By Michael Mariotte

Cover sheet of NRC letter to Exelon raising questions about the company’s efforts to reclassify public documents on emergency planning.

It might seem that we’re guilty of dumping on Exelon in these pages, which is possibly true, especially since there is an apparently endless supply of Exelon-initiated issues worthy of bringing to public attention. After all, Exelon is the nation’s largest electric utility, the largest nuclear utility, and while we haven’t developed a test for this yet, quite likely the nation’s greediest electric utility.

Still, consider this one from Crain’s Chicago Business Review, which has been doing a great job of trying to hold Exelon accountable: it turns out that while Exelon has been pleading poverty in Springfield, Illinois–home of the Illinois legislature–and loudly proclaiming it needs a bailout to keep at least three uneconomic reactors operating; when the company goes to Wall Street, Exelon paints quite a different picture of its current–and apparently lucrative–financial standing.

This is what naked greed looks like, folks. The question is, now that Exelon has been caught on it, will anyone’s cheeks in the executive suite turn even a modest shade of pink? Unlikely, unless this backfires so much that the legislature actually stops a bailout.

That kind of attitude at Exelon, that it doesn’t need to even consider playing by the rules, has apparently seeped down through the rest of the company and its staff.

Last week, the NRC slammed the company for trying to reclassify and keep from public disclosure basic emergency planning documents, many of which are already public. In other words, Exelon is trying to take public documents related to emergency response planning (this is not about plutonium disposition or armed guards at nuclear reactors, this is about basic public safety information the public clearly has the right to know) and make it secret. For, as far as the NRC can tell–and the NRC usually rubber-stamps these kind of requests if they’re not too outrageous–no legitimate reason whatsoever. In fact, this request has reached “too outrageous.”

You can find the whole NRC document by searching the agency’s ADAMS database for this document number: ML16098A322. We’ve reproduced two of the ten pages here, one at the top and one below.

What is most disturbing about this is not really the idea of making legitimately-public documents secret, although that is certainly repugnant. Rather, it’s the attitude that permeates Exelon that the rules don’t apply to them, that if they yell and complain longly and loudly enough they can get anything they want. When that kind of attitude extends into the operations of nuclear power plants, nothing but trouble will follow. And that’s the kind of trouble that none of us, not even Exelon, needs.

Michael Mariotte

May 2, 2016


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