PSR is an organization that you couldn’t accuse of going soft on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Let’s face it: there are many reasons not to. Still, it’s heartening to see that NRC Chairman Jaczko understands that NRC is supposed to actually regulate the nuclear industry. Yesterday, he made public his vote (and reasoning for said vote) on the recommendations of the NRC’s Fukushima Task Force, in which he endorses moving forward on the recommendations. This is in contrast to Commissioners Svinicki, Ostendorff, and Magwood, who have voted to slow-walk these recommendations (and who unfortunately make up a majority of the Commission). Commissioner Apostalakis seems to have tried to put a foot in both camps.
Additionally, Chairman Jaczko concludes that beyond the Task Force recommendations, “the Commission should consider in the long term if there should be new regulations to require licensees to move spent fuel to dry cask storage within a specific timeframe,” a safety recommendation that PSR has been urging for long time. Crowded spent fuel pools are a real safety issue. The Fukushima spent fuel pools were not nearly as crowded as US pools; a station blackout and loss of coolant accident at a US reactor would add yet another layer of public health threat. No less than the National Academies of Science has recognized packed spent fuel pools as a potential threat, but remarkably the issue seems to remain controversial at the NRC.
Clearly, the Fukushima Task Force recommendations aren’t the end all be all, but they are common sense proposals that should be considered expeditiously if the NRC is going to meet its mandate to “assure public health and safety.” As of now, I count only one Commissioner who’s showing that he understands this.