage. The fears reveal a lack of understanding the dangers involved. The whole manner of these proceedings is frustrating. Presentations are given and most of the commissioners admit to being far too unqualified to judge and then when the questions are asked at the end of each presentation or when the public comments are made no attempt is made to bring clarity to technical issues.

Per Peterson, one of the only highly technically qualified people on the BRC, raised the point about the need for more qualified technical staff as did some of the other commissioners in their own way. The chairman Lee Hamilton at one point put the NRC on the spot by insisting on some reassurance after 60 days of investigating the Fukushima incident that something useful be brought forth or perhaps saying that there is no useful conclusions to apply to America’s nuclear power plants. The word “tentative” kept coming up to refer to the fact that information has not been easy to come by regarding the Fukushima reactors and the fuel storage.

The shocking reality to me that seems so obvious is that these guys are in over their head. When the pressure for answers is on and the answers are so scarce there is an obvious need for really knowledgeable people to investigate the situation.

What do bureaucratic organizations do when they lack expertise? They dictate policy. Even Per Peterson’s presentation was given from a policy point of view.

Perhaps the biggest problem with forming a commission or a regulatory agency is that a lot of the times that they are needed the staff are able to handle the technical challenges. Nuclear energy has specific needs and just like when an emergency calls for “a doctor in the house” so does forming a committee about nuclear, let that be several, not just spotted here and there among senior bureaucrats.

2 Comments

  • JJRaleigh
    May 19, 2011 - 2:19 pm | Permalink

    The whole thing makes me crazy! : ) The ongoing BRC effort is just one big stall tactic!!! Otherwise, the BRC members would have been permitted to include the Yucca Mountain Repository in their evaluation. I also do not buy into the allegation that the people of Nevada do not want the repository. I know Nye County wants it!!! My home is in Las Vegas. Except for the vocal minority that appeared at NRC-DOE public meetings on the YMR, the people I talked to while out and about were generally indifferent to the YMR and usually only knew the misinformation that the Reid media machine pumped out to the masses.

    I can only hope that the 2012 elections will change the power structure and unseat Harry Reid as the Senate Majority Leader so the project can move forward. I’m not saying the NWPA is fine as is; there needs to be modifications made to the NWPA to provide direct access to the NWF (eliminate the appropriations roadblock) and to permit reprocessing, but that can be worked out while the repository — which will be needed no matter what we do going forward — is prepared for use.

    What really disturbs me is that the entire situation is corrupt!!! Dirty Harry “We lost the War” Reid planted Jaczko on the Commission (after holding up ~100 Bush appointees until Bush caved) and then pushed for him to be the Chairman of the NRC under Obama SPECIFICALLY so he could derail the NRC Review of the YMP License Application from the inside. In addition, he got Steven Chu to flip-flop his position on the YMP (after signing with the other National Lab Leads that the YMR was the path to pursue) in order to gain appointment to the Secretary of Energy job (… So much for “Sound Science”…). Further, the sitting NRC Commissioners all had to agree not to challenge DOE’s pulling of the License Application during their confirmation hearings in order to be confirmed. All of these players and obstructionists are in violation of the LAW!!! Reid, Waxman, Jaczko, Chu, Berkley, Heller ALL need to be thrown out of their jobs… I’d even go further and have them arrested for violating FEDERAL LAW.

    … How I’d love to be King for a day…

  • warpmne
    May 24, 2011 - 11:33 am | Permalink

    When Shakespeare wrote kill the lawyers, I’m fairly sure, he meant the bureaucrats too.

    For the last six decades we’ve had a serious problem with ignorant politicians. Therefore we must change their attitude from country servicing them to service to country and the way to do that is to dissolve the Union for a few years and take away that corruptible power. Put them on trial and force them to answer hard questions about all their affiliations. Incarcerate them, strip them of their ability to gather wealth from public service or whatever it takes to get them out of “helping” the public.

    I cannot see any future for America in terms of prosperity until this happens. Profit from politics must be a crime punishable with long prison occupancy and large heavy fines for both the politician and his benefactors.

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