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Mon Apr 30, 2012, 04:35 PM

The infighting that threatens to undermine US nuclear safety

"All of this in my opinion is a sign of a desperate struggle going on involving the NRC ... The majority of commissioners were put there largely with the blessing of the nuclear industry, and are now pushing back over potentially expensive upgrades to the reactor fleet after Fukushima."

The infighting that threatens to undermine US nuclear safety
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission became more powerful post-Fukushima, but it has been beset by division and dissent


Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 April 2012 11.29 EDT


It could be the latest Inside the Beltway TV drama: the safety guardians of America's nuclear industry working in a political environment so toxic that the White House was compelled to appoint the bureaucratic equivalent of a marriage counsellor.

Firstly, there have been testimonies to Congress of "outbursts of abusive rage" at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The senior regulator, George Jaczko, was accused of bullying the sole woman on the five-member commission, a Republican nuclear engineer Kristine Svinicki. All four of his commissioners were in open revolt. Republicans in Congress also weighed in, with a letter last week demanding Jaczko justify his performance.

But the real drama, going largely unseen amid the infighting at the regulator, is over the future of America's nuclear industry after the Fukushima disaster in Japan last year, nuclear experts say. "All of this in my opinion is a sign of a desperate struggle going on involving the NRC," said Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert at the Institute for Policy Studies. "The majority of commissioners were put there largely with the blessing of the nuclear industry, and are now pushing back over potentially expensive upgrades to the reactor fleet after Fukushima."

After a 30-year hold on new reactor construction, America's nuclear industry had been poised for an era of expansion until Fukushima occurred and NRC, under Jaczko's command, began a review of America's 100-plus reactors.

About one-quarter of America's 100-plus civilian reactors are the same General Electric model as the doomed Japanese reactor...


http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/30/nuclear-industry-nrc-infighting-fukushima?intcmp=122

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