Ex-NRC Chair calls for phase out of aging US reactor fleet; suggests new “more distributed” mini-nuke replacements
Gregory Jaczko, a former chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, recently grabbed news headlines when he called for the “phase out” of all 103 reactors with operating licenses in the United States. His candid remarks came prior and during a session on the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe at the April 8-9, 2013 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in Washington, DC. When asked why he had not considered such action while Commission Chairman, Jaczko offered “I didn’t come to it until recently.” He realized that all of the nuclear power plants in the US have a “fundamental design problem” even when the reactor cores are shut down a tremendous amount of residual heat must be cooled to prevent them from melting down and releasing catastrophic amounts of radioactivity. Jaczko cited a short list of nuclear accidents including Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima where industry and regulators are “always chasing the previous problem” and an approach of “Band-Aid on Band-Aid” cannot eliminate this “fundamental design challenge.” Jaczko had earlier told one news source, “ The next accident is going to be something no one predicted.”
However, Jaczko says that perhaps “the solution” would be to design and build a replacement fleet of “more distributed” smaller modular reactors with “low energy density.” Such designs might be safer he argues if that residual heat generated following the shut down the nuclear reaction could not push the reactor core temperature to the melting point and an uncontrolled nuclear accident.
Typically, as here, “solutions” are offered piecemeal without addressing the myriad of other routine and unresolved hazards that would still be emanating from your local mini-nuclear waste factory.
More broadly and still unaddressed is the overarching issue of the industry’s “Nuclear Regulatory Capture" of the agency. All things considered, the nuclear industry forced Chairman Jaczko’s resignation in May 2012 for not sufficiently facilitating their financial and expansion agenda. To Jaczko’s credit, a number of his pursuits, decisions and actions as Chair were decidedly in the interest of the public health and safety at industry expense and image. His executive decision to advise the US State Department on the immediate evacuation of all US nationals in Japan within 50 miles of the Fukushima accident became an industry tipping point and fueled a witch hunt for his ouster.
You can support Mr. Jazcko's call to start closing dangerous nukes by signing the Beyond Nuclear petition to revoke the NRC operating licenses for Fukushima-style reactors here in the United States.