20040520-ucs-senate-testimony

20040520-ucs-senate-testimony - Testimony before the Senate...

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Testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change and Nuclear Safety Washington Office: 1707 H Street NW Suite 600 Washington DC 20006-3919 202-223-6133 FAX: 202-223-6162 Cambridge Headquarters: Two Brattle Square Cambridge MA 02238-9105 617-547-5552 FAX: 617-864-9405 California Office: 2397 Shattuck Avenue Suite 203 Berkeley CA 94704-1567 510-843-1872 FAX: 510-843-3785 On behalf of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), it is my pleasure to appear before this Subcommittee. My name is David Lochbaum. After obtaining a degree in nuclear engineering from The University of Tennessee in 1979, I spent more than 17 years in the nuclear industry, mostly at operating power reactors in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and Connecticut, before joining UCS in October 1996 as their nuclear safety engineer. UCS, established in 1969 as a non-profit, public interest group, seeks to ensure that people have clean air, energy and transportation, as well as food that are produced in a safe and sustainable manner. UCS has monitored nuclear plant safety issues for over 30 years. LESSONS FROM THE PAST Twenty five years ago this past March, the Three Mile Island Unit 2 reactor outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania experienced the worst nuclear plant accident in U.S. history. The 25 th anniversary of that meltdown got considerable media attention. One reporter asked me how the nuclear industry would be different today had the Three Mile Island accident not happened. “There would be no difference,” I answered him, “because that accident was bound to happen – if not at Three Mile Island, then at some other reactor.” One-of-a-kind design flaws, isolated operator training deficiencies, or unique equipment failures did not cause the accident. Degraded conditions prevalent at and tolerated on all reactor sites ultimately produced a meltdown at one site – Three Mile Island. The many post-mortem inquiries into that accident resulted in extensive changes in the organization and management of the nuclear industry and its regulator, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). This history is relevant to today’s hearing because compelling evidence suggests that extensive, degraded conditions at reactor sites are once again being tolerated. The NRC’s response to these warning signs have amounted to little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic . Fortunately, there is still time for the NRC to plot a different course so as to avoid the icebergs looming on the horizon. WARNING SIGNS IN THE PRESENT The Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ohio recently restarted after being shut down more than two years for repairs to emergency equipment. The NRC concluded that deteriorating conditions at Davis-Besse had, over a period of nearly six years, reduced safety margins to the point where the reactor was within two to thirteen months of having an accident like Three Mile Island. The NRC identified more than four-dozen
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20040520-ucs-senate-testimony - Testimony before the Senate...

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