Jaczko comes out as avowed antinuclear activist - Atomic Insights

Greg Jaczko has recently admitted publicly what many of us in the nuclear world have known for the better part of a decade; he is now an avowed antinuclear activist instead of one who tries to hide his real nature.

He came out at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference when he made the public pronouncement that all 104 nuclear power plants operating in the United States, and presumably all of the other 250 or so large light water nuclear power plants that use the technology that we invented here, are fundamentally unsafe and should be phased out completely.

When asked why he is going public with his position now, after serving for seven years and four months on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the agency of the US federal government that is tasked with enabling safe nuclear energy to protect the public health, promote common defense and security and to protect the environment, Jaczko stated that he had only come to the understanding recently, after watching the industry come together to devise its response to the Fukushima meltdowns.

Apparently, Dr. Jaczko has recently discovered that nuclear fission reactors produce radioactive isotopes that continue to generate heat, even after the fission has been stopped by inserting control rods. Since this heat needs to be dissipated by some kind of active or passive fluid movement to prevent the core from overheating and possibly melting, Dr. Jaczko has determined that the engineering effort required to reliably remove the heat is simply too hard.

Aside: I hope you all understand that I wrote that with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. End Aside.

Here is a quote from Matt Wald’s piece in the New York Times about Greg Jaczko’s admission of antinuclear tendencies.

Asked why he did not make these points when he was chairman, Dr. Jaczko said in an interview after his remarks, “I didn’t really come to it until recently.”

“I was just thinking about the issues more, and watching as the industry and the regulators and the whole nuclear safety community continues to try to figure out how to address these very, very difficult problems,” which were made more evident by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, he said. “Continuing to put Band-Aid on Band-Aid is not going to fix the problem.”

The nuclear industry has responded firmly, but very politely, to Dr. Jaczko’s implication that we are all hopelessly misguided for bothering to devise systems and procedures that overcome the challenge of dissipating decay heat, an issue that has been well understood since about 1942. Here is a quote from a Platts article titled US nuclear power plants are safe, despite Jaczko remarks: NEI CEO.

US nuclear power plants are operating safely, and safety has been enhanced by upgrades since the Fukushima-1 accident in Japan, a nuclear industry representative said in response Tuesday to a former US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman’s remarks Monday about design flaws in plants.

“US nuclear energy facilities are operating safely,” Nuclear Energy Institute President and CEO Marvin Fertel said. “That was the case prior to Greg Jaczko’s tenure as [US] Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman. It was the case during his tenure as NRC’s chairman, as acknowledged by the NRC’s special Fukushima response task force and evidenced by a multitude of safety and performance indicators. It is still the case today, particularly as every US nuclear energy facility adds yet another layer of safety by implementing lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.”

I’m not as polite or constrained, especially in the case in which someone like Jaczko is abusing his former politically appointed position in service of the taxpayers of the United States to take action that will impose enormous harm to both the environment and the economy. Nuclear plants are not only safe, they are reliable, economical generators of emission free electricity. They are well maintained, paid-for assets that can continue to operate into the distant future, just like our hydroelectric dams and other parts of our valuable, but inevitably aging infrastructure.

By coming out in opposition to the continued operation of those plants Dr. Jaczko has declared war on me, my colleagues, my children and my grandchildren. He deserves scorn and should stand ready to have his motives and his technical competence challenged by those of us who know he is dangerously wrong.

Jaczko has a few friends and defenders in both the media and in the government. Here is a clip from the Thom Hartman show in which he supports Jaczko’s call for our operating nuclear plants to be replaced, but he increases Jaczko’s demand for new technology to a call for “No Nukes.”

Some of Jaczko’s political defenders are in powerful positions. There is a rumor running around, which surfaced again during Dr. Ernest Moniz’s hearing for confirmation as Secretary of Energy, that Senator Reid is pushing for Jaczko to be hired as a special advisor to the Department of Energy. That would be a travesty of almost epic proportions considering his dismal performance as Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and his proven disregard for both facts and for the law of the land. Those of us who see him for what he is need to stand up and challenge his credibility so that the additional damage he is able to do is as limited as possible.

I posted the following comment on a Grist post titled All U.S. nuclear reactors are too dangerous, says former nuke-safety chief:

Greg Jaczko is a politician with an unused degree in theoretical physics. He wrote his thesis about modeling the low energy behavior of baryons and mesons, a topic that helped him to spend his entire time at the University of Wisconsin without ever visiting its research reactor or taking any courses in thermodynamics, material science, nuclear power plant operation, or the health effects of radiation.

After being awarded his PhD in 1999, Greg immediately went to Washington, DC to a congressional office to work as a staffer, not to a research facility to perform post doc work. He chose to work for the most antinuclear congressman in the House, Rep. Ed Markey.

After three years with Markey, Jaczko marked time for a few months with a Senate staff and then began serving his current patron, Senator Harry Reid, as a “science advisor”. His main assignment was to halt all progress on the Yucca Mountain waste facility; Senator Reid had promised his campaign contributors in Las Vegas that he would not allow that facility to operate. Reid, of course, never talked to the people in Nye County, where the facility was located, to find out how they felt about the jobs that the work was bringing to their community.

By blocking about 100 judicial nominations, Reid was able to coerce the Bush Administration to appoint Mr. Jaczko to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Jaczko focused on the non-nuclear topic of fire protection for his first few years on the Commission, but even then, he demonstrated a lack of atomic understanding and a lack of interest in learning anything about the use of nuclear fission to produce reliable electrical power. That is a topic for which theoretical physicists have as much relevant education as a registered nurse.

There is no doubt in my mind that Greg has a plan. He apparently dreams of being a well-compensated antinuclear activist. His career models are Victor Gilinsky and Peter Bradford, two former NRC regulators that have made long careers as antinuclear activists.

He will probably deny that he understands that fighting nuclear energy simply increases the market for coal, oil and natural gas. He will most likely profess that he does not realize that working to prevent as many plants as possible and forcing as many operating plants as possible to stop producing electricity is the primary revenue source for many nonprofit groups.

That activity is the main reason that antinuclear organizations have little or no trouble raising funds from The Establishment. Bankers, rail interests, pipeline constructors, and fossil fuel extractors like selling as much fossil fuel as possible at a price that is driven higher by reducing competitive supplies.

I am fully aware of libel laws and actually hope that Mr. Jaczko determines that he would like to challenge any of my statements.

Rod AdamsPublisher, Atomic Insights