Dave Lochbaum

Director, Nuclear Safety Project

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Mr. Lochbaum received a BS in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1979 and worked as a nuclear engineer in nuclear power plants for 17 years. In 1992, he and a colleague identified a safety problem in a plant where they were working. When their concerns were ignored by the plant manager, the utility, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), they took the issue to Congress. The problem was eventually corrected at the original plant and at plants across the country. Lochbaum joined UCS in 1996 to work on nuclear power safety. He spent a year in 2009-10 working at the NRC Training Center in Tennessee. Areas of expertise: Nuclear power safety, nuclear technology and plant design, regulatory oversight, plant license renewal and decommissioning

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On the Same (Nuclear) Pages

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #55

Safety by Intent

Merriam-Webster defines regulation as “an official rule or law that says how something should be done” and as “the act of regulating something.”

The Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 created the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and tasked the agency with both saying how things should be done and regulating to ensure that those things get done right. How does the NRC discharge its statutory responsibilities? Read more >

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Nuclear (Information) Power

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #54

Safety by Intent

Robin Morgan wrote that “Knowledge is power. Information is power.”

Among many lessons learned from the March 1979 core meltdown at Three Mile Island was the need to collect, assess, and disseminate relevant operating experience in a timely manner. In other words, nuclear information has the power to promote nuclear safety, but only when that information is shared so as to replicate good practices and eradicate bad ones. Both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the nuclear industry undertook parallel efforts after Three Mile Island to improve operating experience efforts. Read more >

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Setting the Nuclear Safety Bar

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #53

Safety by Intent

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #52, last week’s commentary, described the timely and effective response by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to the unexpected discovery of cracked control rod drive mechanism (CRDM) nozzles at the Oconee nuclear plant in South Carolina. Soon after being surprised, the NRC determined who needed to do what when in order to properly resolve the safety problem. When the phased actions were taken, the results confirmed that the NRC’s triage was appropriate.

This commentary expands upon a theme implied in last week’s commentary—namely, that the NRC does a good job setting the nuclear safety bar at the Goldilocks height: not too low to expose workers and the public to undue risk, not too high to impose undue costs on plant owners, but just right. Read more >

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Rapid Regulator Response

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #52

Safety by Intent

The discovery of significant corrosion to the reactor vessel head at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ohio gave the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) a figurative black eye. On the same day in April 2002 that the NRC announced it rated Davis-Besse one of the top performing nuclear plants in the country, the agency reported that the corrosion spanning several years at the plant had compromised safety margins more than any event since the Three Mile Island accident in March 1979.

The well-deserved black eye overshadowed what had been stellar performance by a regulator with eyes wide open seeing a safety problem and swiftly acting to effectively resolve it in a timely manner. Prior commentaries have chronicled the NRC’s shortcomings. This commentary covers the history before the NRC snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Read more >

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Reactor Oversight Process

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #51

Safety by Intent

Last week’s commentary covered the NRC’s Maintenance Rule and expressed my perspective that it was the best thing the NRC has done over the past four decades. This week’s commentary describes my nominee for the second best thing—the Reactor Oversight Process (ROP). Read more >

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