Editorial: Inconsistent oversight damages nuclear power potential
Nuclear power could be considered among the best options for our energy future.
It’s a source that can lessen the country’s reliance on carbon-based fuels such as coal and oil, creating a cleaner and more sustainable energy outlook.
A recent analysis by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, however, paints a murky picture of how well the industry is regulated. According to the report, the agency that oversees the nation’s nuclear power – the Nuclear Regulatory Commission – has established an inconsistent and subjective process for determining safety risks across the country.
The review by the accountability office found significant disparities in the number of serious violations reported by the commission, particularly when comparing regions.
The study was prompted by the 2011 disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which demonstrated that unexpected nuclear accidents with extreme consequences can occur. An investigation launched by the Japanese parliament concluded that damage to those reactors could have been avoided and was partially the result of a failure of regulatory oversight in Japan.
While U.S. policymakers shouldn’t overreact to the findings, it’s important that nuclear power regulators take a proactive approach and work to ensure that consistent and objective methods are implemented and enforced.
The contributions of nuclear power are evident. The industry is currently celebrating National Nuclear Science Week, which has put a spotlight on its benefits. The thousands of people in the CSRA who have careers in the nuclear industry can attest to its importance to the community and the economy. In the future, nuclear power may be a key component in a national energy portfolio that also includes wind, solar and biomass. If that’s the case, we must ensure that proper oversight is in place.
Too much regulation can certainly choke progress. But in the aftermath of disasters such as Fukushima – and memories of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island decades ago – the public must be assured that preventable accidents can be avoided. That goal can be meet by appropriately applying national regulations and guidelines.