LLEWELLYN KING: U.S. Loves Engineers, Treats Them Badly

By Llewellyn King

We need more engineers. Go forth and study engineering for the future of the nation. Math and engineering are the keys to maintaining our place in the world and keeping the Chinese, and a few others, at bay.

That is the urging of our political class, whether they are appointed public officials or elected politicians; or whether they are members of the thinking and writing class. Taken collectively, they might be called “the exhortationists.”

But there is a problem: We do not treat engineers very nicely — at least not those who are federal employees or contractors. The very politicians who lead in exhorting our young to become engineers are those who treat engineers as disposable workers.

The government starts many projects and finishes few. A change of administration, a shortage of money, or some other excuse and the government shelves the project.

The impact on engineers is devastating. They have often relocated their families to the site of the project and — wham! — it is canceled.

It is not only that this rough treatment has a huge impact on families – and engineers are not that well-paid (median income is $80,000, and petroleum engineers are the highest-paid) – but also the psychological damage is considerable.

Engineering a new project is exciting but also demanding. Men and women throw themselves into what is a giant creative undertaking, eating up years of lives, demanding the most extreme effort. It is shattering when there is a sudden political decision to cancel a project.

To look at a bridge or a locomotive and say, “I built that,” “I made a difference,” is much of the engineer’s reward. Marc Goldsmith, a fourth-generation engineer, who has worked on 16 projects in nuclear power which have been canceled, says that many engineers get so frustrated they leave the profession and go into law or finance, and never face a logarithm again. He says the government treats highly educated engineers like day laborers: expendable.

Goldsmith, a former president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, says the heartbreak of a canceled project to the engineers is terrible and destructive of the can-do engineering culture.

The hundreds of engineers involved in a big engineering project do not do their job just for the money, but for the satisfaction that they solved a problem and made a thing that worked, whether it was a mega-passenger aircraft, a spindly skyscraper or a flood-control gate.

We now live in a world of project ghosts, where public policy (politics) has said “go,” and has said later, with the same passion, “abandon.”

Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson, the genius founder of the Lockheed secret division of engineers, dubbed Skunk Works, in Burbank, Calif., told me before he died in 1990 that some of the starts-and-stops and abrupt cancellations of military projects made him sick. The Skunk Works, which brought us such legends as the U-2 and the SR-71, to name a few, was also instructed by the government to eradicate any trace of other projects that were far along. “Not only were they canceled, but they had to be expunged,” he told me.

Nuclear has been especially hard hit by government policy perfidy. In today’s shame roster, Yucca Mountain, the nuclear waste repository and the pride of thousands of engineers, was abandoned by the incoming Obama administration in a deal with Harry Reid, the Democratic senator from Nevada and Senate majority leader. Good-bye to $15 billion in taxpayer money; good-bye to a nuclear waste option; and goodbye to all that intricate engineering inside a mountain.

Now the administration is taking its policy sledgehammer to another engineering project: one it supported until it didn’t support it anymore. It is trying to end the program to build a plant to blend surplus weapons-grade plutonium with uranium and burn it up in reactors as uranium oxide, or MOX, as it is known.

The contractor – a consortium of Chicago Bridge & Iron Company and Areva, the French firm – says the plant is 67-percent complete and employs over 300 engineers, out of a total workforce of some 1,800, at the Department of Energy site near Aiken, S.C. Now this big engineering project, which is another way of dealing with nuclear waste, is in the government’s sights.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. His e-mail is lking@kingpublishing.com. This commentary was distributed by the Inside Sources news service.

Energy Daily Monday, April 3, by Jeff Beattie: Senate nuke waste hearing scotched after kerfuffle over NEI policy paper

The day after a surprise dustup between nuclear industry officials and three senators sponsoring nuclear waste legislation, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski Friday announced the cancellation of Tuesday’s planned hearing to discuss proposed nuclear waste legislation.

A spokesman for Murkowski cited a compressed workload and three days of lengthy deliberations last week on comprehensive energy legislation as a factor in the cancellation of the hearing, and he suggested it would be rescheduled.

However, the cancellation came one day after what sources describe as a dispute between the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and three sponsors of the bill (S.854) that was to be discussed Tuesday, including Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Sources say Murkowski, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) were taken aback by “principles” for new nuclear waste legislation recently circulated by NEI, which would bar developing a central nuclear waste storage facility until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has decided whether to license the permanent Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

That clashes with S.854—also sponsored by Sen Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)—which aims to speed development of a centralized interim storage site for the nation’s nuclear waste. While the bill would allow simultaneous development of the storage and Yucca facilities, NEI’s plan could severely delay storage facilities by first requiring a licensing decision on the controversial Yucca project.

Sources say Murkowski and Alexander met Thursday with NEI President and Chief Executive Officer Marvin Fertel to discuss their unhappiness with NEI’s paper linking startup of a storage project with a Yucca license decision.

While declining to link the disagreement to Tuesday’s hearing cancellation, the Murkowski spokesman said the chairman was “disappointed in the change in policy and let NEI know that that she remains commit ted to moving to consolidated storage on a parallel track with permanent storage.”

While NEI has always supported Yucca, it appears to be taking a more aggressive stance in favor of the project because of the coming 2016 departure of Democratic Leader Harry Red (Nev.) and President Barack Obama, who both have tried to kill Yucca.

Copyright Energy Daily

Reprinted with Permission

RON WARNECKE: DOE’s Integrated Waste Treatment Unit — A Robust Facility Using Proven Technology

By Ron Warnecke

 

The Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) is set to begin processing the remaining radioactive liquid waste from our nation’s defense programs stored at the Department of Energy’s Idaho site. The treatment of this waste is a critical step in completing the remediation of the site’s liquid waste systems.  As this important milestone approaches, it is important to understand the complexities of the IWTU project and the deliberate and measured approach the DOE is taking to assure the facility operates safely and efficiently when radioactive operations begin. 

 

The Waste

 

The IWTU will treat a chemically complex highly radioactive liquid waste.  The waste is a byproduct of the reprocessing of government spent nuclear fuel that supported our nation’s defense programs. All aspects of handling this waste– its transfer from underground tanks to IWTU for treatment, to the storage of the material after processing– must be accomplished  with the utmost care to ensure the safety of workers, the public and the environment.

