Thursday, June 17, 2010

Why Regulate?

Let’s think back to Three Mile Island for a minute. Since that event there has been no accident of any significance at any nuclear plant in the United States. Do you think that is a coincidence? It’s not.

There have been minor infractions of safety regulations at nuclear plants, and when they have occurred the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has paid attention. They have, in fact, paid attention to those infractions like a flock of ducks pays attention to a June bug infestation. They not only issue fines and institute corrective measures, they set up a process of follow-up inspections to assure that the corrective measures are being met.

From the San Diego Union-Tribune recently, in an article regarding the San Onofre nuclear power station just north of here,

The commission placed San Onofre’s Unit 2 reactor on “regulatory response” in 2009, and has added inspectors until the plant meets the NRC’s standards. The plant’s other reactor, Unit 3, has no significant problems.

“None of those (problems) are close to the kind of concerns that would cause us to shut the plant down or anything like that,” Jaczko said in an interview. “Right now we’re not seeing any significant safety violations, but we’re seeing some things that if they’re not addressed soon could lead to performance challenges, and that’s why we want to address them early.”

There have been many “minor” accidents in the oil industry over the years, and no regulatory agency has addressed them. That’s why we have the Deepwater Horizon event today. We have not had a Three Mile Island event, or anything even close to it, because regulation and inspection works.

And for anyone who claims that the government can't do anything right? Three words; Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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