U.S. NRC Blog

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Moving Forward on Updating Cost vs. Benefit Analysis

Alysia Bone
Rulemaking Project Manager
 

 What are the costs and benefits of the NRCs’ safety regulations? It’s a question we regularly ask as one way to make sure our regulations make sense.

We’re in the process of updating two cost-benefit guidance documents — NUREG/BR 0058 and NUREG/BR 0184 – at the direction of the Commission and after receiving public input. Our update plan is now available online. Our goal is to make sure we are using the right tools to compare costs and benefits so we implement changes that reduce risks and enhance safety in a responsible way.

The updated guidance will do a number of new things. It will include the cost for replacing the energy generated by nuclear power plants. It will also improve the method for putting a dollar amount on health impacts from radiation. We’ll revise terms and definitions for consistency across the agency, and we’ll look at how we use more subjective factors in cost-benefit assessments. We expect these changes will bring our cost-benefit process up to date and help us make more consistent decisions for reactors as well as other licensed activities.

NRC staff experts have been working on this in response to the Commission’s direction for a paper on our approach to considering the economic consequences of a potential nuclear accident. The Commission was responding to the staff’s August 2012 paper and recommendations, which were based on a review of the agency’s economic consequences process in place at the time of the 2011 Fukushima accident. The 2012 staff paper described where considerations of economic consequences fit in the NRC’s review of new reactor licenses, renewal of existing licenses, or major changes to our safety regulations. That earlier paper recommended updating the cost-benefit guidance used to perform these analyses.

In the plan to update cost-benefit guidance, we’ve committed to presenting any identified potential policy issues to the Commission for its consideration. As the staff further develops these potential policy issues, staff will hold public meetings to receive feedback from industry and members of the public, before advising the Commission.

6 responses to “Moving Forward on Updating Cost vs. Benefit Analysis

  1. Anonymous January 21, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    I think any cost-benefit analysis is utterly pointless so long as nuclear’s competition (coal and gas burning generators) are allowed to use our atmosphere as their waste dump, free of charge.

  2. joffan7 January 21, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Your link the to the plan is broken. Here is one that works.

    It would be interesting to see how the “replacement power” costs of regulation look when considering the actions that NRC took against the San Onofre nuclear power plant. As a retrospective calibration exercise for the updated cost-benefit, it should show that the steps taken had costs that far outweighed the supposed benefits of the enforced closures.

    If this revised understanding of the consequences of one-eyed regulation become apparent and embedded in NRC thinking and actions, the update will have been worthwhile. If it simply becomes an excuse to impose ever more arcane restrictions on nuclear power, it will have been a dismal failure.

    I await the results.

    • Moderator January 21, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      All original links are correct.A server issue with ADAMS might have temporarily affected them.

      Moderator

  3. Dan Williamson January 21, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Dear Moderator: I’m sure the Commission had the noblest of intentions in starting this blog, but it sure would be great if the signal-to-noise ratio could be raised a couple of clicks. Perhaps a catch-phrase discriminator…..

  4. CaptD January 21, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    I believe that CBA should never be used to CYA, but rather to identify those situations that potentially have the highest chance of causing the most financial damage and then making sure that they cannot occur!

    2 Great Examples:

    A. In Japan, when Fukushima’s nuclear power plant (NPP) Unit 1-6 were designed, many design and construction decisions were made because of cost, that later resulted on 03/11/11 in a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster which is still ongoing today and will continue for decades if not much longer. Although the odds of a single meltdown were calculated as one per ten thousand years or even much higher, depending upon who made the calculations, three reactor meltdowns occurred almost on the same day!

    B. In California, SCE the operator of San Onofre NPP decided to submit its in-house replacement steam generators (RSG) to the NRC Region IV regulators as a “like for like” replacement when in fact they were of a completely new and un-tested design. This resulted in a nuclear near-miss (NNM) accident which could have affected 8 million people living in southern California and caused a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster in the USA, instead of “just” a 10+ Billion dollar decommissioning, all caused by a widely used loophole in the NRC regulations.

    I mention both of the above examples in order to make a point, which is that despite the best of intentions, since Utilities and their operators are primarily focused on making money, despite publicly declaring that safety is their first concern! These same Big Utility operators will continue to make operational safety an afterthought, while at the same time they will continue to complain loudly (both with their own well paid lawyers and via their elected officials (who they donate massively to in Congress), to their NRC regulators for being an over regulated industry!

    Each NPP is a potential Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster waiting to happen and until we have a Fukushima-type accident in the USA , those being tasked with providing the Cost vs. Benefit Analysis at the NRC will continue to produce numbers that will only result in satisfying a powerful profit focused industry, just like their Japanese counterparts did…

  5. Jeff Walther January 21, 2014 at 11:49 am

    In your cost analysis of replacement power for periods when nuclear plants are shut down, will you also consider the source of that replacement power, and its safety impact?

    For example, if you cause a shut down of a nuclear electricity generator for a minor safety issue and the replacement power will come from coal, the particulate emissions from that coal-fired electricity probably represents a greater health hazard than any minor radiation emissions ever could. This real world analysis has been sadly lacking in the NRCs deliberations and actions up to this point.

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