NRC Commissioners, Act on Your 90-Day Review

July 19, 2011
Dave Lochbaum
Former contributor

Following last week’s release of the recommendations of the NRC’s Near-Term Task Force, which looked at the implications of the Fukushima disaster for nuclear power in the US, 15 organizations sent a letter today to the NRC Commissioners urging them to:

provide the NRC staff with the resources and direction necessary to fully implement the recommendations from the July 12, 2011 report by the Near-Term Task Force as expeditiously as possible.

The letter goes on to say:

Now that these issues have been identified and their resolution outlined, Americans are unnecessarily at elevated risk until the NRC successfully implements these recommendations.

We request that you set a deadline for the adoption of each recommendation, and take appropriate steps to ensure that robust public participation is an intrinsic element of this process.

It’s encouraging to see that at least one of the Commissioners, NRC Chair Gregory Jaczko, is thinking along the same lines. In a presentation Monday at the National Press Club in DC, he said:

In light of the Task Force’s work, I see no reason why the Commission cannot provide clear direction on each of their recommendations in less than 90 days. That is the time the Commission gave the Task Force to do its job, and I believe that is more than enough time for the Commission to outline a clear path forward. …

Nearly a decade ago, we embarked on an effort to overhaul and strengthen the security of the nation’s nuclear plants in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. While we moved forward with short-term changes, it has taken the NRC and the industry almost 10 years to fully develop and implement that new framework. I believe that it would be unacceptable for our current effort to take that long.

That is why I am calling today for the NRC and the nuclear industry to commit to complete and implement the process of learning and applying the lessons of the Fukushima accident within five years – by 2016. This will take a lot of hard work, strong and decisive leadership from the Commission, and an even stronger commitment by our licensees to put safety first. We have no other choice. The costs of inaction are simply too high.

We commend Chairman Jaczko for his charge to the NRC and industry, and call on the rest of Commissioners to support this timeline. The NRC and the industry often assert that safety is their foremost priority. Time will tell whether those words reflect true commitments to safety or are merely PR slogans.