[ RadSafe ] Obama to name Reid ally as NRC chairman -- "A Commissioner's Perspective on Nuclear Regulation"
cary.renquist at ezag.com
Fri May 15 11:22:00 CDT 2009
FYI: Jaczko's speech from a couple years ago...
"A Commissioner's Perspective on Nuclear Regulation"
"A Commissioner's Perspective on Nuclear Regulation"
Prepared Remarks for
The Honorable Gregory B. Jaczko
Commissioner, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
at the Regulatory Information Conference Rockville, MD
March 14, 2007
This is my third Regulatory Information Conference Speech. I look at
these speeches as an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on
broad themes. In my first RIC speech, I spoke about my philosophy of
government focused on openness, transparency, and communication with
stakeholders. Last year, I discussed the importance of earning public
confidence in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
After I gave that speech, I spoke with my colleagues about how
challenging that goal is. After all, we can not control how others feel
about the work of the agency. But I do believe there is a way we can
work toward that goal and it involves a focus on our true customer. It
is that topic I intend to expand on this year but before I do, I would
like to take a few minutes to discuss a couple of my colleagues who will
be leaving the Commission this year - Commissioners McGaffigan and
I met Commissioner Jeff Merrifield just before I started at the agency
back at the beginning of 2005. He gave me a warm welcome and offered me
sound and practical advice, including on how to organize my office,
which helped cement our relationship from the very beginning. He brings
a unique and important perspective to the Commission as its sole
Jeff and I have different backgrounds and have not agreed on every
policy issue. But I have personally appreciated his dedication to the
principle that the decision-making process we follow should be
disciplined and differing views should be respected. Together we have
sought consensus where it could be found, and ensured that the process
provided us with the opportunity to professionally explain our
differences, where necessary. I know he has truly enjoyed his government
service, I will miss working with him, and I wish him well in his next
I would also like to share a few thoughts about Commissioner McGaffigan.
We share a bond of having fathers who immigrated to this country and his
life is the quintessential American success story. He represents
something I have a tremendous amount of respect for - public servants
who dedicate their lives to government service. Throughout his three
decade long career in the executive and legislative branches, he has
responded honorably to the call to service and shown the moral courage
that are legacies of President Kennedy's Administration.
He also has such a nimble mind and a keen attention to detail that he
challenges each of us to be better Commissioners - to be certain we can
clearly explain the logic of our beliefs and positions in our
discussions with him. Some of my most challenging and enjoyable times at
the NRC have been when Commissioner McGaffigan and I have disagreed on
policy issues and then engaged in lively and productive discussions.
Commissioner McGaffigan and Commissioner Merrifield have been tremendous
assets to this nation and the Commission, and I will miss them. These
types of departures are always difficult transitions, but as you clearly
heard yesterday, neither of these gentleman has left just yet. They
still have a lot to say about how the agency functions and important
issues to weigh in on, so with that in mind I better turn to my views on
what the Commission should be focusing on next.
I will begin with an anecdotal story about the renowned 20th century
Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. As the story goes, he asked
a friend: "Tell me. Why do people always say it was natural for man to
assume that the Sun went around the Earth rather than that the Earth was
rotating?" His friend replied, "Well obviously because it just looks as
though the Sun is going around the Earth!" Wittgenstein reportedly
replied, "Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as
though the Earth was rotating?"
I bring up this story because it makes vividly clear how something that
everyone accepts as truth may sometimes not be the true reflection of
reality. Since the earth does indeed rotate, our initial perception of
reality was misguided. So I ask you to keep this idea in mind as I
continue my remarks today.
The NRC should be, and is, a customer oriented agency. The NRC has been
exploring the business process management strategy known as "six sigma."
Its focus is on the "voice of the customer." This strategy requires that
an organization analyze what it does, who it serves, and then survey
those customers to see if it is meeting their needs. Organizations use
this strategy to gather data and then redesign their processes in a
fact-based way to meet the customer's requirements.
