News

NEW SIGN-ON LETTERS TO PRESIDENT OBAMA ON NRC COMMISSIONERS


OPPOSE POSSIBLE APPOINTMENT OF WILLIAM MAGWOOD

July 28, 2009

Dear Friends,

The New York Times website this week reported that President Obama is considering nominating William Magwood, former head of the Department of Energy's nuclear program, as a Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner.

This would be a bad appointment. Many of you already have signed a letter to Obama urging the appointment of independent, critical thinkers to the NRC. Magwood does not meet those criteria. Our colleagues at Beyond Nuclear have prepared a follow-up letter to reinforce that call, and to explicitly oppose a Magwood appointment. We hope you will sign on to this letter; the text is below.

We are trying to turn this letter around quickly. Organization sign-ons only please.

Thanks for your help!

Michael Mariotte
Executive Director
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
nirsnet@nirs.org
www.nirs.org



July 31, 2009

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

We write to you with deep concern regarding recent media reports that you are considering nominating William Magwood to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Mr. Magwood's
background, experience, and apparent key interests are in the realm of nuclear power's promotion, not its regulation to protect public health, safety and the environment. We urge you to instead nominate a strong regulator to the NRC Commission who has demonstrated a commitment to public safety, rather than to nuclear power industry promotional and financial
interests.

In the 1970s, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was abolished due to the inherently
contradictory nature of its mandate, to both promote atomic energy and regulate its safety. The
AEC was replaced by a promotional agency (first the Energy Research and Development
Administration, and ultimately the Department of Energy, DOE), as well as by a separate safety
regulatory agency, the NRC.

NRC's supposed mandate, reflected in its oft repeated slogan "Protecting People and the
Environment," is to protect public health, safety and the environment from the radiological risks
of commercial atomic reactors and related uranium fuel chain activities. As concerned citizen
groups and community organizers watch-dogging nuclear power facilities know all too well,
NRC often fails to live up to its mission statement. In fact, there are numerous examples of
agency foot dragging and "enforcement discretion" extended over decades for widespread noncompliance on critical reactor safety issues, including fire protection and emergency core cooling systems. All too often, NRC rubberstamps nuclear applications after inadequate safety and security reviews, thus serving more as a lax facilitator for, rather than a watchdog on, the
industry it is supposed to regulate.

NRC's own inspector general concluded that such prioritization of industry financial interests
over public safety by NRC led to a near disaster at the Davis-Besse nuclear reactor near Toledo
in 2002, due to a massive corrosion hole in the reactor's lid that nearly breached the pressure
vessel and risked a loss of reactor coolant accident. Similarly, the rupture of a steam generator
tube at the Indian Point nuclear power plant near New York City in 2000 risked a cascade of
ruptured tubes and loss of reactor coolant accident. As reactors deteriorate with age, such breakdown phase accident risks increase requiring increased vigilance and enforcement. In addition, proposed new reactors would come with inherent increased break-in phase accident risks, due to bugs that have yet to be worked out. Due to such increased risks, the NRC needs strong safety regulators, not industry promoters.

Mr. Magwood served for seven years as the head of the Office of Nuclear Energy at DOE. In that
position, he was one of the chief proponents for nuclear power. Mr. Magwood helped lead the
Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, Nuclear Power 2010, and the Generation IV Nuclear Energy
Systems Initiative. He also served as the first chairman of the Generation IV International Forum
and as chair of the Steering Committee on Nuclear Energy Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation. The role of an NRC Commissioner is supposed to be quite different from such nuclear power proponent activities.

At DOE, and as recently as May 2009, Mr. Magwood has been promoting the Yucca Mountain
dumpsite proposal. Referring to foreign counterparts he took to Yucca Mountain for tours during
his DOE tenure, Mr. Magwood was quoted in the ClimateWire as saying "They had an
experience similar to what I have. You go to the top of the mountain, and you realize that you're
really in the middle of nowhere. They all wished they had some kind of desolate area like this
and wonder why we're having this argument." Of course, Nevadans living along transportation
routes and close to Yucca Mountain do not consider their state a wasteland, suitable for
radioactive waste dumping.

Both during your presidential campaign and after assuming office, you have clearly stated that
Yucca Mountain is not an option for high-level radioactive waste disposal. We thank you for
your wise decision. Thus, we are deeply concerned that as an NRC Commissioner, Mr.
Magwood would support this Yucca dump proposal in contradiction to your stated policy.

We are also concerned about Mr. Magwood's support for the Bush administration's Global
Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), and its proposed revival of commercial radioactive waste
reprocessing. We thank you for terminating the GNEP programmatic environmental impact
statement last month. As recently as this year, Mr. Magwood has been promoting commercial
radioactive waste reprocessing. We are concerned that he would continue to promote
reprocessing, which would be highly inappropriate as an NRC Commissioner.

The current open seats on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission present you with a vital
opportunity to steer NRC back to its mandated mission to protect public safety, security, health
and the environment. We urge you in the strongest possible terms to nominate persons devoted to
nuclear safety, rather than to the nuclear industry's expansion.

Sincerely,

 

******* 

For Individuals:

Beyond Nuclear Bulletin
July 28, 2009

Top Stories
Sign grassroots letter to President Obama
opposing William Magwood nomination to NRC

Background: Last week, the New York Times reported that President Obama would soon nominate William Magwood to fill an open seat on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Mr. Magwood served for seven years as head of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy. While there, he was a chief proponent for the expansion of atomic energy, helping lead the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative (radioactive waste reprocessing), Nuclear Power 2010 program, and the Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems Initiative. Also while at DOE, and as recently as this year, Mr. Magwood has expressed support for commercial radioactive waste reprocessing, as well as the Yucca Mountain, Nevada high-level radioactive waste dumpsite proposal. If nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Mr. Magwood would serve a five year term as one of five NRC Commissioners, with the possibility that he serve additional five year terms after that.

Our View: President Obama should nominate strong regulators to the NRC Commission, persons who have demonstrated a commitment to public safety, rather than to nuclear power industry promotional and financial interests. The current open seats on the NRC present President Obama with a vital opportunity to steer NRC back to its mandated mission to protect public safety, security, health and the environment. Mr. Magwood's background, experience, and apparent key interests are in the realm of nuclear power's promotion, not its regulation. Mr. Magwood's support for the Yucca dump is in clear contradiction to President Obama's clear policy statement that Nevada is no longer an option for high-level radioactive waste disposal. And Mr. Magwood's support for reviving commercial radioactive waste reprocessing in the U.S. for the first time in nearly four decades would be an inappropriate policy position for an NRC Commissioner. For this reason, he should not be nominated, nor confirmed, to co-lead the NRC.

What You Can Do: Sign onto a group letter urging President Obama to nominate a strong regulator, rather than an industry promoter, to the NRC. To sign on, emailkevin@beyondnuclear.org with your name, organization, city and state. Given the imminence of Mr. Magwood's nomination, this letter will be sent to the White House the following day. In addition, please phone the White House comment line at (202) 456-1111, to urge President Obama to nominate a strong safety regulator, rather than a nuclear industry promoter like Mr. Magwood. Also, phone U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office at (202) 224-3542, and U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer's office at (202) 224-8832, and urge that Mr. Magwood's nomination be blocked due to his support for the dangerous Yucca Mountain dumpsite proposal.