 

The Waste Treatment Process 

 

The Fluid Bed Steam Reforming Process (known as THOR) installed in the IWTU was developed and patented by Studsvik, a Swedish-based nuclear services company.  The THOR process has treated hundreds of thousands of gallons of liquid radioactive waste from US commercial nuclear power plants over the last 15 years in a facility similar to IWTU located in Erwin, TN.  These operations confirm that the THOR process is robust, stable and safe.  The THOR process creates a dry stable waste form and through volume reduction has saved hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of land disposal space.  

 

Prior to IWTU construction the critical components and systems of the THOR process  to be used to treat the Idaho liquid waste were successfully demonstrated through  engineering scale testing at the Hazen Research Facilities in Golden, CO. The treatment process also underwent rigorous and extensive laboratory and scientific analysis led by Savannah River National Laboratory’s (SRNL) chemists and engineers.   A recent integrated test of the completed IWTU THOR processing system using nonradioactive simulated liquid waste again confirmed the process will meet required treatment objectives for the Idaho site. 

 

The Facility

 

The IWTU facility meets the stringent safety and environmental performance requirements for treatment of the Idaho liquid waste. The facility is robustly designed and constructed with safety performance as its highest priority.  For example, based on lessons learned by DOE at WTP and due to the possibility of seismic events at the Idaho site the rightly required the design and construction of the IWTU to include features and performance capabilities to withstand earthquakes beyond the originally planned design criteria.  Although this decision increased design and construction time, their thoughtful planning resulted in a radioactive waste treatment facility that is highly protective of the worker, the public and the environment. 

 

The IWTU is also designed and constructed to perform functions beyond the treatment of liquid waste. The facility has three hot cells. Two are outfitted for the liquid waste mission. The third is has a versatile, flexible design that can be used to support other site missions. In addition, the facility is designed and constructed to serve as the shipping facility for the removal of the treated waste to a permanent repository. It can also be modified to treat and package the existing stored calcine material that is required to be removed from the site and permanently dispositioned.   In short, the IWTU is a versatile facility designed and outfitted to support the final activities associated with the Idaho site’s cleanup mission. 

 

With any major project involving nuclear waste treatment some items come to light during commissioning that must be resolved prior to the start of treatment of actual radioactive waste.  Most of the remaining startup activities are focused on process equipment and instrumentation calibration, grooming and alignment. In addition, processing parameters are being adjusted and plant operators are continuing their training based on the lessons learned from the last plant integrated test.  The work being performed is being carried out in a careful, diligent and safe manner. DOE’s directives are clear… “Let’s get it correct now before the plant becomes radioactive”. When the facility is ready it will undergo another nonradioactive test to assure changes and revisions perform as expected.  

 

I applaud DOE in designing and building a radioactive waste treatment facility that meets evolving and stringent safety, performance and environmental best practices. The IWTU is a safe, robust and versatile facility that will complete its liquid waste mission and provide the DOE with flexible alternatives for the disposition of other difficult wastes at the Idaho site. I for one am pleased the DOE is taking its time and getting this right! 

 

Ron Warnecke is a long time resident and businessman of Idaho Falls, Idaho. He has worked in the government and commercial nuclear industry for 30 years. Ron has worked at several of DOE’s sites in management positions. Ron is intimately familiar with the THOR fluid bed steam reforming technology and its applications for treating complex radioactive waste materials in a more environmentally responsible manner. He was a significant contributor to engineering and design efforts for a similar THOR system for treating problematic waste at Savannah River site. He continues to work in the nuclear industry supporting processes, systems and initiatives for cleaning up difficult radioactive waste material left form cold war defense programs.

Llewellyn King: Keystone XL, Yucca and Obama — Who Is Calling The Shots?

The Environmental Voices in Obama’s Ear

By Llewellyn King

In the South they ask, “Who’s your daddy?” In the North, “Where did you go to college?” 

In Washington we ask this very real question, “Who’s advising him?” Washington believes in advisers, who are often the authors of big decisions made by others.

When George W. Bush was running for president the first time, I raised the question about his lack of knowledge in foreign policy. One of his staunch supporters countered, “He’ll have good advisers.” 

Advisers come in all shapes and sizes in politics. A trusted aide may shape a senator’s understanding of an issue, and set the legislator on a path that later might be regretted but cannot be reversed. “Flip-flop” is a deadly accusation in public life.

When President Obama makes a decision, one wonders on whose advice? Who started the locomotive rolling down the track? 

This week, one wonders who led Obama to endlessly delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, which should have been a rather mundane issue until he was backed into vetoing a congressional effort to move the project forward?

There are 2.5 million miles of pipe buried in the ground in the U.S.,190,000 of which carry crude oil. The Keystone XL pipline would have carried crude for 1,179 miles. It should have been a no-brainer for the State Department, which has jurisdiction because a foreign country, Canada, is involved. It is not hard to make a pipeline safe, and this one would be engineered as no other has. 

But a core of dedicated environmentalists saw it as a wedge. Their target was not then and never has been the pipeline, but rather the Alberta oil sands project, where much of the oil would originate. By cutting off deliveries of the oil to the U.S. market, they hoped to wound the project and eventually close it down.

I am no fan of the oil sands – which used to be called “tar sands” – project. I think it is abusive of the earth. It involves massive surface mining and has so scarred the region that the great pit can be seen from space. It is also a contributor to air pollution because the sands have to be retorted with natural gas. 

It is not a pretty business wringing the oil from the sands. However, not building the pipeline will not close down the oil sands project as environmentalists have hoped. Only low prices can do that. 

The Canadians are angry. They feel betrayed by the White House and stigmatized by outside forces like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which has been a relentless antagonist of the pipeline and the oil sands project.

The question is who persuaded Obama? In November 2011, Canada's minister of natural resources, Joe Oliver, told me at an energy meeting in Houston that he had been told privately that the pipeline deal was done, and he was expecting Obama to sign off on a State Department decision in weeks.

But it did not happen. One or more people in the White House – Obama takes advice from a small circle of advisers in the White House rather than his cabinet secretaries — was able to sow doubt in the president’s mind about the pipeline.

The results: More oil moves by rail car which is resulting in accidents in Canada and the United States. An ally is offended, and there is bad blood that will affect other trade issues. Thousands of construction jobs in the Midwest are lost. Obama looks bad: the captive of a very small part of the constituency that elected him. 

There is an echo here of the folly of the president in abandoning the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. On the surface, Obama bowed to the wishes of Harry Reid, then Senate majority leader. It has been accepted by the nuclear industry as a cold, hard political gift to a vital ally. 