I believe that an NRC analysis such as this clearly shows that our
customer is the public at large. We sometimes have a tendency to narrow
our focus to those members of the public who we interact with on a daily
basis. As I mentioned in last year's speech, however, the public
includes a wide variety of stakeholders including individuals, citizen
groups, vendors, licensees, applicants, and elected officials. The
public - our customer - includes those who do and even those who do not
actively participate in our formal processes.
The NRC has a talented, well educated, and dedicated staff. But most of
the contact they have on a daily basis is with licensees and is focused
on highly technical issues. It is on these issues that our agency and
licensees speak a common language and face similar challenges. Contact
with other members of the broader public is much less frequent. Over
time, I believe this has naturally led to a focus more on what licensees
need from the NRC and less on what the broader customer needs.
I think that view is incorrectly focused, just as it was wrong to
believe the sun revolved around the earth because that was 'the way it
looked.' The NRC's true customers are the public as a whole.
This has the ring of a self evident truth - our government is of, by,
and for the people after all. Examine it in light of one of the main
things we do which is to review and issue licenses. I believe even
licenses themselves are for the broadly defined public. A license
certainly has substantial intrinsic value for an applicant, but it
should be thought of as a recognition that the recipient has met our
responsibilities to the public to provide a reasonable assurance of
adequate protection. We act as the stewards of the public interest to
provide them with the technical expertise and knowledge they may not
have the time or resources to acquire. And as the Atomic Energy Act
makes clear, we also have a responsibility to ensure that everyone whose
interests may be affected by an NRC action has the right to participate
in the decision making process.
There is, therefore, a social contract: The public grants applicants the
right to possess and manage potentially harmful substances when they
earn it from us by demonstrating they can and will meet the rules and
requirements we establish. We must keep our regulatory focus on ensuring
we are meeting the needs of our true customers.
The agency has made tremendous strides in meeting this goal, but I
believe we can do better. For instance, we organize signing ceremonies
for license approvals at the end of what are detailed, technical, and
sometimes emotional license review processes. Representatives of the
agency and licensees attend, and sometimes even local officials are
present. We should aim for a level of such true customer service that
these events would be attended not only by those members of the public,
but also by every intervenor in the proceedings. They may not be in
perfect agreement with every decision made during the process, just as
the applicant probably is not, but they would believe their concerns
have been heard and really addressed, and have faith in us as their
trustees that public health and safety will be protected. This should be
our goal, and is a good way to look at whether our focus is on the right
So, we have more work to do in this area. The decision to issue a
license is, and should be, a public process precisely because it is a
statement for the public's benefit.
Let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean. In 1997 a
consortium formed by eight large electric utility companies called
Private Fuel Storage (PFS) submitted a license application to the
Commission with the hope of operating an away-from-reactor spent nuclear
fuel storage facility in Utah. Nine years later, the Commission approved
a license. One would think that after almost nine years of exhaustive
work to get a license, the applicant would waste no time beginning
construction leading to eventual operations.
It is over a year later, however, and the applicant is no closer to
building the facility today than it was back in 1997. Instead, members
of the public whom the Commission's license is supposed to benefit,
largely rejected our decision to issue the PFS license for a host of
reasons. Somehow our process failed because the license we issued did
not provide adequate assurance of public health and safety in the view
of the members of the public most affected by the action - those who
live near the site and those elected to represent them, including the
government of the State of Utah.
I am not saying the NRC necessarily erred in issuing the licence, but
because the process was flawed, the end result of years of regulatory
work is the same as if the license had been rejected. A license granted
should be a license implemented, and if it is not, there is obviously a
problem. Now, I am not arguing for a longer review time, or that it is
necessary to appease every party involved. But a license review that
does a better job of addressing our customer's needs would ultimately be
more efficient and effective, and probably even faster.
