By Grayson Webb
JANUARY 23, 2017, UCS By Dave Lochbaum
To many, the acronym NRC stands for Nuclear Regulatory Commission. At times, NRC has been said to stand for Nobody Really Cares, Nuclear Rubberstamp Committee, and Nielsen Ratings Commission.
In regard to Larry Criscione, it may stand for Nuclear Regulatory Crusader.
Larry is an engineer working for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Last year, Larry received the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage from The Safeek Nader Trust. Joe Callaway established the award in 1990 to recognize individuals who, with integrity and at some personal risk, take a public stance to advance truth and justice.
In March 2011, the three operating reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan melted down after a tsunami generated by a large earthquake flooded the site and disabled primary and backup power supplies to emergency equipment. In public, the NRC denied that reactors operating in the U.S. were vulnerable to such hazards.
In private, the NRC knew otherwise.
Flooding Risk at Oconee
In June 2010—nine months before Fukushima—the NRC issued a Confirmatory Action Letter to the owner of the Oconee nuclear plant in South Carolina requiring more than a dozen measures be taken. The measures were intended to lessen the chances that the Jocassee Dam fails and to increase the chances that the three operating reactors at Oconee survive should the dam fail anyway.
An evaluation showed that if the dam—located about 21 miles upriver from Oconee—failed, the site would be inundated with about 12.5 to 16.8 feet of flood water. The site was protected by a flood wall about seven feet tall, so it mattered little whether the actual depth was 12.5, 13, 14, 15, or 16.8 feet.
The NRC estimated that if the dam failed and flooded the site, there was a 100 percent chance that all three reactors would meltdown.
But the NRC issued the Confirmatory Action Letter secretly and did not tell the public about the hazard it required Oconee’s owner to lessen. After Fukushima tragically demonstrated the hazard posed by flooding, the NRC continued to cover-up measures taken and planned to lessen the flooding vulnerability at Oconee.
Larry and the OIG
So, Larry sent a 19-page letter dated September 18, 2002, to the NRC Chairman chronicling this history and asking four things:
- The NRC’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) should review the documents related to flooding at Oconee and the associated federal regulations to determine …read more