The Helen Caldicott Foundation | Nuclear Agency Rules Are Ill-Suited for Plant Decommissioning, Leader Says

Nuclear Agency Rules Are Ill-Suited for Plant Decommissioning, Leader Says

Nuclear Agency Rules Are Ill-Suited for Plant Decommissioning, Leader Says

Outgoing NRC head, geologist Allison McFarlane said the nuclear industry has acted as as if its glory days would never end, that reactors would only ever have to be built, never decommissioned. It has not given thought to its aging infrastructure and a future without the existing reactors. It has not given thought to how to shut them down safely or what, realistically can be done with the forever deadly nuclear waste. She didn’t say it so bluntly, but she said it clearly, while also telling her unknown successor to speak to the public, no more obfuscation and hiding behind acronyms. As for Yucca Mountain, it faces hurdles no matter what party is in power. Ie, it is not safe. Added to that, even if ill-advisedly shoved through, it would be full before it could even be built. She should know, although she was told she should not have a say about its geological safety because, as a geologist, she knew too much. Which neatly sums up the problems with the NRC culture.

MATTHEW L. WALD / New York Times 17 November, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s rules are not geared for supervising the decommissioning of nuclear reactors, the task that will occupy much of its time in the coming years, the head of the agency, Allison M. Macfarlane, said Monday.

Speaking at the National Press Club in a wide-ranging look at her agency and the industry before she leaves the job at the end of the year, Dr. Macfarlane said the industry had instead set itself up about 15 years ago to oversee more reactor construction, a revival that did not occur. “The industry was really expecting to expand,” she said. “The agency’s not facing the future that five years ago people envisioned.”

Instead, a plunging price of natural gas and slack demand for electricity have made some existing plants uncompetitive, and the pace of retirements has been high. But the commission’s rules on areas like security and emergency planning are geared to operating plants, she said. So shut-down plants are applying for exemptions to the rules that no longer seem to fit the risk that the reactors pose when decommissioned.

As with nuclear waste, the commission’s rules on reactors seem more focused on construction and operation than on the “back end”…

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