But as time has gone on, the nuclear spent fuel has piled up at the nation's power plants, as the cost of the abandonment has risen – it stands at $18 billion. One has to wonder whether one of Obama’s advisers, with an agenda of his or her own, did not whisper to the president, “Harry Reid is right.”

There are no winners on the pipeline issue, just as there were no winners on Yucca Mountain, except those who are celebrating in places like NRDC. On sparkling, organically grown apple juice, perchance?

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. His e-mail is lking@kingpublishing.com.

Llewellyn King: Those Were The Days – The Life and Times of Former AEC Commissioner Wm. Doub

By Llewellyn King

William O. Doub, former Maryland Public Service commissioner, member of the Atomic Energy Commission, international lawyer and enthusiastic booster of the U.S. Energy Association, has died at the age of 83.

Bill was my cherished friend for more than 40 years, and one of the kindest men I have ever known. I have always thought of him as a man who woke up in the morning thinking,“What can I do for my friends today?”

He rendered me, through all the years of our friendship, little and big kindnesses in every way – from seeing that I was included in “Who’s Who” to assisting me in establishing the publication, The Energy Daily.

As a public servant, Doub was a tough but nonpartisan utilities regulator. When he became chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), he shook up the old-boy world of Maryland regulation. I sat through hearing after hearing when he bore down equally hard on the companies under his jurisdiction and the public interest groups.

Initially, there was consternation in Maryland utility circles. Here was Doub, by birth a Maryland aristocrat and a former Republican candidate for state attorney general, dealing magisterially in public with issues that, in the prevailing culture, were settled between “gentlemen” over drinks in a club.

Gradually, the public and interest groups came to respect and revere their new chairman as a man who put the public good first.

As a commissioner of the then-mighty Atomic Energy Commission, Doub sought to find answers. The opposition to nuclear power was just emerging, and one of its most vociferous leaders was Ralph Nader. In those days, Nader was a god-like figure to many. Doub took it upon himself to reason with Nader. As I recall, he held a series of 5 a.m. meetings with Nader — a time decided by Nader. They did not reach a meeting of the minds, but Doub had the small satisfaction of having tried. It was his way: Try reason. All it takes is time and effort.

Spiro Agnew propelled Doub into public life. Doub, a lifelong Republican (as one might say of the old school), ran for Maryland attorney general on the same ticket that Agnew (whose middle name was Theodore and, in those days, liked to be called “Ted”) ran for governor.

Agnew won an unlikely victory in predominately Democratic Maryland because of the racist stands of his Democratic opponent. Doub lost and Agnew appointed him to the PSC.

Later, when Agnew became Richard Nixon’s vice president, Doub joined the Atomic Energy Commission – then the promoter and regulator of nuclear power. He brought in his friend, Manning Muntzing, to run the regulatory side of the agency.

When the AEC was dissolved, Doub and Muntzing formed a boutique energy law firm with clients in Japan and pre-revolutionary Iran. Their firm merged later with a larger firm, Newman, Reis & Axelrad. In time, that firm split up and the regulatory lawyers moved to Morgan Lewis & Bockius.

Doub was not happy with big, Washington law firm culture with its emphasis on billable hours. He was a man of friends; his clients were friends first and clients second.

Bill found an outlet in volunteer work. He played a critical role in improving the fortunes of the U.S. Energy Association — a unique organization that supports all energy sectors, but does not lobby.

Bill enjoyed a party. I was lucky enough over the years to party with him in Geneva, London, Madrid, Vienna, and all over the United States. The energy industries have a penchant for holding their meetings at the best resorts. We went willingly.

We got a great deal of laughter out of each other's company. Bill’s wife, Mary Graham, and my wife, Linda Gasparello, joined in the frolics. We laughed, we drank and we made up elaborate stories about one another and our ancestors. Although the Doub family was French originally, we thought an Irish surname, O’Doub, suited Bill’s buoyant temperament.

I met Bill when I was working for McGraw-Hill and The Washington Post. I arranged to interview him somewhere, and described myself as balding and fat. “We should find each other,” he averred. “That’s a description of me.” It took no more to launch a long relationship. Later, he was proud of controlling his weight.

When I founded what became The Energy Daily early in 1973, Bill telephoned me from the AEC to find out how he could help. I said it would help if the agency bought a handful of subscriptions. He went to work with the brilliant controller John Abbadessa; they delivered not a handful of subscriptions, but 140, and a whopping check of $35,000 – a veritable fortune in 1973.

Bill was one of the men-of-the-hour in the energy crisis that unfolded at the end of 1973. For those of us involved, the crisis delivered something that few enjoy: the sense of working on something really important, of being of real value.

In later years, Bill and I rued the way the energy industries had changed: how money and politics had come to dominate in an age of overpaid, under-talented executives; how the national interest had become subjugated to the personal one.

That was not Doub. He withdrew and spent his days worrying about his friends from his family farm in Keedysville, Md., and his house in Naples, Fla.

When idealism becomes subservient to money, there is no place for nobility. Bill was noble in public service, in the practice of law and, above all, in friendship. I owed him when he was alive, and I will always owe him.

In the end, the kindness is what we remember of people, of lives. William O. Doub’s kindness was monumental. He will be remembered.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. His e-mail is lking@publishing.com.

Llewellyn King: The Uber Effect on Electricity

By Llewellyn King

Leon Trotsky said, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” The same thing might be said about disruptive technologies.

The U.S. electric system, for example, may not be interested in disruptive technology, but disruptive technology is interested in it. What Uber and Lyft have done to the taxi industry worldwide is just beginning to happen to the electricity industry; and it could shock consumers – particularly the less affluent – as surely as though they had stuck their finger in an electrical outlet.

The disruptive revolution is not only happening here, but also in Europe, as Marc Boillot, senior vice president at Electricite de France (EDF), the giant French utility, writes in a new book.

Ironically in the United States, disruption of the otherwise peaceful world of electric generation and sale last year was a bumper one for electric stocks because of their tradition of paying dividends at a time when bond yields were low.

The first wave of disruption to electric generation has been a technology as benign as solar power units on rooftops, much favored by governments and environmentalists as a green source of electricity. For the utilities, these rooftop generators are a threat to the integrity of the electrical grid. To counter this, utilities would like to see the self-generators pay more for the upkeep of the grid and the convenience it affords them.

Think of the grid as a series of spider webs built around utility companies serving particular population centers, and joined to each other so they can share electricity, depending on need and price.

