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NRC unlearns lesson from Fukushima at Oyster Creek

Beyond Nuclear has disclosed that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given Exelon Generating Company a pass on operating its Oyster Creek nuclear generation station in Lacey Township a pass on compliance with the  agency’s  2013 Fukushima "lessons learned" Order requiring critical safety upgrades to vulnerable GE Mark I and Mark II containment systems.  The world's oldest Fukushima-style Mark I boiling water reactor is being allowed to operate at least four more years outside of compliance with its modified operating license for a "severe accident capable" containment venting system. The NRC Order was issued to all 30 remaining Mark I and II boiling water reactor units for scheduled upgrades of the undersized containment systems to reliably manage and protect the containment systems under severe accident conditions that would exist after the reactor core starts to melt. These conditions include extremely high steam pressure spikes, runaway temperatures, large volumes of non-condensable explosive gas and deadly radiation fields generated by a melting reactor core.    

The June 6, 2013 NRC Order was already significantly whittled down by a majority Commission vote more intent on company financial protection than public health and safety. The Commission had rejected its technical staff’s earlier recommendation to also order that external engineered radiation filters be installed in the hardened vent lines  to maintain the containment intended function to keep radioactivity in while temporarily venting heat, pressure, explosive gas in an effort to persevere the components design-flawed structural integrity.

The NRC’s enforcement waiver at Oyster Creek and the Commission's undermining the staff’s effort to fortify “defense-in-depth” is symptomatic of a deeper “nuclear regulatory capture” that willing risks public health and safety to promote and protect the industry’s production and profit agendas. This is the same type of collusion of government, regulator and industry that Japan’s independent investigative commission into Fukushima found was the principle cause of “a profoundly manmade disaster.”