[ RadSafe ] INPO model for Big Oil?

Dan W McCarn hotgreenchile at gmail.com
Tue Jun 22 16:45:10 CDT 2010

Dear Mark:

Big Oil's Three Mile Island was the Exxon Valdez.  This accident is their
Chernobyl!  But you are correct in every particular, that safety is
paramount and effective regulation essential.  Unfortunately, not all of the
Big Oil's companies got the memo... And that can be seen by the historical
safety records. 

One of the sad truths about developing-country oil development is that we
collectively do not see the legacy environmental damage left in Africa by
unfettered development. There is a strong feeling among the people in Niger
that a double standard exists between safety and environmental stewardship
issues and only a few people stand to benfit from oil.


But while we are on the subject of accidents, Bhopal was the chemical
industry's Chernobyl with thousands killed and many more injured.  How have
they faired since?

In the courts, the victims of both Bhopal and Exxon Valdez are still
awaiting settlement after decades of injury and despair.  One "improvement"
in this dismal record is the $20 Billion that BP has funded without legal
pronouncement due in large part by the efforts of the present
administration. Hopefully, ExxonMobil will get the message and deliver
without any more litigation.

President Andrew Jackson considered corporations as soulless and faceless
entities. Certainly Union Carbide and ExxonMobil appear to be so and now BP.

Dan ii
Dan W McCarn, Geologist
108 Sherwood Drive
Los Alamos, NM 87544-3425
+1-505-672-2014 (Home - New Mexico)
HotGreenChile at gmail.com (Private email) HotGreenChile at gmail dot com

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Miller, Mark L
Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 14:33
To: 'radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu'
Subject: [ RadSafe ] INPO model for Big Oil?

BP's Gulf Catastrophe is Big Oil's Three Mile Island:  Will They Learn from
the Nuclear Industry how to Achieve Environmental Safety and Operational

Following the tragic accident at Three Mile Island (TMI) Unit #2 in 1979,
executives from all of the U.S utilities who operated nuclear power plants
convened a meeting at which they resolved "Never Again".  Their concern was
real, not just for the public and environment's well being, but for the very
survival of commercial nuclear power generation.  They recognized, that in
spite of the fact that no actual environmental harm resulted from the TMI
accident, the public would call for an immediate shutdown of all remaining
power plants in this country if another significant accident occurred at any
of the remaining operating nuclear power plants.  The utility consortium's
objective was to establish a program that specified appropriate safety
standards including those for management, quality assurance, operation
procedures and practices, and independent evaluations.  Also, it was clear
that there must be systematic gathering, review, and analysis of operating
experience at all nu  clear power plants, coupled with an industry wide
communications network to facilitate the speedy flow of this information to
affected parties.  From that meeting came the Institute for Nuclear Power
Operations (INPO)<http://www.inpo.info/Index.html>.  Their mission:  to
promote the highest levels of safety and reliability - to promote excellence
- in the operation of commercial nuclear power.  They go about achieving
this mission<http://www.inpo.info/AboutUs.htm> by a very aggressive and
transparent , straightforward process which includes:
*       establishing performance objectives, criteria and guidelines for the
nuclear power industry
*       conducting regular detailed evaluations of nuclear power plants, and
*       providing assistance to help nuclear power plants continually
improve their performance.
INPO's primary objectives were focused on public safety and operational
assurance, not profitability.  However, a pleasant surprise occurred when
the INPO recommendations became the operational standard that all commercial
utilities lived by.  Availability factors and profits skyrocketed!  As is
often the case, safety professionals strive incessantly to convince
management that safety doesn't cost money;  it actually makes money!  INPO's
beneficial impact on the nuclear utilities is dramatic, undeniable proof of
those arguments.
Commercial nuclear power went from availability factors of around 70% in the
1980's to consistently above 91% in 2010.  This is due, in part, to the
INPO-inspired "best management practices" that were imposed by peer utility
operators rather than any "regulatory requirements" enforced by the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission (that were necessarily less ambitious than
peer-imposed objectives).  Big Oil would do well to consider this success in
light of the enormous stakes involved in continuing to provide oil to the
market with reasonable assurance that they can do it without a repeat of the
BP Gulf Disaster.
All of Big Oil should be equally concerned with the crisis being faced by BP
(even though BP caused it, this time).  This is because exactly the same
thing could happen to any one of them in the future.  Competing energy
companies must share with one another (and enforce upon one another) the
"best management practices" which the INPO-inspired model enabled the
commercial nuclear industry to achieve its very impressive accomplishments
since the TMI Accident.
The public cry for more and stronger regulatory oversight will never result
in as effective improvements as peer-imposed requirements.  This is because
the regulatory process is, of necessity, long, drawn out, deliberative and
one-size-fits-all.  As a result, many of the resultant regulations are less
effective than they were initially intended to be.  Furthermore, their
development is necessarily and heavily influenced (political, lobbyist and
public hearing influences) by the industry that they are designed to
regulate.  Rather than rhetoric and "camera dressing" that is part of the
regulatory development process, peer-imposed requirements go directly to a
clear objective and are not subject to the inevitable distortions that may
be the final product of even the best-intended regulatory development.
Make no mistake that unambiguous, fair, consistent, enforceable regulations
are an absolute necessity.  However, their effectiveness can only be
expected to go so far.  Beyond that, aggressive proven-to-be-effective "best
management practices" developed by peer-competitors and imposed with an
unwavering focus on both public safety and the industry's survival is
 The idea of removing liability limits for companies that cause
environmental harm that is being considered may be a good idea.  It will
properly re-focus risk/cost/profit evaluations, rather than encouraging
profit-motivated safety shortcuts that are more likely to occur if a
commercial entity knows that taxpayers (or ratepayers) will "pick up the
tab" for anything in excess of published liability limits.
Today, 30 years after TMI, Big Oil is facing the same crisis that faced the
nuclear industry in 1979.  Will Big Oil recognize the opportunity to adopt a
proven, successful model that the INPO experience provides to rescue their
industry from a painful demise or a new profusion of costly any marginally
effective regulations for which the public is clamoring?  What they (and the
public) needs is assurance that things will operate as designed, not
insurance to pay for accidents when they don't.
End note:  The world will continue to demand oil to satisfy its insatiable
need for energy.  World economies are directly tied to the availability of
energy, and oil plays a prominent role in this reality.  It is in the
interest of the world's consumers of oil that Big Oil achieves the highest
possible operational safety assurances in addition to continuing as a viable
and profitable industry.  This will enable them to provide their valuable
commodity at the lowest prices to consumers with the assurance that this
success is being achieved with the highest possible assurance of being
achieved safely.  Punitive damages and compensation for accidents may look
and feel good for a short while, but they pale in comparison to doing the
right things the first time.  Ask any resident of the Gulf Coast who is
affected by the BP spill:  "Would you rather have your livelihood back, or
would you like a compensation check from BP?"

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