Enter the self-generating homeowner who by law is entitled to sell excess production back to the grid, or to buy on the grid when it is very cold or the sun isn't shining, as at night. The system of selling back to the electric company is known as net metering.

Good deal? Yes, for the homeowner who can afford to install a unit or lease one from one of a growing number of companies that provide that service. Lousy deal for the full-time electricity customer who rents or lives in an apartment building.

There’s the rub: Who pays the cost of maintaining the grid while the rooftop entrepreneur uses it at will? Short answer: everyone else.

In reality, the poor get socked. Take Avenue A with big houses at one end and apartments and tenements at the other. The big houses — with their solar panels and owners' morally superior smiles — are being subsidized by the apartments and tenements. They have to pay to keep the grid viable, while the free-standing house – it doesn’t have to be a mansion — gets a subsidy.

It's a thorny issue, akin to the person who can't use Uber or Lyft because he doesn’t have a credit card or a smartphone, and has to hope that traditional taxi service will survive.

The electric utilities, from the behemoths to the smallest municipal distributor, see the solution in an equity fee for the self-generating customer's right to come on and off the grid, and for an appreciable difference between his selling and buying price. Solar proponents say, not fair: Solve your own problems. We are generating clean electricity and our presence is a national asset.

EDF's Boillot sees the solution in the utilities’ own technological leap forward: the so-called smart grid. This is the computerization of the grid so that it is more finely managed, waste is eliminated, and pricing structures for homes reflect the exact cost at the time of service. His advice was eagerly sought when he was in Washington recently, promoting his book.

While today’s solar may be a problem for the utilities, tomorrow’s may be more so. Homeowners who can afford it may be able to get off the grid altogether by using the battery in an all-electric car to tide them over during the sunless hours.

The industry is not taking this lying down: It is talking to the big solar firms, the regulators and, yes, to Elon Musk, founder of electric-car maker Tesla Motors. He may be the threat and he may be the savior; those all-electric cars will need a lot of charging, and stations for that are cropping up. There’s a ray of sunshine for the utilities, but it's quite a way off. Meanwhile, the rooftop disruption is here and now.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. His e-mail is lking@kingpublishing.com.

Llewellyn King: The Loud Silence from Islam

By Llewellyn King

A dark shadow passed over Paris, the City of Light, on Wednesday, January 7. Well-organized, well-trained killers murdered 13 people in the name of Allah. As Shakespeare said 500 years earlier, about the heinous murder of King Duncan by Macbeth, “O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart cannot conceive nor name thee.”

Indeed, recent horrors in the name of Allah have been so gruesome it is impossible to conceive the mutilated reason, the perverted concept of God’s will, and the unvarnished rage that has subverted the once admired religion.

The killers are ruthless and depraved, but those who inspire them are evil and those who tolerate them are guilty.

In 2005, when a Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed and riots were stirred up against the publishers, a meeting was arranged at a community room in the basement of The Washington Times. It was not organized by the newspaper but, as I recall, by an interfaith group. There were several fringe “let’s be nice” speakers before the main event.

The main event was the Danish ambassador and, to a lesser extent, myself. The ambassador spoke about life in Denmark and what the Danish government would do to understand and listen to the concerns of the Muslim community. My role was to defend and explain the Western concept of freedom of speech and the place satire. The overflow audience, which by dress and appearance was dominated by emigrants from Pakistan, was implacable.

I have spoken to some hostile audiences in my time, but this one was special: No compromise, no quarter. Nor interest in cultures other than their own. Ugly and insatiable rage came out in their questions.

They did not want to know about the values of the country that had given their brethren sanctuary, education, healthcare and a decent life. My audience only wanted to know why the blasphemers in Denmark and Norway (the cartoons were reprinted there) were not being punished. For good measure, they wanted to know why the American media was so committed to heresy against Islam. No thought that they had moved voluntarily to the United States and were enjoying three of its great freedoms: freedom to assemble, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

They wanted absolute subjection of all Western values to the dictates of Islam. They had been fired up and they were angry, self-righteous and obdurate.

In 2009, I was invited to a conference of world religions in Astana, Kazakhstan. There were maybe 100 religions present, but at a featured session the conference degenerated into an Islamic diatribe against sexuality and the treatment of women (mostly in advertising) in the West. No dialogue. No discussion. Absolute certainty.

I mention this because of the reaction to the barbarity in Paris, and to a string of other barbarous murders across the world, from Muslims has been so muted.

“Je Suis Charlie” said millions of people in dozens of countries in sympathy with the murdered journalists and with their fight for press freedom. From Muslim leaders in the West, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations in the United States, there were statements of condemnation but no sense of outrage. From the bulk of the followers of Islam there was nothing. There never is. Not when innocent children are shot in their schools, or when aid workers are beheaded, or when or when satirical journalists are executed. The Muslim multitudes have acquiesced to evil.

When will those who believe deeply in Islam take to the streets to denounce the excesses of the few? After the horror in Paris, British Muslims took to the BBC to mildly criticize the murders, but more to vigorously demand a better deal for Muslims in Britain.

The medieval certainty of the leadership of Islam is endorsed by the silence of its congregants. The silence of the millions gives a kind of absolution to the extremists, intoxicated with fervor and hate. It will all go on until the good Muslims stand up and are heard. The guilt of silence hangs over Islam.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. His e-mail is lking@kingpublishing.com.

So . . . What Do We Do Now?

OPINION

 

So . . .  What Do We Do Now?

Charles W. Pennington, MS, MBA

Jeffry A. Siegel, PhD

Bill Sacks, PhD, MD

October 2014

An opinion of what really needs correcting in our industry, and a recommendation on getting "radioactively" involved in that correction today for a better tomorrow!

 

Overview

 

As members and supporters of  the U.S. nuclear industry, we have experienced a rough and rather traumatic time over the last 6 years, or so. But during the last few months, many of us may have begun to feel that things could be turning our way just a bit. We see that small modular reactors (SMRs) appear to be here to stay and that their licensing is now firmly planned (while also realizing that the first SMR is still at least a decade away). We see that a few large reactors of conventional design have made progress in licensing and even construction (while recalling that several times that number have been cancelled over the last 6 years). We also note that the Waste Confidence political and regulatory brouhaha seems to have been timely addressed and, perhaps, resolved, at least until the next political onslaught to stop nuclear energy. (Reid between the lines here, if you would, please.) But we also recall that some of the regulatory analyses produced to support the NRC's assertion of waste confidence showed that a number of  people could die as fictitious latent cancer fatalities (LCF) due to exposure to ionizing radiation (IR) within a 10 mile radius of a reactor that experiences a spent fuel storage pool fire. These regulatory analyses using highly conservative safety codes included several typical assumptions that are beyond credibility. 

