assateague wrote:I don't know much about the NRC, so this may be a foolish question- I assume there is at least one political appointee heading the organization, but do they "stay out" of your day to day business? If not, are they at least a qualified nuclear engineer or something?
I should understand the technical workings better, but I do not. There are actually two seperate nuclear regulatory bodies. One is the NRC and the other is the DOE.
The NRC regulates commercial nuclear activities and research activities at universities, etc.
The DOE is a self-regulating entity so if it builds a nuclear facility to produce weapons material or weapons or ..., it does not have to get NRC approval or even interact with them in any way. This really is how it should be and there is a pretty clear line as to where the one ends and the other begins. I think that line should be moved somewhat, but that is different issue.
These two were one entity under the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and were split in 1974, although the DOE was not technical created until later, but was ERDA for a few years before being elevated to a secretary level department.
I think technically all five of the NRC commissioner appointments are all done by the President and confirmed by Congress, but they have been much more non-partisan in nature. The DoE is the politicized branch. The NRC gets no funding from Congress and is a self-funded organization. The system really is better. Also, I believe states have the ability to take over regulatory authority under the law, but still must comply with federal regulations. It's complicated and I don't deal with them in my job, but it was set up in a way that was more serious about doing it right. This is one case where the paranoia over things nuclear has done a decent job of keeping it from becoming too political. It is still too bureaucratic, but it's the economics that is the problem far more than the bureaucracy. People simply would rather have 100 times the risk from coal than they would from nuclear, so nuclear has a huge disadvantage to overcome because it must be much safer per unit of energy produced.