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Dave Lochbaum

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About the author: 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

Enhancing NRC Public Meetings

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #58

By memo dated January 29, 2015, a task group of twenty individuals within the NRC submitted its report to the agency’s Executive Director for Operations on enhancing public meetings. The task group was created in response to written direction dated March 5, 2014, (ADAMS ML14070A070, but not publicly available in ADAMS) from the NRC Chairman. The task group made five recommendations to enhance public meetings conducted by the NRC: Read More

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Nuclear Stock Market

Fission Stories #191

News such as last year’s closure of four nuclear power reactors, this year’s closure of another reactor, and Exelon’s claim that many of its reactors cannot break even absent even greater subsidies suggests that now might not be the best time to invest in nuclear technology. But it doesn’t mean that nuclear technology need not be considered when playing the stock market. Read More

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Nuclear Columbine

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #57

From Charles Whitman killing 16 people with shots fired from a tower on the University of Texas at Austin campus on August 1, 1966, to two students killing 13 people by gunfire at Columbine High School in Colorado on April 20, 1999, to a gunmen killing 32 people at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, to a young man fatally shooting 20 children and 6 staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, and many other incidents, school shootings have tragically claimed too many innocent lives and given too many families irreplaceable, unforgettable losses.

The United States could have reacted to Whitman’s rampage by closing all public and private schools. That action would have absolutely prevented school shootings and their tragic consequences.

Instead, the United States chose to sustain the benefits from formal education while pursuing measures intended to make schools as safe as possible. While school shootings have continued, I recall the comments made by William J. Bennett, Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan, after Columbine. Bennett observed that while you could count the times the safety measures failed, you could not count the times they succeeded in averting tragedies. Rather than suggesting that occasional school shootings were “acceptable losses,” Bennett emphasized the vital role for safety and security in our educational system.

This education situation is similar to our longstanding position on nuclear power. Nuclear power became one of UCS’s focus areas shortly after the organization was formed in May 1969. Nuclear power provides certain benefits by producing large amounts of energy from a relatively small environmental footprint. But the consequences from nuclear mis-steps can be extremely costly. UCS has consistently focused on identifying nuclear power plant safety shortcomings and advocating their solutions. The nuclear plant accidents at Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986), and Fukushima (2011) has not altered that focus.

Bottom Line

One of two things would need to happen to move UCS into adopting either a pro-nuclear power or an anti-nuclear power position.

First, we could become unable to find nuclear power plant safety shortcomings if all operating reactors complied with applicable regulations or if all operating reactors were inherently safe. With only benefits to be captured and no costly consequences to be experienced, nuclear power could be embraced by UCS.

Second, we could become unable to find appropriate solutions for nuclear power plant safety shortcomings. With benefits to be derived only at undue risk of costly consequences, nuclear power would likely be opposed by UCS.

Until then, UCS will continue looking for nuclear safety problems and calling for their resolutions.

 

The UCS Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit (NEAT) is a series of post intended to help citizens understand nuclear technology and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s processes for overseeing nuclear plant safety.

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Near Miss at Nuclear Fuel Services

Fission Stories #190

UCS initiated a series of annual reports on the NRC and nuclear plant safety in March 2011. As in this year’s report, these annual reports contain a chapter summarizing the near misses that the NRC investigated during the prior year. We define “near miss” to be any event or discovery at a nuclear plant that prompts the NRC to dispatch a special inspection team to the site to ascertain its cause and verify its correction. Read More

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All Over the Nuclear Safety Map

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #56

In 2007, UCS launched the Nuclear Power Information Tracker, an interactive web feature. The default screen showed a map of the continental United States with icons showing the locations of the commercial nuclear power reactors. Running the cursor over an icon prompted a pop-up box with the reactor’s name, some basic information, and a link to a webpage for that reactor with additional details as well as UCS reports about that reactor. Read More

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Nuclear Near-Miss at Pilgrim

On January 27, 2015, Winter Storm Juno knocked out both of the 345,000 volt transmission lines connecting the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth.  Per design, the reactor automatically shut down when the second offsite power line was lost. When equipment problems and operator errors complicated the intended response, the NRC dispatched a special inspection team to the site to investigate what happened (and didn’t happen). Read More

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Perils of New Nuclear Fuel: Part 4 – Grand Gulf’s Painted Water

Fission Stories #189

The previous two Fission Stories commentaries (#187 and #188) described problems at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station near Port Gibson, Mississippi involving new fuel bundles stored in the new fuel vault and later in transferring them into the spent fuel pool. This post caps the trilogy by describing a problem encountered with the new fuel bundles in the spent fuel pool. Read More

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Nuclear Near-Misses

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #55

UCS launched a series of annual reports on the NRC and nuclear power plant safety in 2011. The reports share a common template for what is covered and how it is presented. The reports have something else in common—unanticipated controversies inside and outside UCS regarding our decision to use “near miss” to describe the events summarized in Chapter 2 of the reports. Read More

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Perils of New Nuclear Fuel: Part 3 – Grand Gulf’s Safety Suspension

Fission Stories #188

The previous Fission Stories commentary described a problem at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station near Port Gibson, Mississippi that prevented workers from transferring fuel bundles from the new fuel vault to the spent fuel pool. This post describes a problem encountered shortly after that problem was eliminated and the transfers began. Read More

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Elder of the US Nuclear Power Plants

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #54

Hyman G. Rickover has often been referred to as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy.” It is even engraved on his tombstone in Arlington Cemetery. Read More

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