The Associated Press (AP) has published a hard-hitting four-part series, detailing the cozy relationship between the nuclear power industry and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the federal agency that regulates utilities operating nuclear power plants. The depth and scope of the investigation provides a stunning look behind the scenes of the nuclear power industry in the U.S.
The series of reports comes at a time when revelations about the relationship between Japanese nuclear regulators, government officials and the electric utilities are being uncovered. The recent news that Tepco seriously underestimated the risk and size of a tsunami in their one-page tsunami plan, which regulators shockingly approved, should give pause that the U.S. is not immune to similar oversight issues.
The first article in the series, “U.S. nuke regulators weaken safety rules” pulls no punches when criticizing the NRC: “Federal regulators have been working closely with the nuclear power industry to keep the nation’s aging reactors operating within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards, or simply failing to enforce them, an investigation by The Associated Press has found.”
While that assertion by the AP is a bold one, the articles cite shifting safety standards and a lack of physical inspections by the NRC, to such a degree that one wonders how such a lax oversight system has been allowed to remain in place for so long. Three members of the U.S. Senate were so alarmed by the series they are now calling for a congressional investigation into safety and oversight issues at nuclear plants.
Numerous passages in the AP series provide fodder for U.S. Senators looking to grab headlines during congressional testimony:
“Failed cables. Busted seals. Broken nozzles, clogged screens, cracked concrete, dented containers, corroded metals and rusty underground pipes — all of these and thousands of other problems linked to aging were uncovered in the AP’s yearlong investigation. And all of them could escalate dangers in the event of an accident.
Yet despite the many problems linked to aging, not a single official body in government or industry has studied the overall frequency and potential impact on safety of such breakdowns in recent years, even as the NRC has extended the licenses of dozens of reactors.”
AP investigative journalist Jeff Donn, author of the series, recently appeared on Democracy Now! to summarize what his reporting uncovered.
We encourage everyone to read the four-part series by the AP titled “Aging Nukes,” available online through the links below.
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