Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project

For Immediate Release: Sept. 24, 1999
Contact: James Riccio (202) 546-4996

Public Citizen Blasts Deregulation of Nuclear Safety Standards

WHITE FLINT, Md. - Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project today condemned attempts by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the nuclear industry to gut the safety standards that govern the nation's 104 nuclear reactors. In testimony before the NRC's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, Public Citizen stated that the NRC's unprecedented deregulatory scheme is based upon the fact that nuclear power cannot compete in the newly deregulated electricity marketplace.

"The NRC and the nuclear industry are attempting to deregulate nuclear safety standards because nuclear reactors cannot compete with other sources of electricity," said James Riccio, staff attorney for Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project.

"The NRC is supposed to protect the public from the consequences of a nuclear accident. Unfortunately, the agency has been co-opted by the industry it is supposed to regulate and is more concerned than ever before with protecting the financial interests of this failed technology."

The nuclear industry has targeted as many as 16 nuclear reactor safety standards that it wants to deregulate. Rather than require nuclear reactors owners to meet these regulations, the NRC's proposal would allow licensees to skirt safety standards by preforming risk assessments. Although the NRC is not supposed to be concerned with the economics of nuclear power, the commission wants to replace regulations with risk assessments because that would reduce the cost of regulation imposed upon the nuclear industry.

"Unfortunately, the NRC's risk assessments have no basis in reality," Riccio said. "These assessments claim that the probability of a reactor meltdown is one in 10 million reactor years; in fact, the U.S. nuclear industry has already melted down two reactors, Fermi Unit 1 and Three Mile Island Unit 2, in less than 2,500 reactor years." Since there are 104 reactors operating in the U.S., each standard year results in 104 reactor years of operation. Riccio concluded that "if the NRC and the nuclear industry continue down this deregulatory path, more nuclear reactor meltdowns are likely."

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Noel Petrie
Legislative Assistant
Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project