Dave Lochbaum

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

Simplified Drawings: Electrical Distribution Drawings

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #43

The primary objective of nuclear power plants is to generate electricity for use (i.e., purchase) by industrial and residential customers. Nuclear power plants consume large amounts of electricity themselves in pursuing this objective. Read More

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Lifetime Achievement Award to Michael Mariotte

Individuals and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the country and Europe gathered at the Carnegie Institute in Washington, DC on November 10, 2014, to present a Lifetime Achievement Award Lifetime Achievement Award to Michael Mariotte of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS). Read More

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NRC: Obstructing Justice?

Fission Stories #176

On June 23, 2014, NRC issued two yellow findings, the second most serious among the agency’s four color-coded sanctions, to the owner of the Arkansas Nuclear One plant for violations identified during a March 31, 2014, fatal accident.

My mistake. That fatal accident did not occur in March 2014. It happened on March 31, 2013—or “only” 449 days before the NRC issued the applicable sanctions.

What took the NRC so long?

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Simplified Drawings: Piping and Instrumentation Drawings (P&IDs)

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #42

Whenever possible, I like to accompany commentaries about nuclear plant issues with simplified drawings of the systems involved. For example, simplified drawings were featured in a NEAT post about the reactor core isolation cooling system and a Fission Stories post about a problem at Oyster Creek. I’ve been taking it for granted that readers would find these drawings a helpful complement to the text. In hindsight, a better foundation would provide a more meaningful connection between text and drawings. This post is the first in a series of posts seeking to provide a belated foundation for using simplified drawings. Read More

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NRC and Safety Culture

Fission Stories #175

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a policy statement on June 14, 2011, stating how swell it would be if the owners of nuclear power plants established and maintained a positive safety culture. The NRC did not require that plant owners obtain and retain positive safety cultures, but expressed how important “a safety-first focus in nuclear work environments for public health and safety.”

Thus, the NRC is officially on record that positive safety cultures are swell and are important for public health and safety but has not taken any steps to require these swell and important things to be implemented. Read More

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Routine Releases of Radioactivity from Nuclear Reactors

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #41

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) and the Mothers Against Tennessee River Radiation (MATRR) conducted a workshop last November in Chattanooga, TN on the radioactivity monitoring they perform around the Browns Ferry and Sequoyah nuclear plants. Garry Morgan periodically goes to a variety of locations around these plants and uses a radiation detector to measure radioactivity levels. Read More

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NRC Out of Compliance with FOIA Regulations

Fission Stories #174

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) manages the inherent dangers from nuclear power plant operation by establishing and enforcing (at least sometimes) federal safety regulations.

But this post is not about the NRC sending someone to nuclear jail. It’s about the NRC violating federal regulations and perhaps being on its own way to nuclear jail.

This follows on the heals of our post last week showing the NRC has been hiding documents from the public for a decade.

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Senseless Deprivation: The NRC Hiding Documents from the Public

Sensory deprivation involves the intentional elimination of stimuli of one or more of the senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. While it can be used to promote meditation and other helpful applications, it often has more sinister connotations. For example, few if any Hollywood films feature sensory deprivation followed by scenes of folks winning huge lottery awards or otherwise experiencing unlimited glee. Movies, like 1980’s Altered States, portray sensory deprivation in a more dark and sinister way.

Speaking of dark and sinister, are you aware of the NRC’s senseless deprivation? Read More

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The World Nuclear Industry Status Report: 2014

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #40

The 2014 edition of the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report was released in July. Mycle Schneider and Antony Froggatt authored this report with contributions by Yurika Ayukawa, Shaun Burnie, Raffaele Piria, Steve Thomas, and Julie Hazeman. Labeling it a report is somewhat misleading. It’s more like an encyclopedia filled with facts and insights.

Schneider, Froggatt and their associates compile and present scads of information. For example, Figure 1 from their report (below) shows the annual amount of electricity generated by nuclear power reactors worldwide from 1990 to date along with the percentage of total electricity generation. The data show that nuclear power’s percentage of overall electricity generation has dropped over 38% from its peak of 17.6% in 1996. Last year, nuclear power reactors produced only 10.8% of the electricity generated worldwide. Two decades of steadily declining generation percentage contradicts the notion of a “nuclear renaissance.”

Click to enlarge (Source: Mycle Schneider Consulting)

Click to enlarge (Source: Mycle Schneider Consulting)

If it only provided one-stop shopping for facts and figures about nuclear power worldwide, the report would be invaluable. It saves readers the effort needed to find and fetch this information from a wide array of source materials (i.e., the unenviable task undertaken by the authors in developing the report). But the report goes far beyond merely reporting nuclear numbers and illustrating their trends. It answers many of the associated “why” questions.

For example, Figure 7a from the report (below) shows the age of the 388 nuclear power reactors operating on July 1, 2014, along with their mean age of 28.5 years. This information is available online at websites like that of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Schneider, Froggatt and their associates probe a little deeper. This year, they introduced a category termed Long-Term Outage (LTO) for reactors that have not been permanently shut down but which did not operate at all during 2013 and during the first half of 2014. Forty-five reactors fell into this LTO bin.

Click to enlarge (Source: Mycle Schneider Consulting)

Click to enlarge (Source: Mycle Schneider Consulting)

Figure 7b from their report (below) revealed that the age profile of the 45 reactors in long-term outages was not significantly different from the profile of the 388 reactors in operation. In other words, the factors causing the long-term reactors were not age-biased. The report is filled with many such nuclear nuances, providing the back story for the numbers and trends.

Click to enlarge (Source: Mycle Schneider Consulting)

Click to enlarge (Source: Mycle Schneider Consulting)

The report contains extensive commentaries on economics of nuclear power and its alternatives and about nuclear plant construction timelines.

Bottom Line

If you only have time to review two annual nuclear reports, the World Nuclear Industry Status Report should be among them. (The other, of course, would be UCS’s annual report on the NRC and nuclear power plant safety.)

What I personally like most about the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Reports is getting to refer to their extensive information without having to do the extensive homework necessary to compile and package it. They are essentially the Cliffs Notes for nuclear power worldwide.


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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Oconee Irony

Fission Stories #173

Irony is not just the opposite of wrinkly. It also applies to the results obtained from sustained efforts by the owner of the Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina to downplay one minor safety problem and in the process causing an even larger problem to be identified. Read More

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