Let us take a look at another region of the country. A license issued by
a federal regulator under a consistent regulatory regime should be just
as valid in one part of our country as in another. But in the Northeast,
the customer is very different and there are other challenges to the
validity of our licensing actions. Here the social contract has gone so
wrong that a wide variety of stakeholders across the political spectrum
have called for independent safety assessments at several nuclear power
Independent of whom, you might ask? Independent of the independent
safety regulator. And it is important to note that these concerned
customers include not only members of public interest groups but also
elected officials from all levels of government.
I am on record as saying I do not believe that the independent safety
assessment model from ten years ago is the most effective way to address
this issue. But the continued requests for this action, again by a wide
group of stakeholders from different states, demonstrate to me that we
are not doing a good job of serving our customer.
Again, I am not saying that every idea any member of the public has
should be adopted by the NRC. We should have a stable regulatory regime
and our decisions must be based on sound scientific, technical, and
regulatory policy. But they must also be based on sound public policy.
This requires a subtle shift that will have profound ramifications. It
requires clear public communication and education. It requires that the
Commission lead, and provide the staff with the resources to accomplish
the additional customer service work. And it requires that the
Commission clearly convey that we see this effort as being a high staff
Two excellent tools we have to help us are the adjudicatory and
rulemaking processes, which I consider great big regulatory 'suggestion
boxes.' We should take advantage of comments, concerns, and contentions
raised in the context of hearings and rulemakings to learn more about
how our customer feels about the job we are doing as regulators and to
incorporate new ideas.
People want and deserve answers to their questions about the use of
radioactive materials in their communities, and we should not only seek
to answer these concerns but to truly resolve them. If we do that, our
customers will know we are listening and incorporating there concerns
into our regulatory structure and licensing actions.
Two good examples of where the agency has successfully accomplished that
goal are in changes to emergency preparedness regulations and safety
culture. I want to take this opportunity to commend the preparedness and
response and office of enforcement staff on their outreach efforts over
the last two years. The agency's successes in both developing new
emergency preparedness regulations and guidance, and in finding a way to
better incorporate attributes of safety culture into the reactor
oversight process, are laudable. Both dealt with complex, controversial,
and emotional issues and both required that extensive stakeholder input
be gathered and incorporated into the final product. I would note that
both also resulted in solutions that were not foreseen at the beginning
of the process but were developed through the dynamic two-way
conversation the staff initiated with the public.
Some opportunities to take advantage of these regulatory suggestion
boxes and therefore help ensure the legitimacy of our licensing actions
are pretty straightforward.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is studying whether to re-start
construction of Watts Bar Unit 2, which has existed in a state of
partial construction for decades. They have a construction permit issued
back in 1973 that the NRC has renewed multiple times. In 1976 they
applied for an operating license and this agency noticed a public
hearing opportunity that is now closed.
On the news that TVA may want to restart construction, the NRC has begun
to consider whether the public should be provided a new opportunity for
a hearing on the operating license. If we decide not to, we run the risk
that we could end up disenfranchising our customer.
After all, many of the people living near Watts Bar today were not there
in 1976. Many were not even born. If we truly focus on our customer, we
will provide an opportunity for the public to participate in the
decision about whether or not to approve an application to operate a
nuclear power plant in their community. If we can resolve all of the
questions about the review process we follow, there should not be any
questions about the outcome of that process.
Another slight shift in focus that could have profound effects involves
our approach to schedules. Some stakeholders have encouraged the NRC to
focus on streamlining our review process as much as possible and to
secure the resources necessary to review every application they are
I wholeheartedly agree that review schedules and predictability are
important. The NRC alone ultimately controls the pace at which reviews
can be done in a manner that ensures safety. Schedules should be the
hallmarks of how we maximize the opportunities for public participation,
for the public to know their tax dollars are being spent wisely, and to
allow the NRC to ensure public health and safety. We should therefore
reach out to people who may not even know they can participate in our
processes and make sure they have an understanding of these schedules.
