Fixing regulatory anomalies -- by Russell Hoffman -- July 3rd, 2001
HOW CAN WE ACHIEVE ENERGY INDEPENDENCE WHEN THE NRC HOLDS ALL THE CARDS?
What's wrong with a regulatory control system that doesn't have the normal layers known as federal, state, county, and local control? Lots. Nuclear regulation all goes straight to the federal level, and there is essentially NO state, county, or local control. In California this state of affairs began in 1962, in the midst of the so-called "Cold War", when nuclear technology was much younger and there were great fears that the technology would be stolen by the Russians and then they might have cheap energy too.
Instead, the Russians built their own nukes their own way, and at least one of them melted down -- Chernobyl. Ours weren't much better. Three Mile Island, despite what nuke supporters might say about it, was a very serious accident with significant core melt. Look it up. The facts are now out, but the propagandists who support nuclear power still say it was an insignificant little accident (that ruined a billion dollar power plant and nearly wiped out Pennsylvania). Little it was, comparatively. Insignificant, it was not.
Normally, regulatory control goes like this: There are federal agencies which (theoretically) look out for your safety. Also, many federal agencies check up on other federal agencies, serving as a cross-check. Who does this benefit? You the citizen. But the NRC has very little outside review by other agencies. OSHA, for example, does not have jurisdiction at nuclear power plants, unlike every other private industry, including biotechnology, and all sorts of hazardous chemical plants. OSHA even has jurisdiction over private industry on military bases, but they have no jurisdiction over nuclear power plants.
Then there are state agencies, which not only also look out for your safety, but have to, by both logic and law, be stronger than federal regulations. Otherwise there is no reason for the state regulations (and regulators) to exist, since they are not allowed to have weaker state laws than the federal laws.
Similarly, county regulations have to be stronger than state regulations or there is no reason to have additional county regulations since they can't be weaker. And local regulations have to be the tightest of all, or they too need not exist.
So normally, our job, as citizens, activists, voters, and agitators is to convince -- not just one of these levels -- but all of them -- that something is amiss, if we think so. We can, however, concentrate our powers of persuasion, such as they may be, on the local-most entity, since if they take control of something, to avoid duplication of effort, they have to also enforce the county, state, and federal laws. And our local representatives have to listen to the citizens that elected them or they won't get re-elected. Local commissioners are a lot easier to throw out than national ones if we don't like what they are doing. So it is usually best to concentrate on the local powers-that-be, because they are only one step up from you in the power structure. (You're pretty much at the bottom, along with me and most other people on the planet.)
Unfortunately, with nuclear energy, this power system, with its built-in checks and balances, was usurped. In 1962 California ceded essentially all authority to the Atomic Energy Commission, and this cession of authority was carried over to the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when the AEC was found to be so ineffective that they broke it into two separate agencies, whose focuses, it turns out, are each so pro-nuclear that they are in effect indistinguishable from each other.
This is not surprising since the DOE got the nuclear bomb making job, and the NRC got the nuclear power plant regulation, and nuclear bombs need nuclear power plants to get the material to process into atomic weapons. So one hand washes the other and we all swim in the radioactive effluent of this hand-washing. We are all downwinders.
It's time to change the regulatory atmosphere for nuclear power. It's not right. It's not working. It's incredibly odd. It's not how we do things in America, normally.
We need the state, county, and local authorities to take charge and fix the regulatory atmosphere so that nuclear power is not given an unfair advantage to pollute, to risk catastrophe, to avoid inspection, and to block out better energy solutions by sucking all our money and piling up hundreds of tons of nuclear waste on our beaches.
It's time to close the regulatory gaps this situation has created, and it's high time to close San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station down. Renewable energy solutions are not going to happen without government investment, which won't happen without the people demanding it. So let's face reality: We are in charge and we are capable of solving this problem. Let's force all authorities, at all levels, to do their jobs properly, and NOT cede state and local authority any longer to the NRC, the DOE, or any other corrupt federal agency.
Articles 8 and 9 of the very California state statue which ceded most of the control to the AEC in 1962 clearly states that if that arrangement doesn't work to provide for the safety and health of the public, it is to be terminated.
It's time to terminate Washington control of our energy decisions. It's time to built large and small-scale renewable energy solutions locally, and it's time to build not just a national electricity grid as Shrub has endorsed, but a global energy grid so that renewable energy resources can be distributed to whoever needs them from wherever they can be produced.
There is no reason to let the current situation continue. In the time it takes you to read this, San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station, known as SONGS because the "W" (Waste) is ignored, will create several additional pounds of High Level Radioactive Waste, and three or four times that of Low Level Radioactive Waste, not one gram of which do we want or need. (LLRW is just HLRW with filler added, like steel, brass, aluminum, copper, plastic, rubber, cloth, etc. -- things that might have been recyclable, but now they're radioactive and useless to society.)
To wait is to make things worse. To simply advocate more talk or more basic research into these issues is no longer warranted. Now is the time for action. For the most part, experts know exactly what needs to be done, and they need the funding and encouragement to do it.
Tell our leaders we want action!
July 3rd, 2001
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First posted July, 2001.
Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman