On October 4th, the doddering Chairman of NRC, Dale Klein announced to the world, with little fan fare that the Nuclear Renaissance is upon us, further predicted the coming of "An Emerging Fuel Cycle Renaissance" and in his speech at the Baker Center for Public Policy laid out the NRC's plan for a "One World Nuclear Order". According to this ancient relic of yesteryear, a Nuclear Renaissance is not on the horizon, but has officially begun.
"I don’t say that as an advocate for or against nuclear power. It is just a statement of fact, considering that last week the NRC received the first application for a new reactor license in thirty years. Over the next year and a half we expect about twenty more license applications."
The first question that communities all across America should be asking themselves as these 20 or more applications flood into the NRC is, "Based on the past safety and environmental issues associated with Nuclear Reactors, are we really willing to let the NRC force us to play host to a nuclear reactor? In the hopes of mitigating this serious problem with public sentiments, the NRC hopes to force many new licenses through by locating them on or near ALREADY EXISTING reactor sites. After all, it is much easier to screw a community after you've already raped them. One hs to wonder how close we are to having the NRC proudly hanging Swastika's on the outside walls of the NRC Headquarters in Rockville Maryland.
One of the more interesting admissions by Dale Klein (though it is pointed out he does not actually write his speeches, but instead only reads them to the audience) is the severe worker shortage that already exists at the NRC, and within the nuclear industry itself. Giving birth to a Nuclear Renaissance, taking on the job of reviewing 20 or more new reactor construction and licensing applications when you already have problems meeting current regulatory obligations seems like a recipe for disaster. As example, in one two week pay period earlier this year (2007) the NRC lost over 1,000 years of experience to retirement, with over half of that brain trust in the area of technical experience.
Such wholesale loss of talent is the proverbial TIP OF THE ICEBERG. Over at the DOE some 75 percent of their ENTIRE WORK FORCE is eligible for retirement in the year 2010. If you look at George Bush's plan for the Nuclear Renaissance, if you have a gander at the DOE/NRC time line to begin rolling out this massive Nuclear Renaissance perfectly coincides with what will be a mass exodus of the nuclear brain trust needed to adequately police and regulate current licensees, let alone all the new ones slated to come online.
You cannot replace the knowledge gained through decades of on the job experience, so even if you replace the bodies with fresh young college graduates, those people are at the beginning of their learning curves...do any of us truly feel comfortable putting our public health and safety into the hands of people that HAVE NO EXPERIENCE in the nuclear industry, or at best, very little? In answering that question, we need to look carefully at two crucial facts.
1. For the most part, America's current fleet of 104 aging nuclear reactors are run on out dated analog technology...which is NOT EVEN TAUGHT on college campuses. How can the NRC adequately guarantee our safety when these new, young employees with no knowledge of analog technologies are put in charge as plant inspectors? Should we feel comfortable with the fact that these young inspectors are going to have to rely to some degree on the word of the licensees they are supposed to be regulating?2. If a company like Exelon or Entergy is applying for and application to build a reactor in your community, would you feel comfortable knowing a young man or woman two years out of college was weighing the adequacy of the company's application?
These might seem like rhetorical questions, but they are questions we as a nation need to give some long and serious thought to. Even the NEI (Nuclear Energy Institute) admits (qualified) worker shortages is a very serious and troubling issue being faced by the industry, and at every plant site in America...yet, they want to push forward with building 20 or more new reactors? Lets look at hard cold facts. Thirty Five percent of ALL CURRENT UTILITY WORKERS are eligible for retirement during the next five years.
Despite the staggering losses in experienced work force base loads, Mr. Klein pushed on in his speech, insisting the situation should not be considered a crisis! Though conceding, that it could become one. Perhaps he as hoping such a bold statement of assurance would lighten his next big admission.
