January 8, 2008
1:02 PM

CONTACT: Beyond Nuclear
Linda Gunter 301.455.5655

Beyond Nuclear Lauds Decision by Congress to Investigate Nuclear Regulatory Commission Safety and Security Failures

TAKOMA PARK, MARYLAND - January 8 - Beyond Nuclear today applauded the decision taken this week by Michigan Congressmen John Dingell and Bart Stupak to initiate an investigation into the public health, safety and security oversight failures of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Rep. Dingell (D-MI) is the chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Rep. Stupak (D-MI) is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

“For too long NRC has stood for ‘no regulatory control’ of an aging and increasingly dangerous atomic power industry,” said Paul Gunter, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project for the national organization Beyond Nuclear. “The federal agency has consistently demonstrated that ‘nobody really cares’ about public health, safety and security when it conflicts with the industry’s production agenda and financial bottom line.”

The January 7, 2008 press release from Dingell and Stupak, and found at: identifies that the agency has failed to uphold its congressional mandate to prioritize public health and safety. The list of failures includes the lack of agency oversight and enforcement action against Wackenhut over the discovery of security guards found sleeping at their posts. Wackenhut not only guards many of the nation’s reactors but is also the contracted company to test security readiness for NRC. The federal agency instead subpoenaed the computer hard drive of the industry whistleblower whose video disclosure disclosed that Wackenhut guards were regularly sleeping on the job. The press release points out disclosures by the Office of the Inspector General revealing that the agency’s license renewal oversight and review process was merely a cut and paste plagiarism from industry applications to add 20 years to their operating licenses.

There are a host of other significant failures of public health safety and security oversight areas where the NRC has shown a bias that directly conflicts with regulatory responsibilities. The short list includes:

1) The absence of any agency enforcement action for willful and widespread nuclear industry violations of federal fire protection code for the protection of safe shutdown systems including the agency’s restart of Alabama’s long closed Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Station in violation of the very law that its 1975 fire was responsible for promulgating;

2) NRC refusal to implement Congressionally legislated Public Law 107-188 – “The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002” – which requires the stockpiling and distribution of potassium iodide (KI) out to 20 miles from the nation’s nuclear power plants for thyroid protection following an accident or terrorist attack ;

3) NRC senior management‘s culpability in the retraction of an Order based on regulatory guidance to shut down the severely damaged Davis-Besse reactor for inspections of the pressure vessel in favor of FirstEnergy Nuclear Corporation’s production and financial concerns;

4) The Government Accountability Office’s 2006 finding that the Commission rejected its own staff recommendations to raise the security bar around the nation’s reactors after the recommendations were vetted by the Nuclear Energy Institute who opposed them for financial reasons;

5) When the nuclear industry was exposed in 2005 in a cover-up of widespread groundwater contamination with radioactive tritium leaks into communities across America, NRC approved an industry initiative to voluntarily self-report future leaks and effectively undermine agency enforcement actions rather than take enforcement action against the industry for failing to report.

“The agency’s predecessor the Atomic Energy Commission was disbanded in 1974 for less egregious actions,” continued Gunter. “The preponderance of evidence shows that ‘nothing really changed’ when the NRC took over. If anything it got worse.”

Supporting documents for NRC additional failures and contradictions of its mission statement and more are available from Beyond Nuclear upon request.