A new AP series is investigating the aging reactors in the United States. These stories highlight the major safety issues in US reactors. The first two stories are about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) changing regulations in order to keep old reactors in compliance and an in-depth look at the problem of leaking underground pipes. Two more articles are to be released next week on evacuation zones and NRC’s rubber-stamp relicensing procedures.
While it is terrific that these important issues are getting wide press coverage and educating elected officials , this is not new news to the tenacious and remarkable people who have been watch-dogging the NRC and these aging reactors. They have spent years, and in some cases decades, learning the ins and outs of complex and mind-bogglingly dull nuclear regulations (how many people know what “10 CRF Part 52” refers to?). These issues – well-summarized in the AP reports and so surprising to many–have been raised time and time again. The concerns of these dedicated people, like the nuclear activists in Japan prior to the Fukushima disaster, have long been dismissed.
As these AP investigative reports show, our aging, cracking, rusting, and leaking reactors continue to be a serious public health and safety threat. Yet the NRC continues to change the rules to allow them to operate. There a myriad of lessons to be learned from Fukushima – will we learn the most important one? A complacent regulatory body that won’t make the tough decisions will eventually lead to another Fukushima.