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General News    H2'ed 1/22/21

"Our position...is a resounding no" -- to letting nuclear plants run for 100 years

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The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a "public meeting" this week on what it titled "Development of Guidance Documents To Support License Renewal For 100 Years Of Plant Operation."

Comments from the "public" were strongly opposed to the NRC's desire for it to let nuclear power plants run for a century.

"I request you pause and consider before you go ahead on this reckless path," testified Michel Lee, chairman of the New York-based Council on Intelligent Energy & Conservation Policy.

"Our position and that of our constituents is a resounding no," declared Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project at the national organization Beyond Nuclear.

"It's time to stop this whole nuke con job," said Erica Gray, nuclear issues chair of the Virginia Sierra Club. There is "no solution" to dealing with nuclear waste, she said. It is "unethical to continue to make the most toxic waste known to mankind." And, "renewable energy" with solar and wind "can power the world."

Jan Boudart, a board member of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, spoke, too, of the lack of consideration of nuclear waste.

Cited was the higher likelihood of accidents with plants permitted to run for 100 years.

Whether the NRC -- often called the Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission -- listens is highly unlikely considering its record of rubberstamping whatever has been sought by other nuclear promoters in government and the nuclear industry.

Nuclear power plants when they began being built were not seen as running for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems. So operating licenses were limited to 40 years.

But with the major decline of nuclear power -- the U.S. is down to 94 plants from a high of 129 and only two are now under construction -- the nuclear promoters in the U.S. government and nuclear industry are pushing to let nuclear power plants run for 100 years to somehow keep nuclear power going.

Among federal officials speaking at the January 21 all-day "public meeting" was Thomas M. Rosseel of the Materials Research Pathway of DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy and a senior program manager in the Nuclear Structural Materials Group at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. He showed PowerPoint slides including one with the heading "Sound Nuclear Materials Research Approach." It listed in this process an "expert panel approach from the nuclear community led by the U.S. NRC and including industry, universities and international experts."

In further discussing the "Life Beyond Eighty" scheme for nuclear power plants, Rosseel showed a U.S. Energy Information Administration slide projecting the amount of energy nuclear power would contribute to the U.S. energy supply in decline from 19% in 2019 to 12% in 2050 while renewable energy sources would jump from the current 19% to 38%.

For the DOE, which inherited the role of promoting nuclear power from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, abolished by Congress in 1974 for being in conflict of interest for having a dual role of both promoting and regulating nuclear power, this decline is of great concern.

At the start of the "public meeting" -- held online as a teleconference -- Allen L. Hiser, Jr., senior technical advisor for the Division of New and Renewed Licenses of the NRC, said the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 gave authority to the U.S. government to license nuclear power plants for 40 years. "But nothing in the AEA [Atomic Energy Act] prohibits a number of license renewals," said Hiser.

Using this lack of prohibition in the Atomic Energy Act, the NRC is now pushing ahead on the scheme to let nuclear power plants run for 100 years.

The NRC -- which was supposed to only get the regulatory function from the eliminated U.S. Atomic Energy Commission -- has also, with DOE, been a promoter of nuclear power.

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Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury and host of the nationally syndicated TV program Enviro Close-Up (www.envirovideo.com)

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