 

So it still appears that all is not quite right in our industry, and the problem seems to be, at least to some of us, that our industry continues unaggressive action, doing too little about the issue that really controls the present and future (as it has controlled the past) of the safest and most ecologically friendly technology for generating central station electricity: nuclear energy. And that issue, my friends, is public fear – fear of nuclear energy technology, because the more basic fear of uncontrollable releases of threatening exposures to cancer-causing IR is associated, almost uniquely in the public's eye, with nuclear energy.  The history of nuclear power, nuclear energy, and our own industry, from the earliest years, demonstrates the growth of this public fear, fed by the cooperation of bad science, anti-nuclear politics and commercial interests, and the media. Some of this history, with key references, was summarized at the Packaging and Transportation of Radioactive Materials (PATRAM) Symposium in August 2013 in San Francisco (Ref 1). Despite an enviable safety record and no demonstrated LCF impact on the public from nuclear energy, even after an accident, our industry has not been able to overcome a deluge of public fear-mongering.

 

As an industry, we have nothing to fear . . . (well, you know the rest), but the fear we must fear is that of the public. However, we should also be at least concerned that this fear situation is not static.  It is most dynamic, and in a fashion that is not helpful to our cause. There are many "researchers" that are now publishing extensively on an assortment of new IR fear topics.  It is stunning to see some new "research" actually being peer-reviewed and published using data that are highly questionable in their content or in the assumptions used to mine the data, and then fitting these data to models that already assume a linearity of fit (because the Linear No-Threshold hypothesis {LNTH} is already accepted science, right?). The only best-fit of sometimes questionable data is said to be the best linear fit, two errors in one piece of research.

  

How the LNTH Is Being Used Against Our Industry

 

There are many examples of current efforts to demonize IR in peer-reviewed journals and many conclusions or recommendations of these articles find their way to the public, the major media outlets being such effective agents to stoke the fear-furnace within an already fearful public.  For instance, Ref. 2 reports on how CT scans in children may be leading to childhood leukemia and brain tumors. And Ref. 3 purports to show that even exposure of children to natural background radiation can cause leukemia. Both of these studies have produced scientifically invalid results, but have been reported in the media as causes for public concern, and these are not isolated cases by any means. The media are not capable of discerning the truth in such studies, but they certainly know what sells. Such publicized studies survive most scrutiny because they use the LNTH to prove the scary points they make [the LNTH states that a) the relationship of LCFs to dose is linear down to 0, and b) any collective dose to a population produces the same number of LCFs no matter how the dose is distributed]. What happens is people read so much about IR becoming a villain and causing cancer, whether the IR exposure results from good or ill intent, that their fear of IR increases.

 

Here's a very simple example of how the LNTH can be further used to advance a silly idea that common behavior can cause massive global cancer mortality, and how our industry is treated so differently from non-nuclear industries that produce large public IR exposures annually.  

 

We know that the foods we eat contain small amounts of radioactivity, such as 40K in bananas (the well-known banana equivalent dose {BED} effect). Likewise, we know that if you sleep with a partner, spend time physically close to your family and friends, or just mingle in crowds, you will be exposed to radiation from the 40K contained within these other persons. The IR dose to a person from exposure to 40K due to an average personal proximity of 10 cm for 8 hr./day from others throughout his/her lifetime is 2.3 mSv (see Note).

 

This dose is on the order of one additional year of exposure to an average background radiation level in the U.S., a level which has been "proven" to represent a significant cancer risk (see Ref. 3). Given that the entire world’s population of approximately 7 billion is potentially subjected to this additional radiation dose, the number of LNTH-derived worldwide cancer deaths is horrifying. According to the widely promoted ICRP LNTH-derived fatal cancer risk estimate of 0.0115% for this 2.3 mSv exposure, over 800,000 LCFs are expected. If the LNTH is viewed as accepted science, this result should bring about a recommendation to control personal proximity exposure, never sleep with anyone, and perish the thought of getting any closer than 10 cm, even for short periods of time.

 

But it is worse than that. We have not accounted for additional "deadly" sources of exposure that, per the LNTH, could kill many more of us and, therefore, need to be controlled or eliminated.  We know, for example, that there are many non-nuclear industries in the U.S. that deliver annual average collective doses to the public greater than anything that can result from nuclear energy in the U.S.(and some of these industries generate such doses from technologically enhanced, natural sources). These industries involve such activities as airline travel, consuming potable water, living near or working on farms, living or working in buildings constructed of  natural materials, working with natural construction materials, producing tobacco products, smoking, and providing medical imaging procedures.  None of these industries are regulated with respect to their peak or average doses to the served public, yet their actual annual doses far exceed any possible dose from the nuclear fuel cycle.  Just a select few of these non-nuclear industries deliver more than a billion person-mSv to the U.S. public annually, with a pronounced lognormal distribution that causes millions of Americans to be exposed to IR doses exceeding the worst (first) year of doses from Chernobyl (Ref. 4). Aren't there ethics issues here? If the LNTH is true (or at least appropriate) for nuclear energy, should we not apply the LNTH to these other industries, as well, to reduce  all these additional LCFs from IR exposures in order to be internally consistent with our professional ALARA lifestyle?  And who reports all these LCFs to the public or advocates against such LCFs with all the non-nuclear industries in the U.S. that expose the public to IR? Do we not consider as part of our commitment to nuclear energy that ALARA must be maintained, that low doses of IR have no redeeming qualities? Should we really be allowed to vacation at high altitudes, fly whenever we want, eat/drink whatever we want, have close personal contact, and have medical imaging even when it is needed? Do we accept that nuclear energy IR exposures should be regulated so stringently and be postulated as the greatest threat to the public from IR while all these other (and far greater) exposures get a pass?  

