Timing the NRC’s 100-Yard Dash with a Calendar

June 28, 2012
Dave Lochbaum
Former contributor

I recently received a letter from the NRC responding to concerns I’d expressed in writing regarding the slow pace by which the NRC resolves known safety problems at U.S. nuclear power plants. The NRC’s response assured me that is precisely what they do because “Timely resolution of safety issues is important.”

And I believe it. I’ve added the NRC resolving safety issues in a timely manner to my list of beliefs in Big Foot, Elvis being spotted in Burger King in Michigan, Jimmy Hoffa being buried in the end zone at Giants Stadium, the moon being made of green cheese, Santa Claus, the moon landing being faked in a Hollywood studio, the earth being flat, JFK being shot by a Sasquatch from the grassy knoll who then escaped in a UFO, unicorns, and the Easter Bunny.

Why am I this skeptical? Because it’s physically impossible for me to be more skeptical about the NRC’s fanciful, fictional response.

My letter was dated November 22, 2011. I emailed it to the NRC so they received it that same day.

The NRC’s reply was dated June 8, 2012.

On November 8, 2011 (or 14 days before I submitted my letter), the NRC revised its Management Directive 3.57, Correspondence Management.

Table 4.1 in this management directive specifies the target response times to incoming correspondence. For letters, the goal is 15 working days. For email, the target is 3 working days. I emailed in an electronic letter, potentially invoking either goal. But I’ll give NRC the benefit of the doubt and use the longer 15 working day response time goal.

It took the NRC 199 calendar days to respond to my letter.

Either the NRC only works about 15 days every 199 calendar days or the NRC takes a Rhett Butler approach to target dates – they don’t give a damn.

So I feel quite justified not to believe NRC’s assurances about their being timely when it comes in a tardy package.

Or perhaps it’s the warped time thing suggested by David Wright, co-director of my Global Security Program. Just as one dog-year equals seven human-years, maybe one NRC-year equals 13 human-years. That would explain how 199 human-days equals 15 NRC-days. And it would explain how the 30-plus human-years that U.S. nuclear plants have violated fire protection regulations is only about 2 ½ NRC-years. Expressing it in NRC-years doesn’t help the millions of Americans are undue risk due to NRC’s shenanigans, but at least it sounds better.