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Thursday
May042017

Trump reported likely to nominate nuclear industry picks to Commission

The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission was abolished by Congress in 1974 and replaced with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) when the blatant promotion of the atomic power industry undermined its safety oversight.  E&E Daily is reporting that President Donald Trump’s nominations for the two open Commissioner seats on the NRC are likely to be well-known nuclear industry political insiders Annie Caputo and David Wright. Paul Gunter at Beyond Nuclear was quoted in the publication, “‘I don't think the nuclear industry could flaunt its special relationship with the NRC any more brazenly,’ said Gunter. ‘I think the big concern here is that we have seen how the collusion of government regulator and industry can lead to these man-made accidents like we saw at Fukushima. ... It wasn't just a natural disaster, it was the fact that this collusion had walked away from many opportunities to fortify the nuclear industry in Japan.’"

In fact, the Japan National Diet’s own investigative report of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe documents that the nuclear industry’s “regulatory capture” was the root cause of that country's ongoing and still uncontained nuclear disaster.  Similarly, if the United States goal might ever be to really take industry promotion and protectionist politics out of nuclear safety, Caputo and Wright’s nominations must be disqualified for blatant conflict of interest.

It should be worrisome that Annie Caputo worked as the Congressional Affairs executive manager for Exelon Corporation, now the largest nuclear power corporation in the United States, from 1998 to 2005.  She is currently a Republican Majority Senior Policy Advisor for the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee where she has previously served as Majority Senior Policy Advisor for nuclear power proponent Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inohofe from 2009 to 2012. She also worked for the 113th Congress as a Senior Policy Advisor for Environment and Commerce Committee where  Majority leader Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton successfully led the January 2013 opposition to the NRC technical staff’s strongly worded and unanimously supported recommendation that the agency order the installation of engineered severe accident capable radiation filters on hardened containment vents for thirty-one U.S. Fukushima-style reactors.  In our view, this is one of Congress’ most egregious acts following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster to promote industry financial interests that are contrary to U.S. public health and safety.  On both Congressional Committees, Ms. Caputo has prominently advocated for what amounts to the protracted political mugging and divisive licensing of a scientifically-unqualified Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste repository in Nevada.  

Trump’s other reported nominee to the Commission is David Wright, a retired Commissioner with the South Carolina Public Service Board (2004-2013) and another regulatory champion for nuclear power/waste generation and ramrodding the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.  In 2011, Mr. Wright was elected President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) which sued to keep the Yucca Mountain project moving forward.  As well as NARUC President, Wright served many roles including as Chairman of NARUC's Subcommittee on Nuclear Issues and Waste Disposal. He has been Co-Chair Yucca Mountain Task Force (2005–2010) and National Chair of Nuclear Waste Strategy Committee (2006-2013).

He is the owner of Wright Directions LLC, a consultant group to the nuclear industry.

But more blatantly, Wright presently serves on the Leadership Council of the atomic industry’s promotion and advocacy group Nuclear Matters established to preserve the operation of economically failing and increasingly safety challenged nuclear power stations in the United States. 

The current three seated NRC commissioners are Republican Chairwoman Kristine Svinicki; independent Commissioner Stephen Burns; and Democratic Commissioner Jeff Baran.

ACTION ITEM: Call your U.S. Senators [ U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 and/or "Find Your Senators" in the upper left at https://www.senate.gov/ ] and urge them to voice their opposition to the confirmation of Caputo and Wright’s as Commissioners to the NRC.