 

Indeed, does not the LNTH fully answer the vexing question posed by Sir Laurence Olivier as Dr. Szell in the movie Marathon Man:

 

 

If we believe in the LNTH and ALARA, and why wouldn’t we after decades of regulatory inculcation, the answer of course is a resounding "no" regarding IR. Or (and this is really the correct answer, based on the evidence that the LNTH is false and that there are threshold doses below which there is no discernable harm) shouldn't nuclear energy be treated more like all non-nuclear industries and activities? None of these industries produce any harm from IR that has been demonstrated with unambiguous scientific research, and they have been examined closely for many years. Such questions and issues must arise from the rigorous application of the LNTH to nuclear energy but not to other industries and activities that are much larger sources of public IR exposure. Sources of the same type and energy of IR exposure, whether from nuclear or non-nuclear industries, are indistinguishable by our bodies. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, "radiation is radiation is radiation," confirming the law of identity; natural and man-made radiations are the same thing, once the photons or particles are on the wing.

 

To conclude this section, an important observation over several decades is that many, if not most, of us in the nuclear industry do not understand the LNTH and have no concrete idea of the abuse it produces through forcing the conclusion of deleterious outcomes in situations using nuclear technology where no harm can occur. We have learned over the last 15 years or so that the LNTH has no true scientific basis, that it is often excused as assuring conservatism (which has been demonstrated to be false, as seen in the forced relocation-associated deaths in Fukushima and the widespread public fear causing many people to be at a much greater health risk by refusing to undergo needed radiological imaging examinations), and that the bases for adopting the LNTH in the 1940s – 1950s have been found to be flawed and are more likely to have revolved around political issues (Ref. 5 and Ref. 6). In short, there was no credible scientific evidence to support the LNTH then and there is still none up to the present day.  But many in the nuclear industry do not know this and still think that the LNTH application in all of our regulations and in our safety analyses just makes us conservative.

 

So with this observation, though couched within the previous sarcastic example as it is, what should we in the nuclear industry be doing that is different from what we are doing today?

 

What Should We Do Now?

 

As a first step, all of us in the nuclear industry very much need to become far more expert in matters involving sources and effects of IR. We need to learn how a departure from the LNTH can have very positive impacts on the public's understanding of IR and its perception of our industry. There is much evidence demonstrating the flaws, politics, and bad science that led to establishing the LNTH as accepted science, and there is a large body of scientific evidence that shows no discernible cancer threat below a threshold dose and hormetic effects at low doses of IR (on the order of 100-200 mSv, depending on the type of radiation, dose rate, and dosing intervals). The current state of knowledge on the LNTH can be assessed by reading recent peer-reviewed publications on the subject. In PubMed, for instance, the vast majority of recent publications have questioned the validity of the LNTH, giving many reasons, and showing evidence for the opposite of the LNTH, i.e., the IR hormesis model, according to which small amounts of radiation can boost the defenses in our body, including the immune system, reducing cancers and other diseases. The scientists who advocate the LNTH routinely avoid discussing any of the ideas expressed in such articles, and have not refuted the arguments presented. However, the ICRP's Task Group 84 is beginning to raise questions that challenge the foundations of the LNTH (Ref. 7).

 

Fortunately, there are a great many colleagues associated with the medical field who are involved with studies related to IR source characterization, IR transport, external and internal IR dosimetry, radiobiological effects (both harmful and beneficial), dose-response modeling, IR risk and benefit assessment, nuclear medicine, diagnostic radiology, and radiation oncology, and these colleagues are on the leading edge of the efforts to replace the LNTH with rational science. We also have colleagues within the ANS who are working diligently to have the LNTH reviewed in far more scientific detail by the NAS, without the pressure of political and anti-nuclear fear mongering acting as a suppressant.  For more detail on this ANS effort, see www.tedrockwellmemorial.org/. 

At the general level of industry  members and supporters, it behooves us as part of an industry that can advance such a safe and ecologically sound energy source to learn more of what others know and to explore the science that they have worked so hard to advance over many years. One organization that promotes efforts of people in the nuclear industry working with medical and other IR experts is called Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information (SARI). The SARI website (http://radiationeffects.org) is highly recommended as an excellent place to begin a learning or a relearning experience related to IR and the LNTH. The authors of this article are members of SARI.

 

Additionally, the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences is beginning its efforts to scope the next Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) report—the BEIR VIII report—on health risks from exposure to low levels of IR. While such a new BEIR report is not yet funded, industry members and supporters should be following this closely and participating actively whenever we might be called upon.

 

In conclusion, then, this cartoon poses a good question for all of us to consider regarding the LNTH:

 

 

The opinion of the authors here is that the nuclear industry and the people that make it run must actively take a role in saying that the LNTH is not acceptable because it is a flawed, maladaptive defense against a nonexistent threat and without foundation in science, rather than continuing to smile agreeably while saying "yes" to this hypothesis and going along to get along.  One of the great Mahatma Gandhi’s quotes seems most appropriate here and reflects what the industry  should be doing now: "A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble."

 

Note

 

Assumptions: Personal proximity exposures occur at an average distance of 10 cm from at least one other person for 8 hours a day, every day of life; the average lifespan is 75 years; the content of 40K in the average individual is approximately 5 kBq; the exposure rate constant for 40K is 0.779 R cm2/mCi h. Calculation: Dose (mSv) = (0.779 R cm2/mCi h * 10 mSv/R * 5 kBq * μCi/37 kBq * mCi/1000 μCi *

8 h/d * 365 d/y * 75 y)/100 cm2  = 2.3 mSv

 

References

 

  1. C. W. Pennington:  'Advancing US public acceptance of spent fuel storage and transport: proposed  outreach services for ionising radiation education support', Packaging, Transport, Storage & Security of Radioactive Material, 2013, 24/3, 95 – 107
  2. M.S. Pearce, et al.: 'Radiation exposure from CT scans in childhood and subsequent risk of leukaemia and brain tumours: a retrospective cohort study,' Lancet, 2012, 380(9840), 499-505. 
  3. G. M. Kendall, et al., 'A record-based case-control study of natural background radiation and the incidence of childhood leukaemia and other cancers in Great Britain during 1980–2006', Leukemia, 2013, 27(1), 3–9.
  4. C. W. Pennington, 'Nuclear Energy Safety: Comparative Assessments of Radiological Impacts on the Public from the Commercial Nuclear Fuel Cycle in the U.S.', in: Acosta MJ (ed.) Advances in Energy Research. Volume 5, pp. 1-54; ISBN 978-1-61761-897-0. Nova Science Publishers, Inc.: Hauppauge, NY.
  5. E. J. Calabrese, 'The road to linearity: why linearity at low doses became the basis for carcinogen risk assessment', Arch Toxicol, 2009, 83: 203–22
  6. E. J. Calabrese, 'How the US National Academy of Sciences misled the world community on cancer risk assessment: new findings challenge historical foundations of the linear dose response', Arch Toxicol, 2013, 87(12), 2063-81.
  7. A. J. González, et al., 'Radiological protection issues arising during and after the Fukushima nuclear reactor accident', J. Radiol. Prot. 33 (2013) 497–571.

