NRC shouldn’t stand for “No Regulations Contemplated”; Majority of NRC Commissioners repeatedly voted NO on safety
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 19, 2011) – Today, Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, called on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to move quickly to adopt the recommendations of the NRC’s Near Term Task Force reviewing Commission processes and regulations in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns. He also released an analysis of several Commission votes on nuclear safety-related matters that demonstrate that all NRC Commissioners except Chairman Greg Jaczko have repeatedly voted to weaken proposals to strengthen nuclear safety and security measures.
“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is supposed to do what it takes to assure the safety of America’s nuclear industry,” said Rep. Markey. “Instead, all too often, a majority of the NRC’s Commissioners seem to be operating under the impression that NRC really stands for ‘No Regulations Contemplated,’ even when those safety rules are proposed by its own expert staff and advisory committees. I call on these Commissioners to start doing their jobs, and act immediately to implement all measures recommended by the Fukushima task force instead of calling for endless additional study in the hopes of delaying their adoption indefinitely.”
Selected Safety and Security Votes Taken Since 2009 by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
April 15, 2009: The Commission voted 4-1 (Chairman Jaczko disapproved, Commissioner Svinicki approved, and the other Commissioners who voted have since left the NRC) to support a proposal to enhance the security associated with cesium chloride sources rather than to phase out the most dispersible form of the material altogether as recommended by the National Academies of Science in 2008. Cesium chloride is so dangerous that after scavengers found a small amount in Brazil in 1987 and children and others spread it on their bodies, 250 people were contaminated, 20 became ill with symptoms of radiation poisoning and 4 died. Source: SECY 08-0184
June 30, 2009: The Commission voted 2-2 (Chairman Jaczko approved, Commissioner Svinicki disapproved, and the other Commissioners who voted have since left the NRC)) to defeat a staff proposal to expand the National Source Tracking System to include Category 3 radioactive sources, which the International Atomic Energy Agency says, if not safely managed or securely protected, could cause permanent injury to a person who handled them, or were otherwise in contact with them, for some hours. Source: SECY 09-0086.
June 1, 2010: The Commission voted 4-1 (with only Chairman Jaczko voting to disapprove) in support of a proposal to reduce the limitation on the number of work hours for employees who perform quality control and quality verification functions at nuclear power plants. Source: SECY-09-0183.
September 7, 2010: The Commission voted 4-1 (with only Chairman Jaczko voting to disapprove) to support a proposal to stop having separate votes on all requests to be exempted from the requirement that ‘near-site emergency operations facilities’ be located near to the site of where the actual nuclear reactor emergencies or accidents might occur. Licensees have instead proposed the creation of ‘centralized emergency operations facilities’ that are hundreds of miles away from the nuclear reactors located in multiple States they are intended to serve. Source: SECY 10-0078.
December 2, 2010: The Commission voted 4-1 (with only Chairman Jaczko voting to approve) to disapprove a proposal to require specific NRC licenses for radioactive materials that could be used to make a dirty bomb whose activity level is greater than 1/10th of “Category 3,” even though a previous Commission had supported such a proposal. Requiring a license would have alleviated some concerns related to the potential for a terrorist to aggregate these smaller sources to create a larger improvised dirty bomb. Source: SECY-10-0105
March 15, 2011: The Commission voted 4-1 (with only Chairman Jaczko voting to disapprove) to approve a staff proposal to ignore a recommendation by NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards to ensure that safety measures that are assumed to address the hotter reactor cores and higher pressures associated with ‘power up-rates’ (which enable nuclear reactors to produce more electricity) would work to prevent a melt-down in the event of an accident. The Advisory Committee believed that the possibility that a fire or earthquake could breach the containment of the nuclear reactor needed to be considered. Source: SECY 11-0014.
March 30, 2011: The Commission voted 4-1 (with only Chairman Jaczko voting to approve) to disapprove a staff proposal to add requirements for personnel seeking access to nuclear reactor construction sites to ensure that appropriate security screening was conducted. The Commission instead decided to rely on a voluntary Nuclear Energy Institute personnel security initiative. Source: SECY-10-013.