It is only by following this approach to schedules that we can be sure a
review process that results in a license approval will also be one that
leads to the actual construction and operation of a facility.
I would like to close with a discussion of one controversial decision
the Commission has before it. I have proposed that the Commission
complete an expedited rulemaking which would require any new nuclear
power plants built in the U.S. be designed to withstand a large
commercial aircraft impact. If we look at this issue from a customer
service perspective, we should reach out and make sure we know what our
customer's expectations are. I believe I have a sense of those
expectations, but I also believe we should discuss this issue publicly
to make sure we fully understand the broader public's views.
It was not easy to address new security threats for the fleet of
existing reactors, but the Commission thought it was vital to do so
following September 11, 2001. The agency, therefore, issued orders
requiring licensees to identify and implement strategies to maintain or
restore cooling for the reactor core, containment building, and spent
fuel pool. The NRC directed licensees to identify mitigative strategies
- or measures they could take to reduce the potential consequences of a
large fire or explosion - that could be implemented with resources
already existing or readily available. This was what we could
realistically do with billions of dollars of built infrastructure and it
was sufficient to provide a reasonable assurance of adequate protection.
It is not, however, sufficient, to miss an opportunity to design away
the requirement for these strategies in new plants. We should act today,
as the regulator of one critical infrastructure sector, to require
improvements that will limit the damage that may occur from such an
Now is the time, before any applications have even been submitted, to
require reasonable design changes including redundancy, separation of
safety systems, and structural modifications to address the commercial
aircraft threat. I urge my colleagues to use this issue as an
opportunity to demonstrate that our focus is on serving the public as
our one and only true customer.
So to close, I believe we often find ourselves in a discussion with a
narrower subset of our customer base. Just as our perception that the
sun revolved around the earth was misguided, it may look like our true
customer is limited to licensees and applicants. But I believe that if
we step back and really look at this issue, we will see that our true
customer is the much larger and broader public.
If we put a stronger focus on serving our customer we will be
successful. It will lead to more realistic and effective regulatory
approaches to all of the important public policy issues we face.
Thank you for your attention and I would welcome any questions you may
RSO, Eckert & Ziegler Isotope Products
Office: +1 661-309-1033
cary.renquist at ezag.com
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] On
Behalf Of ROY HERREN
Sent: Thursday, 14 May, 2009 21:53
To: radsafe at radlab.nl
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Obama to name Reid ally as NRC chairman
Obama to name Reid ally as NRC chairman
By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
(05-13) 15:44 PDT WASHINGTON (AP) --
(c) 2009 Hearst Communications Inc.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday named a former adviser to Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid to head the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,
giving opponents of a nuclear waste repository in Reid's home state of
Nevada another well-placed ally.
Gregory B. Jaczko has served on the five-member commission since January
2005 and, as chairman, will become its official spokesman. The
appointment does not require Senate confirmation.
The chairman also serves as the NRC's chief executive, overseeing
day-to-day operations as well as long-range planning.
Four years ago, the nuclear power industry fought Jaczko's nomination to
the commission. At the time, Nuclear Energy Institute spokesman Steve
Kerekes said the industry preferred someone who "doesn't come out of the
Harry Reid school of stymieing Yucca Mountain and nuclear waste
Now, Jaczko will serve as the industry's primary regulator. There are
104 nuclear reactors in operation in the U.S.
Jaczko was Reid's appropriations director and top science policy adviser
before he joined the commission.
Reid also has the support of Obama in doing away with the Yucca Mountain
repository. Obama's budget calls for providing the project with less
money and directs that the money be spent on exploring alternatives to
the Nevada site.
During his tenure on the commission, Jaczko has focused his attention on
the security of nuclear power plants and emergency preparedness.
Reid applauded the announcement.
"His work in Congress and at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has
improved the safety of nuclear power plants and is based on his
demonstrated commitment to bringing all stakeholders to the table," Reid
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