Authors

Jeffry A. Siegel is president and CEO of Nuclear Physics Enterprises, an international radiological physics consulting firm specializing in quantitative radiological/nuclear medicine imaging, internal and external dosimetry, clinical trial design, translational research, radionuclide therapy patient release, and relevant FDA and NRC/Agreement State regulations. He has Masters degrees in Chemistry and Physics and a PhD in medical physics. He has held both academic and hospital appointments and over the past 18 years has been involved in pre- and post-FDA approval of the radionuclide therapy agents Bexxar, Zevalin and Xofigo. Dr. Siegel holds 5 patents and has authored more than 330 publications.

Bill Sacks is a former professor of physics turned radiologist.  After teaching college physics for a dozen years, and after his medical training, he subsequently engaged in almost two decades of clinical radiology.  He interrupted this career to spend a number of years as a medical officer in the FDA’s medical device approval section, specializing in the evaluation of radiological and other diagnostic devices.  In more recent times, and for a number of years, he has made a special study of nuclear energy and radiobiology, particularly focusing on the biological effects of low-dose ionizing radiation.  He has taught a number of classes and given a number of talks on these topics over the last few years, as well as contributing to a number of essays and short articles, for the lay public.  He is now retired and spends full time on this research, writing, and volunteer teaching.

Charles W. Pennington is a Senior Fellow at the Nuclear Infrastructure Council (NIC) and a private nuclear industry consultant, with academic degrees in mathematics, nuclear engineering, and business administration. He has served the nuclear industry for 47 years, and over the last 3 decades has held senior management/corporate officer positions in spent fuel storage and transport businesses. He has been in leadership roles in the development, licensing, deployment and operation of more than a dozen spent fuel storage/transport technologies, many hundreds of which are now in operation at numerous global reactor sites.  He holds 5 patents in nuclear technology and has authored a number of papers and publications involving nuclear technology and comparisons of IR exposure among nuclear and non-nuclear industries.

Llewellyn King: When Ralph Nader Was the Consumer’s Hero

Llewellyn King

Ralph Nader is to blame. It's that simple. I'm not talking about the election of 2000, where his candidacy was enough to hand the presidency to George W. Bush and all that has followed. I’m talking about when Nader went AWOL as the nation’s consumer conscience.

In the space of a week, three U.S. flights have been diverted because of passenger disturbances over reclining seats. Would this have happened if Nader of old were on the case?

In the mid-1960s and early 1970s, Nader was the nation’s bulwark against corporate excess. He may have gotten it wrong — as many have claimed — about the safety of the Corvair, the rear-engine compact car, manufactured by the Chevrolet division of General Motors, that was to have rivaled the Volkswagen Beetle. No matter. Nader’s 1965 book, “Unsafe at Any Speed,” launched him as the consumer's knight in shining armor.

For nearly a decade, we felt that Nader was on our side and those big, faceless monsters like insurance companies, banks, airlines, consumer credit outfits and appliance manufacturers could be brought to heal by invoking the one name that would strike fear, trembling and rectitude into the hearts of the titans of corporate America: Nader.

It was a halcyon time for those who wanted, like actor Peter Finch in the 1976 film “Network,” to shout, and be heard, “I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!”

Nader was a figure of mythical omnipotence. You didn’t have to take your troubles with a faulty car or broken contract to Nader, you simply had to threaten; the words “cc Ralph Nader” at the bottom of a letter were enough. Corporations quaked, the earth moved, and restitution was forthcoming.

We delighted in learning little details about Nader the aesthete, who lived in one room somewhere in Washington, had no creature comforts, partners, or trappings, but always wore a suit. People happily believed he slept in it, ready to rush to court to slay a dragon of corporate excess.

Journalists loved Nader. We learned that he kept a secret office in the venerable National Press Building in Washington and would sneak up to the National Press Club on the 13th floor to peruse the press releases, which were then displayed near the elevators. One presumed he was looking for evidence of consumer abuse in false corporate claims.

The Vietnam War was raging, and the nation was divided on every issue except the wonder of the man who was called “consumer advocate.” The nation had never had one before and we loved it.

Oh, yes, love is not too strong a word. We went to bed at night knowing that if the mattress wasn't what had been promised by the Divine Mattress Company, Nader would fix it.

Jimmy Carter promised that when he was elected president, he would have a direct telephone line to St. Nader. That was the zenith of Nader’s consumer advocacy power.

But Nader and his acolytes, known as Nader’s Raiders, had already begun to pursue broader political aims and to embrace the extreme reaches of the environmental movement. Nader, our beloved consumer advocate, saintly and virtuous, was becoming a partisan — a partisan of the left.

It was an extreme blow for those who had followed along behind Nader’s standard because we believed he was the unsullied, virtuous supporter of the individual against the institution. The voice that could be heard when, as often, politics had failed.

Over the years, I had battles with Nader. We argued most especially over nuclear power and a raft of related energy issues. I and the late physicist Ralph Lapp, together with the great mathematician Hans Bethe, put together a group of 24 Nobel laureates to support nuclear. Nader assembled 36 Nobel laureates against, and won the argument on numbers. He has always been a tough customer.

Poor Ralph. He had it all – and so did we — when he fought for the common man against the common enemy: those who stole our money or shortchanged us.

Deep in my heart, I think he is to blame for high bank fees, payday loans, tiny aircraft seats, high Amtrak fares, and the fact that corporations won’t speak to us – they have machines do that. Ralph, it could have been so different if you had just stayed at your post.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. His e-mail is lking@kingpublishing.com.

Edward Davis, USNIC: In the Matter of Waste Confidence, We so Deem

By Edward M. Davis

In the last somnolent dog days of August, the members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) gathered themselves for a final vote on a regulatory policy issue that will no doubt have far reaching implications for the future of the U.S. nuclear industry and the continued use and future development of nuclear energy in the U.S.

