Jaczko Votes for NRC Fukushima Report, Spurns Calls to Delay

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko urged his colleagues to consider a task force’s proposals on U.S. reactor safety within three months, spurning their proposals to take more time for the review.

“The commission should vote within 90 days on each recommendation,” Jaczko said in a statement, obtained today, accompanying his vote yesterday to approve the agency report.

A majority of the five-member commission has balked at Jaczko’s push for a decision in three months. Commissioner William Ostendorff said on July 28 that he had “significant reservations” about quick action, echoing the positions of Commissioners William Magwood and Kristine Svinicki.

The task force set up after the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant recommended July 12 that the NRC adopt a new framework to replace its “patchwork” of rules, and to take steps to protect U.S. reactors from floods and earthquakes, which doomed the Japan plant. Such actions include ensuring that plants can handle prolonged on-site blackouts and that older reactors have sturdier venting systems.

Jaczko said he is troubled by Magwood’s suggestion to have NRC staff closely examine each action suggested by the task force. “This is a level of micro-management that the commission should not engage in and it could take years to complete,” Jaczko said in comments with his vote.

The chairman said he opposes Svinicki’s proposal that staff prepare and provide guidelines for a longer-term review. “This document is a tool for managing staff work and is not a policy issue for the commission’s consideration,” he wrote.

‘Completely Reconsider’

A recommendation by Ostendorff that the staff prepare documents based on the assumption that the current regulatory approach works “would seem to direct the staff to completely reconsider all the recommendations” in the report, Jaczko said. “Moreover, it is unclear what this requirement actually means,” he said.

Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, faulted the commissioners for urging more studies.

“This is not the time for the endless delay and studies of studies called for” by Magwood, Ostendorff and Svinicki, Markey said in a statement. “It is urgent that the NRC address vulnerabilities to America’s nuclear fleet that were starkly revealed by the Fukushima disaster.”

Jaczko said the agency should consider “in the long term” requiring utilities to move waste from cooling pools to dry storage after a certain amount of time.

Such a step “may provide a safer and more secure disposition for spent fuel,” he said.

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