UCS: "Why Is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Undervaluing American Lives?"
May 22, 2015

In a Huff Post Green blog post, Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) senior writer Elliot Negin has asked why the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Value of a Statistical Life" (VSL) is "two to three times lower than other agencies' calculations."

Negin quotes the economist credited with developing the VSL concept in the first place, in 1982, who confirmed that NRC's VSL -- of $3 million -- hasn't been indexed to inflation, or otherwise updated, in 33 years.

Negin reports:

"If the NRC increased that value to what other federal agencies use -- and made other long-overdue changes to the way it calculates the benefits of regulations -- it would have a major impact on nuclear plant license renewals and new reactor approvals," said Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Plant owners would have to add safety features that the NRC now considers to be too expensive because the agency lowballs the value of the lives that would be saved."

Update on July 14, 2015 by Registered Commenteradmin

Another thing that happened in 1982 was U.S. Representative (now Senator) Ed Markey (D-MA) outed a report commissioned by NRC, done by Sandia National Lab, that NRC tried to conceal, during congressional oversight hearings. Most commonly known as CRAC-2 (short for "Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences"), the report was more formally titled the 1982 Sandia Siting Study, or NUREG/CR-2239.

The Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility has posted CRAC-2 figures online.

So too has NIRS.

As but one example, CRAC-2 revealed that a catastrophic radioactivity release from the Callaway atomic reactor in Missouri could cause 11,500 "Peak Early Fatalities," 32,000 "Peak Early Injuries," 9,600 "Peak Cancer Deaths," and $110 billion in property damage.

But as Associated Press investigative reporter Jeff Donn documented in June 2011, populations have soared around U.S. nuclear power plants since 1982, meaning CRAC-2's casualty figures are significantly underestimated now.

In 2010, Beyond Nuclear reformatted the CRAC-2 tables for hardcopy reproduction, as well as adjusted property damage figures for inflation, and delivered them to every office on Capitol Hill. Adjusted for inflation to 2008 dollar figures, Callaway's predicted property damage figure had grown to $242 billion, a figure that grew to $265 billion by 2014. 

Of course, if those property damage figures accounted for the value of human lives (which they likely did not), that too has been significantly undervalued by NRC for 33 years now, as reported by Negin above.

Article originally appeared on Beyond Nuclear (http://www.beyondnuclear.org/).
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