In a session that took only thirteen minutes in which reportedly the chairman had to cut short her summer vacation and which was necessitated by the imminent departure from the agency of another commissioner, NRC approved a final rule on the aptly named “Continued Storage of Spent Fuel Rule” as a replacement for the decades old predecessor rule known as the “Waste Confidence Decision (WCD)”.

The genesis of the NRC WCD dates back to the late 1970s when NRC’s continued licensing of nuclear plants without a demonstrated final solution to the disposal of spent fuel was challenged in the courts. In response to significant court decisions at that time, the NRC devised the WCD which incorporated several important findings including a finding that permanent geologic disposal was technically feasible and that spent fuel could be safely stored at reactor sites or away from reactor sites in the meantime. The WCD also incorporated a predictive finding of a timeframe of the availability of repository. Over the course of several decades, the NRC has periodically reaffirmed the critical findings of the WCD but also at the same time extended the predictive timeframe in which the repository would become available.  In its final WCD update, the NRC eliminated the incorporation of the predictive timeframe altogether and asserted simply that a geologic repository would become available when necessary.  This 2010 revision of the WCD is what prompted another round of litigation over the contentious issue of spent fuel storage and its timely disposal.

This week’s action by the Commission and the adoption of a newly formulated rule is responsive to a 2012 U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the New York vs NRC in which the Petitioners alleged, among other arguments, that the NRC did not properly evaluate the environmental effects of continued storage at reactors beyond their operating licensed lifetimes in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Court vacated the Commission’s Waste Confidence Decision and associated storage rule on NEPA grounds and ordered the Commission to conduct a fully complaint evaluation of the environmental impacts of continued storage of spent fuel, including the case of indefinite storage of spent fuel  because of the Federal Government’s failure to construct a geologic repository for disposal.

The Court’s decision and remand is only one of several cases in which the Court has strongly expressed its continued and increasing frustration with the Federal Government failure’s to effectively implement a national nuclear waste management program under duly enacted laws requiring the Federal Government to provide for a permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.  An earlier decision by another D.C. Circuit panel found that the NRC had violated the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) by prematurely terminating its regulatory review of the Department of Energy’s Yucca Mountain license application and ordered the agency back to work on the application using existing congressional-approved carryover funding. And in a more recent case, another three-judge panel of the same Court ordered the Department of Energy to suspend the collection of NWPA required fee payments unless and until the DOE resumes implementation of the NWPA or Congress passes an alternative nuclear waste program. 

So mindful of this growing impatience, the NRC dutifully conducted a comprehensive evaluation over the past two years, and developed a generic environmental impact statement that analyzes the environmental impacts of continued storage of spent fuel at reactor sites beyond their licensed operational lifetimes, resulting from the continued lack of availability of a geologic repository for permanent disposal.

The NRC’s GEIS evaluates effects of continued storage over three timeframes, a short-term where the fuel is stored at reactor sites for 60 years beyond the operating licensed lifetime, a second long-term timeframe in which spent fuel is required to be stored for an additional 100-year period and then finally a third timeframe in which spent fuel is stored indefinitely.

In all three cases, the NRC found that the environmental impacts of continued storage of spent fuel at reactor sites were “small” and with no significant impacts, even for the case where the spent fuel was stored indefinitely because of unavailability of a repository. In no small measure, the result, especially for the case of indefinite storage, was driven by the NRC’s staff assumption in all three cases that there would continue to be institutional controls throughout each timeframe, i.e., regulatory oversight and monitoring, ensuring therefore that there would be no adverse effects to the environment.

As structured, the approved rule now allows the Commission to move forward and resume final agency licensing decisions which have been held in abeyance for over two years while the NRC staff developed the GEIS and associated rule. When the rule goes into effect 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register, the GEIS is incorporated by reference in individual licensing proceedings and therefore any related challenges regarding the long-term effects of continued at-reactor storage cannot be raised because they have been “deemed” to have been addressed and found to have no significant consequences.

The importance of the assumption of continued indefinite institutional controls to the outcome of NRC’s analyses of no significant impact cannot be overstated. In fact, Chairman Macfarlane’s partial dissenting comments highlights its importance and touched off a sotto voce debate within the industry and elsewhere. Chairman Macfarlane referred to  “the elephant in the room” was the concern that by adopting the rule and GEIS, essentially affirming conclusion of  no significant environmental impacts of indefinite at-reactor storage, that NRC might be inadvertently tipping the balance and creating the enabling regulatory conditions under which a repository might never come to pass. Macfarlane continued her partial dissenting comments by suggesting that she would have preferred that the GEIS have included additional scenarios of indefinite storage without institutional controls.

But, the NRC staff in the GEIS had already acknowledged that without institutional controls, the case where spent fuel is stored indefinitely could have severe consequences similar to what the DOE had determined in its Yucca Mountain Project EIS in the “No Action” Alternative found in Appendix K.

As discussed in the GEIS, NEPA does not require agencies to consider “worst case” scenarios and the NRC staff made a persuasive case that that the most reasonably likely assumption is that indefinite storage would be accompanied concurrently with continued institutional controls, thereby ensuring no significant effects to the environment.  

Over the past 50 years, the nuclear industry, under the oversight of NRC and its predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, has amply demonstrated its capacity to safely manage and store spent fuel. Moreover, the nuclear industry should not be penalized or held hostage to the vagaries of the Federal Government’s “off-again, on-again” approach to the implementation of the NWPA and the pursuit of the establishment of a geologic repository. Nor should application of nuclear technology be further restrained due to the dysfunction of the Federal Government efforts. Nuclear energy is too important to the nation, because it provides 20 percent of the nation’s electricity and over 65 percent of our clean, carbon free electricity while providing 24×7 around-the-clock reliable electricity to the national grid.

The Waste Confidence Decision, now the Continued Storage Rule, was always an act of “regulatory deeming” or the proverbial leap of regulatory faith dressed up exquisitely in regulatory parlance.  Now it will be up to the Courts to uphold the NRC’s action and, if not, the matter will have to be addressed by Congress.

On one final note, Chairman Macfarlane is absolutely right to note that “deep geologic disposal is necessary” and “… that the only suitable end point for high-level nuclear waste is permanent isolation in a deep geologic repository.” 

This is an immutable fact and the enduring reality since real “waste confidence” can only be derived from the successful demonstration and implementation of a national nuclear waste management program culminating in the startup and operation of a geologic repository.

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The writer is a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council (www.usnic.org) and the former President of the American Nuclear Energy Council.  His views represent a consensus of the Council but do not necessarily represent the views of individual members.