If you’re interested in the plans for a new nuclear reactor in New Jersey, I recommend the article “Nuclear Growth Puts Region at Risk” in yesterday’s News Journal. It gives a Delaware point of view. It was accompanied by this guide to the possible addition to Artificial Island in Salem County and this article on Obama and the “nuclear renaissance”.
As I’ve said before, it’s easy to see why local politicians are in favor in a county that has only 42,000 people age 18-64:
Plant designers will aim for a 60-year lifespan, with 4,000 people employed during a 5- to 7-year construction period, 600 workers hired full time to operate the site and another 1,000 needed during shutdowns for refueling.
It’s even possible PSEG will decide to build two new reactors on the same site.
We’ve discussed a lot of this before at Blue Jersey, but this was new to me:
In a report about to be released by the NRC, researchers have concluded nuclear power plants are “dramatically” safer than long believed.
The Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear power trade group, said the upcoming report, called the State of the Art Reactor Consequence Analysis (SOARCA), could reshape emergency planning for reactors nationwide. One recent NEI comment filed with the NRC said the report’s findings could justify dropping 75 percent of the land now in 10-mile evacuation zones, because there’s little risk beyond four or five miles.
But Edwin Lyman, a senior staffer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the NRC report “extremely compromised” and said that the NRC has refused to release documents that explain assumptions used to shape the findings.
Obviously it’s difficult to judge the credibilty of a report that isn’t published yet, but frankly the recent records of the SEC and MMS make me nervous, as Eliot Spitzer wrote :
In both instances, the regulators accepted industry assertions about the reliability of their safety mechanisms while failing to acknowledge — much less investigate — the darker, more complex reality. In each crisis, we had the same story of a belief in the reporting done by corporations, and in each case, we had a failure to recognize the enormous potential for fraud and the lack of incentives these corporate entities have in ascertaining and measuring potential risks to the public. The regulators continued to believe the lies fed them by CEOs even when the lies had become absurd. Both times, the agencies charged with regulating ignored the advice of their own experts, neglected to enforce rules, and engaged in an alarmingly cozy relationship with the industry they were supposed to be monitoring.
So far, the Obama administration has failed to fully grapple with the weaknesses and corruption of the regulatory agencies meant to guard the public from harm.
Could the rot extend to the NRC? On the other hand, Professor Richard Muller in his book “Physics for Future Presidents” argues nuclear reactors are quite safe, and I think he is reliable. He doesn’t think it’s very likely that the reactor fuel could melt through the containment building, which is the position being taken by the NRC. The PSEG application apparently claims that there is only a 1 in quadtrillion chance (whatever that is) of such an accident. (I can’t help but remember that the economic collapse was made worse by the Wall Street geniuses who underestimated the likelihood of low probability “Black Swan” events?) In any case, I repeat my recommendation that you should read the excellent article by reporter Jeff Montgomery. In my opinion it’s an example of how the “present both sides” ideal of journalism can actually work well.