former NRC Commissioner
Peter Bradford, a former NRC Commissioner himself, and Mark Cooper, an energy analyst, answered questions from reporters during a conference call Dec 28 in which they said there is no such thing as a nuclear renaissance.
In the course of the dialog, they offer the view that Gregory Jaczko is the victim of a conspiracy by the "nuclear party" which they describe as a body of pro-nuclear interests that transcend political and party differences.
To back it up they claim that what the other four commissioners were really up to in writing a letter to the White House about Jacko's reported abrasive management style is to show him the door.
That's the first of two things they go wrong. The other is that the outlook for nuclear energy is bleak.
Why there is no conspiracy
My view is that the reason the letter was written is that the four commissioners couldn't agree on anything else. When asked during a hearing of the House Oversight Committee whether Jaczko should resign, two said yes (Svinicki, Ostendorf), the other two said no (Magwood, Apostolakis). Note that all four are united in the letter to White House Chief of Staff William Daley about the issue of a "chilled environment," per se, but that is after they failed to agree on whether Jaczko should resign as chairman.
The truth at the heart of the personality dispute is found in a comment by Apostolakis who said he was OK with Jaczko staying on the job as long as he could learn to control his temper. The issue of what authority the chairman really has will have to be hashed out in quieter times. Clearly, this is not a situation like the famous gunpowder plot of Guy Fawkes against the British Parliament.
The fact that the other four commissioners couldn't agree on whether Jacko should stay or go because he has a hot temper sounds almost comical, more like an echo of a Bob's Big Boy commercial.
This isn't a debate about keeping the trademark for a chain of sit down fast food joints. It's a serious issue of how a top federal official conducts himself in office.
For Bradford and Cooper to call it a "conspiracy" misses the point. Dealing with inexcusable behavior in a professional setting is something that should have been handled with kid gloves with behind closed doors and that would have been a conspiracy. If there is blame to be assigned to Jaczko for objectionable outbursts,there is also a portion of blame to be assigned to the other four commissioners for not dealing with the issue as a united group.
Worse, the disagreement, e.g., should he stay or should he go, was most likely seen as a sign of weakness by the politically astute Jaczko who, having worked the as a staff aide in both the House and Senate, apparently has more focus on the implications such nuances than technocrats.
It follows that by the time the personality conflicts inside the NRC reached a flash point, that inability to agree on how to reign in the rambunctious chairman was turned into an consensus to kick the problem upstairs the the White House.
That, in my view, was a mistake since it likely served only to annoy a President, and his Chief of Staff who have much bigger fish to fry. Jaczko's apology was not really to the other commissioners. It was to the president for creating a needless distraction and for offering the Republican House yet another dartboard with his likeness pasted in the bulls eye.
In summary, there is no conspiracy to get rid of Jaczko because the alleged conspirators didn't have their act together as a group. They punted hoping for success with the DC equivalent of a 46 yard field goal. The kick went wide of the mark blown off course by ill-favored political winds.
Even Rep. John Shimkus, (R-IL), who explicitly said he wanted Jaczko fired, also said that the whole ruckus didn't amount to much since there were no legal grounds to force Jacko out of the job.
Why the "bleak" assessment is wrong
As long as critics of nuclear energy like Bradford and Cooper do not look beyond the U.S. coastline, their views may prevail, but globally they are off the mark.
In Asia China, India, and Vietnam are aggressively developing nuclear energy.
In Europe the Czech Republic has released a tender for up to five reactors $28 billion. The UK has started down a road to build 17 GWE of new nuclear powered generating capacity. That new build is worth approximately $68 billion.
In the Middle East the UAE is building four new nuclear reactors supplied by South Korea in a project worth $30 billion.
The really big news is that in 2012 Saudi Arabia will release a tender for up to 16 new reactors expected to be worth $112 billion.
Also, Bradford and Cooper seem to have missed the news that TVA completed Browns Ferry in 2007, will complete Watts Bar in 2013, and has let over a $1 billion in engineering and construction contracts to finish Bellefonte by 2020.
It seems that globally there is a reality check on their "bleak" outlook for the industry. It doesn't take much energy analysis to add up these numbers.
Consider the source
Both Bradford and Cooper have long standing views that the use of nuclear energy is not a sound policy for the U.S. Coincidentally, both men are listed as adjunct faculty of the Institute for Energy & Environment of the Vermont Law School. Both men are supporters of Vermont Governor Peter Schumlin's campaign to close the Vermont Yankee reactor.
Bradford lists in his online bio that he is vice-chair of the board of directors of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group which frequently takes anti-nuclear positions.
Cooper lists a long history of engagements in rate hearings and related energy economics issues. He has frequently testified on behalf of anti-nuclear contentions against the construction of new nuclear reactors.
Both men have sprung to Jaczko's defense clearly indicating that his future tenure at the NRC is aligned with their interests.
Consider the environment
What's interesting is their use of the term "bleak." Could it be something about Vermont?
|NEK in winter|
In 16th century renaissance Europe they identified with interests who opposed advances in the arts, sciences, and what we now call the humanities. Perhaps the term 'gnomes' is a metaphor for a state of mind.
Getting back to Vermont, the state that is, the winter in the Kingdom can be a bleak landscape and the climate is a challenge to commerce. Perhaps Bradford and Cooper had that environment on their minds when they spoke with the newspaper. Perhaps that's what makes it hospitable to gnomes. The climate keeps people out.
Well, that won't too much longer if the atmosphere keeps heating up because we as a species are building lots of natural gas plants, which still spew CO2, instead of nuclear reactors which produce none.
In any case, a bias towards seeing conspiracies where none exist, and a provincial perspective that stops at the water's edge when it comes to the fortunes of a greenhouse gas emission free global industry, do not serve the nation or the planet well.
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