Friday, May 25, 2012

14. Some NRC Talk - from an Entreprenuclear Perspective

Big news in the U.S. Nuclear industry this week (other than the Nuclear Energy Assembly in Charlotte) has centered around the announced resignation of Gregory Jaczko as Chairman of the NRC, along with the announcement today that Blue Ribbon Commission Member Allison MacFarlane is President Obama's selected replacement (pending Senate confirmation, of course).  These stories have been and will continue to be covered extensively all over the place (see the following links), so I doubt I could add much of anything to that part of the discussion.

I have not yet fully read all of these links yet, so I cannot vouch for all of them. They should be solid reads, however.

Jaczko Blog Coverage:
Rod Adams take is that it is good news
Reactions gathered at the ANS Nuclear Cafe
Will Davis's coverage at Atomic Power Review

Other Jaczko Coverage:
James Conca article in Forbes (I highly recommend his recent articles on Forbes.)**

Entreprenuclear View:

In the course of reading about Jaczko's resignation and some speculation about his potential replacement (prior to Ms. MacFarlane being announced on 5/24), I happened to come across the NRC's top level Organizational Chart.  Every single position is filled......except for one.  That vacant position is for Director of the Office of New Reactors.  Of all the positions to not be filled, REALLY?  As the writer of a blog titled Entreprenuclear and as a citizen of the United States of America (where nuclear power was born), that seems almost unacceptable to me.  It definitely does not engender thoughts that the NRC is positioned at present to license New Reactor designs, to even allow innovation to occur.

NRC Org Chart, dated May 14, 2012

Who will be leading the group to license the 2 SMRs that are being jointly funded by the DOE (by up to $452 Million per design) and the Reactor's design firms?

MacFarlane Blog Coverage:
ANS Nuclear Cafe
Steve Skutnik at Neutron Economy

Other MacFarlane Coverage:
ReutersWashington PostMIT's Technology Review (not about NRC appointment), Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Statement, Business Week, Wall Street Journal (to read full article, Google the article title), and New York Times

** I wish Kirk Sorensen could have cloned himself to have enough time to have both maintained his series at Forbes and founded an innovative nuclear reactor design Startup.  Focusing on the startup certainly should take precedence in his case though.  Tying this all almost together, it is very interesting that Kirk's startup Flibe Energy has felt it necessary to take the route of going after an initial customer that is not subject to the NRC's licensing processes.

Kirk also found a snippet from the proceedings of the Blue Ribbon Commission where Allison MacFarlane showed a keen sense of curiosity in regards to utilizing thorium as a nuclear fuel source.  A transcript of the particular exchange can be found on pages 253-255 of the 479 page .pdf linked here.  A video can be found here, with the particular exchange beginning at about the 29:30 mark.

If you want, you can watch or read for yourself, but the Entreprenuclear take on the exchange is this, the level of inquisitiveness and interest shown by Allison MacFarlane could indicate some decent potential in regards to Ms. MacFarlane potentially being at least somewhat supportive of advancements that could be improvements on the presently utilized commercial Nuclear Fuel Cycle in America.  Her having a background that does not include growing up through the existing nuclear industry and with its infrastructure could help her to be more receptive to newer, and innovative technologies.  That is certainly far from being proven at this point (long before she could even be evaluated by the Senate), but I will choose to hold out some hope for now.

Obviously though, it is not the role of a nuclear safety regulatory organization to be innovative in developing new reactor designs (Aside: Secretary Chu, this is where you should figuratively raise your organization's hand, and stop using inordinate amounts of time and resources, possibly engaging in Vulture Capitalism - see trick above, chasing diffuse solar dreams see: Solyndra  /End Rant-like Aside).  A regulatory organization does have plenty of other processes and other areas that could hold opportunities for value-creating innovations.

It is time for me to stop ranting and get some sleep, so I will save any discussion about reform in regards to the way the NRC is funded for a future posting.  Much more research on that topic will be needed on my part prior to that time anyway.

Not sure why my posts are out of order now.


  1. Note on "Vulture Capitalism" It allows the redistribution of capital in a more efficient manner. This increase in efficiency is where groups like Bain Capital make their profit. What I find funny is that Obama is using this as a campaign tool. He is effectively campaigning against improving economic efficiency which is the same thing as saying he is against economic growth. I do have to give him credit for being consistent. The act of wealth redistribution which he likes increases the dead weight loss in the economy (reduces economic efficiency). Your Solyndra example is another policy tool that he uses to accomplish the same thing. His campaign slogan should be, "Vote for me I'll make you poorer." Note: The above information is supported by research (Romer and Romer) and microeconomic theory along with other publicly available information. The campaign slogan represents my opinion.

  2. NRC's org chart now shows the Office of New Reactors is directed by Glenn M. Tracy. I don't know anything about him. I wonder if he would agree to an interview...