No Mourning for Outgoing Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chief

But will Jaczko's resignation actually be good for the nuclear industry?

2 min read
No Mourning for Outgoing Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chief

No tears are being shed for Gregory B. Jaczko, the embattled chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who announced at the beginning of this week that he would resign before his five-year term is up, as soon as a successor can be chosen. Never popular in nuclear circles, Jaczko was a former aide to Nevada Senator Harry Reid and Massachusetts Representative Edward J. Markey, the industry's sharpest and most effective critic on the Hill. He was named NRC chairman at the behest of Reid, the Senate majority leader, with the express mission of killing plans for a long-term waste depository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

As chairman, Jaczko lived up to the low expectations of his political opponents while failing to satisfy his allies. His relations with fellow commissioners were poor, and complaints by NRC staff of an abrasive management style got wide attention in the press. At a time when nuclear energy is in need of strong and inspiring leadership in the United States, Jaczko was unable to win the respect of his colleagues and rally them to address problems effectively as they arose.

All too typical was a situation involving a Nebraska nuclear power plant, described in today's Wall Street Journal, where it took an unconscionable amount of time for the NRC to decide whether a serious mishap--a fire that cut off cooling to the plant's spent fuel cooling pond—was truly "serious."

Such incidents have contributed to a widening public impression that management of the U.S. nuclear industry still more closely resembles that in the dark ages than what we were supposed to see in the so-called renaissance. Hence the kind of lead seen recently in a Florida newspaper, in an article commenting on the latest rate hike being imposed on customers to fund a planned nuclear power plant:

Stop me if you've heard this one. You and Progress Energy walk into a bar. Progress says it's going to order $24 billion worth of drinks, but they won't arrive until 2024. Oh, and you have to pick up the tab — even if the server drops the tray and the drinks never arrive at all.

This was the third rate hike requested and approved for a plant that is running eight years behind schedule and whose projected cost has ballooned to $24 billion from $17 billion in five years.




The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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