NC WARN News Release
Journalists expose highly corrupted U.S. nuclear agency
Three investigative articles published last week add mountains of evidence to years-long claims by U.S. watchdogs that the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission is heavily corrupted by industry influence, does not enforce safety rules, and is a revolving door between bureaucratic work and lucrative industry employment.
I urge news editors to review and publish these articles, and to redouble scrutiny of the NRC and its unholy connection to the industry before the U.S. public’s luck runs out.
Each of the articles listed below reads as a stinging indictment of the NRC for allowing fire protection regulations to remain unenforced for 30 years despite numerous severe fires and the fact that the NRC admits fire is the leading risk factor for core meltdown.
Now, a chief investigator who recently retired from the NRC’s Inspector General’s office has gone public in blasting the agency for allowing cost to trump safety at the nation’s nuclear plants. George Mulley calls the NRC a prep school for future industry jobs. This includes NRC commissioners now working in top posts for nuclear corporations.
Other highlights from the articles include:
- NRC plans to allow scores of plants to violate fire rules for many years to come.
- Two Progress Energy plants – Harris and Robinson – feature prominently in these stories due to their histories of fires and noncompliance.
- Note that even industry officials admit the new, voluntary fire program that Harris and Oconee have adopted is flawed and will take years to correct.
The first two articles listed below were published by highly respected nonprofit media outlets. The third item was published by the New York Times.
See more on NRC’s fire safety non-enforcement at the websites for Beyond Nuclear, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and NC WARN – who have worked together many years to force the NRC to enforce fire protection regulations.
NRC Waives Enforcement of Fire Rules at Nuclear Plants
By John Sullivan May 11, 2011
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is routinely waiving fire rule violations at nearly half the nation’s 104 commercial reactors, even though fire presents one of the chief hazards at nuclear plants.
The policy, the result of a series of little-noticed decisions in recent years, is meant to encourage nuclear companies to remedy longstanding fire safety problems. But critics say it is leaving decades-old fire hazards in place as the NRC fails to enforce its own rules.
Fires present a special risk to nuclear plants because they can knock out cables that control room operators need to safely cool down a reactor. The explosions  and fires  at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant have shown what can happen when operators can’t activate pumps, valves and other equipment needed to prevent damage to the radioactive core.
The Center for Public Integrity
A more likely nuclear nightmare
Despite tsunami and earthquakes, nuclear power’s more probable threat — recurring fires — goes unchecked
By Susan Q. Stranahan May 10, 2011
The safety plan for any nuclear power plant reads like a doomsday book. Earthquakes, floods, airplane crashes, mass evacuations, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, tornadoes — all are disaster scenarios deemed a risk to reactor safety. The most likely threat, however, involves none of these headline cataclysms.
Fires regularly occur at the 104 U.S. nuclear plants, nearly 10 times a year on average. About half the accidents that threaten reactor cores begin with fires that can start from a short circuit in an electric cable, a spark that ignites the oil in a pump, or an explosion in a transformer.
Even a small fire could trigger a chain of events that threatens a meltdown, and some have come close.
The New York Times
Nuclear Agency Is Criticized as Too Close to Its Industry
By TOM ZELLER Jr. May 7, 2011
(EXCERPTS): Critics have long painted the commission as well-intentioned but weak and compliant, and incapable of keeping close tabs on an industry to which it remains closely tied. The concerns have greater urgency because of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, which many experts say they believe was caused as much by lax government oversight as by a natural disaster.
… George A. Mulley Jr., a former investigator with the inspector general’s office who led the Byron inquiry. “They always say, ‘Oh, but nothing happened,’ ” Mr. Mulley said. “Well, sooner or later, our luck — you know, we’re going to end up rolling craps.”
… “The N.R.C. is like a prep school for many of these guys, because they know they’ve got a good shot at landing much higher-paying work with the people they’re supposed to be keeping in line,” Mr. Mulley said. “They’re not going to do anything to jeopardize that.”