The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission is recommending that the agency reduce s nuclear reactors, a cost-cutting move which has been promoted by the nuclear power industry but has been denounced by opponents as a threat to public safety.
The recommendations include reducing the time and scope of some annual inspections at the nation’s nuclear power plants. Additionally, other inspections would be reduced from every two years to every three years.
Some of the s recommendations being made would require a vote by the commission, some of which members have urged agencies to reduce regulatory requirements for industries.
The nuclear power industry has been lobbying regulators to cut inspections, claiming that nuclear facilities are operating well and that the inspections are a financial burden for them.
While the report said disagreement among the nuclear agency’s staff on the cuts, it also claimed that the inspection reduction “improves efficiency while still helping to ensure reasonable assurance of adequate protection to the public.”
Commission member Jeff Baran criticized the proposed changes, saying reducing oversight of the nuclear power industry “would take us in the wrong direction.” He continued: “NRC shouldn’t perform fewer inspections or weaken its safety oversight to save money.”
The reportcomes a day after Democratic lawmakers faulted the NRC’s deliberations, saying they had failed to adequately inform the public of the changes under consideration.
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. and chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said in a letter that “Cutting corners on such critical safety measures may eventually lead to a disaster that could be detrimental to the future of the domestic nuclear industry.” The letter was sent to NRC Chairwoman Kristine Svinicki.
Commenting, The NRC refered to staff arguments for the changes in the report. Trimming overall inspections “will improve effectiveness because inspectors again will be focused on issues of greater safety significance,” staffers told commission members in the recommendations.
Edwin Lyman, a nuclear-power expert at the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, faulted the reasoning of commission staff. “That completely ignores the cause-and-effect relationship between inspections and good performances,” Lyman said.