The US nuclear industry, and the NRC, based on the 20 year hiatus in building nuclear reactors here in America, seems that NRC staff has NO EXPERIENCE what so ever to use in evaluating the adequacy of new reactor applications! Succinctly, we have the analog problem in reverse here. All of NRC's regulatory experience and knowledge is applicable to analog based control rooms and reactors, and all the new reactors expected to come online are digitally designed and operated. Not to worry though, Dale Klein feels it is fine to count on the INDUSTRY to provide the NRC with guidance as they get their feet wet in this new pond. He describes this as a short-midterm shortcoming, but fails to tell you that short to midterm means 10-20 years! Worse, since the NRC has no experience in digitally operated reactors, they intend to let the industry write their own safety and design specs by which they will be regulated...BRILLIANT, absolutely brilliant. (Can you hear the sarcasm in the sentence?)
As the audience in the Woodrow Wilson Center picked their dentures up off the floor over this information, Dale Klein plowed on, getting into the real purpose of his presentation, the glorious coming of the "Fuel Cycle Renaissance", the evil twin bastard of the "Nuclear Renaissance". For starters, I get nervous when someone from the NRC states "more radical technological changes" are on the way! Either one of his speech writers is a SURFER DUDE, or we as society don't even want to know what kinds of reactors the industry is wanting to build moving forward.
In Dale Klein's mind, the crown jewel of his speech was GNEP (Global Nuclear Energy Partnership), the centerpiece of this supposed "Fuel Cycle Renaissance" that will make America the recipient of almost the entire world's spent fuel waste streams. Read the fine print of GNEP! Country A signs on the dotted line, we (America) promise them fuel for their reactors, and when they are finished with it, we B) promise to TAKE IT ALL BACK. So much for that false hope that Yucca was the answer to high level radioactive waste streams. This GNEP program would require America to license and build a new Yucca every 3-5 years!
Mr. Klein leisurely informs those gathered there that have not passed out, that this GNEP program is going to substantially SHIFT the domestic approach to the back end of the spent fuel cycle, and then adds as almost and after thought that GNEP will possibly represent a significant world wide change to how the back end of the spent fuel cycle is dealt with. Is this guy related to Elmer Fudd? Was there a collective DUH from the audience listening to him drone on about this topic?
What Dale Klein is not saying, what he does not want America to know, is the real purpose of GNEP. Even though the technology for GNEP is not proven, but moving forward with it, they can reclassify spent fuel (radioactive waste) as POTENTIAL FUTURE USE RESOURCES. Reason for that is simple...as a potential future resource, America's spent fuel could then sit right where it resides now waiting for reprocessing...on site at the 104 aging reactor sites here in America. WALLA, waste problem SOLVED. If you do your homework, you'll find this is exactly how DOE dealt with the issue of all that DEPLETED URANIUM that citizens wanted cleaned up and removed.
In wrapping up his speech, Dale Klein gave the first hints of the new "One World Nuclear Order" that is coming down the pike, expressing it as a WONDERFUL and UNPRESEDENTED OPPORTUNITY! Much along the same lines as the North American Union, Mr. Klein envisions a uniform, world wide, international set of regulations...you know, kind of like comparing China's product safety regulations to ours, and then compromising in the middle somewhere. Shut up KID, and eat your lead paint! Of course, much like President Bush, Dale Klein took it upon himself to bring such and idea to the International Atomic Energy Agency in
This would be a cooperative international effort to delineate the regulatory design requirements for innovative reactors and other fuel cycle facilities.
I believe that such an activity should be led by the regulators who oversee the design and development of nuclear power plants, with active participation from other national regulators, and in coordination with the IAEA and NEA.
In this new world we live in since September 11, 2001 we have the Chairman of the NRC wanting to open up the books, records and regulations of the NRC to the world in the name of creating a uniform set of guidelines for the world wide nuclear industry. Curious here, does Iran, China, Afghanistan, even India get a seat at this table? Do America's safety margins get reduced to find group consensus? As it is, our participation in the World Bank, programs such as NAFTA and CAFTA see our rules being set aside as other nations haul us into international courts. Think about it folks, is GNEP and a One World Nuclear Order what we really want in America, is it really the way to solve Global Warming?