Nuclear Regulatory Roulette

October 6, 2010
Dave Lochbaum
Former contributor

We’ve posted a new report on accidental releases of radioactive liquids and gases from nuclear power plants. It shows that the NRC is not enforcing its own regulations on these events, which were developed to protect the public and environment from radioactive contamination.

There have been more than 400 accidental leaks from U.S. reactors, some involving millions of gallons of contaminated water. Some of the leaks remained undetected for years. Nearly every nuclear plant in the country has experienced at least one accidental leak.

The NRC has repeatedly tolerated unmonitored and uncontrolled leaks of radioactively contaminated water into the ground and nearby waterways. For years, the NRC sporadically sanctioned plant owners for violations of regulations. There was little correlation between the severity of the violation and whether a sanction was issued. But in all 27 cases in which plants accidentally released radioactive materials over the past four years, the NRC has allowed plant owners to violate these regulations with impunity.