Nuclear, O&M, Reactors

Report charges NRC with failure to enforce regulations

A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists says one in six nuclear reactors experienced safety breaches in 2012 due to lax oversight from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The report blasts the NRC for “tolerating the intolerable” in failing to enforce its own regulations, something it calls “a gamble that places lives a stake.” In 2012, the NRC recorded 14 year “near-misses” at nuclear plants, events that increase the odds of a “core meltdown by at least a factor of 10,” wrote study author David Lochbaum, director of the Cambridge-based environmental group’s Nuclear Safety Project.

According to the report, 40 of the 104 nuclear plants operating in the U.S. at time of publication experienced one or more near misses in the past three years.

“There is a large perception gap between how the NRC senior managers view conditions within the agency and how the work force views them,” Lochbaum wrote. “NRC managers cannot fix problems they do not believe exist.”

The NRC said that the report actually proves that they are keeping an eye on operations at nuclear power plants.

“Far from showing lax regulation or oversight, these special inspections show the NRC doing its job to protect the public and the environment by finding and correcting problems early, before they can cause real harm,” said an NRC spokesman to Bloomberg in an e-mail. “None of the incidents cited by UCS actually affected public health and safety.”

Subscribe to Nuclear Power International magazine