As DougJ said the other day, “shit happens” can’t be the response to the current nuclear crisis in Japan. A set of reactors based on an sixties-vintage US design, and spent fuel storage ponds operated in the same manner as US sites, has caused a local disaster and is now clearly at the brink of a major region-wide disaster.
With that in mind, here’s a snippet from a Union of Concerned Scientists press conference:
REPORTER: Is there any comparison to the BP oil spill? And, you know, that was a pretty worst-case scenario in a different manner in respect to, you know, several missteps and technological breakdowns happened.
MR. LOCHBAUM: Well, I think the common denominator is the United States Congress, and what we’re hearing now on the BP oil spill is that MMS was an ineffective regulator, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is another ineffective regulator, but it’s not really the NRC’s fault. The United States — when the NRC, in the nineties, was trying to enforce its regulations after the debacle up at the Millstone Nuclear Plant in Connecticut, the nuclear industry ran to Congress, and Congress told the NRC to stop enforcing its regulations. You are going to put these guys out of business. So, the NRC, since their budget is controlled by the United States Congress, they listened. They haven’t enforced regulations in about 15 years. So, when the accident occurs in a nuclear power plant, Congress will call the NRC and say, geez, what’s wrong with you? They’ll change their name and they’ll do the same old stuff. The United States Congress should stop telling federal regulatory bodies to stop regulating. They’re not doing the American public much good by those kind of shenanigans.
Reading the UCS press conference transcripts from the last couple of days, the issues that need to be addressed in the US include moving spent fuel from storage ponds to dry casks more quickly, backup generators for hydrogen ignitors, requiring that new plants be certified to a higher safety standard, and re-examining site blackout procedures and assumptions.