More Nuclear Regulations with No Added Safety Benefit (Fast Fission Podcast 8)

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The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to issue regulations making it a Federal crime to introduce explosives into facilities and installations containing nuclear materials.  The new rules go into affect in April 2010 and specify fines of up to $5,000 and jail time up to one year for anyone who “willfully” introduces firearms or explosives into a facility regulated by the NRC.  The new rule authorizes the FBI and other federal agencies to investigate and prosecute the cases.

The new rule also requires the plant and facility owners to post signs warning of the legal consequences of violating the new rule.terrorist

On the surface it seems like a good idea, right?  Unfortunately, it’s yet another example of regulation without added safety benefit.  Anyone who has ever been in a nuclear facility knows it is illegal to bring weapons and firearms through the gate.  There are already signs posted, and violators of the rules could already be charged and prosecuted under state laws.  According to the NRC, there have been occasions where workers or vendors accidentally brought weapons on site, but never intentionally or with intent to do harm, so I have to wonder what problem they are trying to fix?

Several companies and individuals asked the NRC to be more specific regarding the definition of “willful” and “readily visible day and night” signs.  The NRC declined these requests and instead referred to other regulations and standards already in place; for example they deferred to the American Disabilities Act for signage standards, and they left the term “willful” for prosecutors and courts to define.  By the way, although the new rules say the signs are required to be readable at night, the ADA does not provide standards for night readability.

No_guns_allowed If the goal is increased safety, do they really think that a $5,000 fine or a year in jail will be a deterrent to a terrorist or saboteur?  This is nothing more than a “feel good” rule that will increase costs and administrative burdens on nuclear facilities without any benefit what so ever.  Oh, and by the way, the new rule also applies to hospitals, universities, laboratories, and manufacturing facilities where radioactive materials are kept, so everyone can share in the pain and the added costs.

Author: John Wheeler

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