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AP Investigation Concludes US Nuke Regulators Weakening Safety Rules

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the what's-the-worst-that-could-happen? dept.

Power 199

Raenex writes "An investigation by the Associated Press has found a pattern of safety regulations being relaxed in order to keep aging nuclear power plants running. According to their investigation, when reactor parts fail or systems fall out of compliance with the rules, studies are conducted by the industry and government. The studies conclude that existing standards are 'unnecessarily conservative.' Regulations are loosened, and the reactors are back in compliance. From the article: 'Examples abound. When valves leaked, more leakage was allowed — up to 20 times the original limit. When rampant cracking caused radioactive leaks from steam generator tubing, an easier test of the tubes was devised, so plants could meet standards. Failed cables. Busted seals. Broken nozzles, clogged screens, cracked concrete, dented containers, corroded metals and rusty underground pipes — all of these and thousands of other problems linked to aging were uncovered in the AP's yearlong investigation. And all of them could escalate dangers in the event of an accident.'"

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199 comments

They're describing most of the U.S. infrastructure (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36501770)

It's not just nuke plants. U.S. infrastructure in general has been sinking into the shitter since the 70's. My own city's sewer system and coal-fire power plant are both in need of almost complete replacement. And don't even get me started on the bridges.

Of course, the deterioration of some pieces of infrastructure are a little more dangerous than others.

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (1)

NervousWreck (1399445) | more than 3 years ago | (#36501834)

I'd guess NYC but you're describing every other major city just as well.

Busted seals? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36501898)

Come on...
 
"busted seals"
 
Is this what we have come to? Hello, AP?

Re:Busted seals? (3, Interesting)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36503420)

Come on... "busted seals" Is this what we have come to? Hello, AP?

Are you telling me that those navy guys never get caught with drugs?

Fucking Capitalism (4, Interesting)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#36501846)

Profits > Safety
Safety > Freedom
Ergo...
Profits > Freedom

Clearly this is what the founders intended

Re:Fucking Capitalism (1)

JMJimmy (2036122) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502250)

shock! /s

Re:Fucking Capitalism (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502694)

And/or Awe?

Re:Fucking Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502296)

It's not because of capitalism, if you want to shut down an old nuke plant, you need to build new power plants, otherwise there will be electricity shortage, and most states have no money to build new plants

Re:Fucking Capitalism (1)

ingenuus (628810) | more than 3 years ago | (#36503212)

You misunderstand capitalism. Under capitalism, the above is an optimization problem where individual freedom is the means of finding the optimal balance. The government primarily just prevents fraud.

Regardless of whether reducing the rules was proper or improper, this story is an example of manipulating government, not capitalism.

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (4, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36501882)

Look on the bright side: At least the bankers and defense contractors are doing OK...

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (2, Interesting)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502038)

Look on the bright side: At least the bankers and defense contractors are doing OK...

Yeah, and they provide "jobs", you ungrateful peons, so shut your pie holes, or we're going to send another two million of them to China.

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (3, Interesting)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502492)

Jobs devoted to putting worthless craters in the sand and obliterating infrastructure. How about we stop spending money on destroying sh*t and spend it on building stuff? Roosevelt accomplished some pretty great things by going that direction. Too bad we're still relying on the very same old and now decayed infrastructure he built...

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502550)

There are plans to outsource the rampant killing of brown people in a desert 15,000 miles away? Oh man, why didn't you say so! They have to be able to outsource that cheaper than what we are currently paying. That's GREAT news. I can't wait to tell my wife. Seriously. This is going to be good.

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (1)

Snarky McButtface (1542357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502622)

Now that is funny. I am trying to imagine the defense contractors moving their manufacturing capabilities to China. Where the employees would be making weapons with a gun in their back...

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36501920)

This is the norm through the "developed" world. I guess it is referred to as developed since anything new is not going to be built anymore. We just sit on the labor of our parents and grandparents, reaping rewards and then bitch that stuff breaks.

It is time to start building new things and planning for the future. New reactors. New, fast rail. Better planned cities. Cities that are less noisy and more friendly to actual human than a car (eg. see Paris or New York vs. Chicago or Los Angeles).

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36501940)

Of course, the deterioration of some pieces of infrastructure are a little more dangerous than others.

And this, not waste disposal, not nuclear proliferation, not anything else, will be the functional death of nuclear power.

FTFA:

Commercial nuclear reactors in the United States were designed and licensed for 40 years. When the first ones were being built in the 1960s and 1970s, it was expected that they would be replaced with improved models long before those licenses expired.

But that never happened. The 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, massive cost overruns, crushing debt and high interest rates ended new construction proposals for several decades.

Instead, 66 of the 104 operating units have been relicensed for 20 more years, mostly with scant public attention. Renewal applications are under review for 16 other reactors.

No engineer in their right mind would have suggested keeping generation 1 nuclear plants running 'forever'. Perhaps they could be run for long times with strict attention to detail and risk and significant monetary expense, but that's not happening. This is not going to end well. Not at all.

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502150)

agreed. It's a systematic refusal to proactively spend money on repairs, and to only reactively spend money when you get caught after a problem.

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (5, Funny)

nagnamer (1046654) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502410)

agreed. It's a systematic refusal to proactively spend money on repairs, and to only reactively spend money when you get caught after a problem.

That's why they are called reactors and not proactors. :)

Not just the US, but the World (4, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502186)

Either everyone is cutting costs or seeing how much slack they can get away with.

Fukushima was a wake-up call - seems we stupid simians need one every 20 or so years, to remind us we can poison our own air, water and food supply if we don't take it seriously.

There's also a good chance the American Way of trying to maximize profit has encouraged everyone to cut corners, where much of it was just common practice of American public and private sector before. The difference between public is cutting spending, where private wants to keep the money for that big check for the CEO and to look all pretty to Wall Street.

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (2)

Alexandra Erenhart (880036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502744)

I read somewhere that one of the first signs of a civilization deterioration is the inability/unwillingness to repair infrastructure.

While looking for a reference online, I found this [wikipedia.org] , and it's eerily accurate.

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502924)

I read somewhere that one of the first signs of a civilization deterioration is the inability/unwillingness to repair infrastructure.

While looking for a reference online, I found this [wikipedia.org] , and it's eerily accurate.

What's fascinating is seeing how much infrastructure was build in the US from the 1950's to the 1960's and how little has been done since. Further, it takes a major effort to repair and maintain what was built - bit of a burden on the resources of the people, isn't it? In the midwest, did we really need a road every mile??

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (1)

Alexandra Erenhart (880036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36503164)

It does take resources to maintain things, but isn't it cheaper in the long run that to replace it? And while I do agree with you on the road department, it's not only that, but also with key buildings like the power generators in the article. It makes me wonder if they ever, ever constructed a train system in the US, if they would be able to maintain it.

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502938)

Thing is the Federal Reserve has already in effect created USD9 trillion or more ( http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&q=federal+reserve+trillion [google.com] ).

For perspective the US Interstate highway cost about 425 billion dollars (in "2006" dollars) to build.

So as an outsider (non US citizen, not in the USA) I wonder why not print another trillion or so to fix and build some stuff before China and the rest of the countries wise up? Would it really screw the USA much more? At least the US people would have something more tangible at the end of the day.

Re:They're describing most of the U.S. infrastruct (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502954)

My own city's sewer system and coal-fire power plant are both in need of almost complete replacement.

That's a problem with your local city, I.E. don't confuse local problems with global problems. My own city has no power plants, but has just finished a decade long upgrade of it's water and sewer systems. (And I know of many other cities that are working on their infrastructure as well.)
 

And don't even get me started on the bridges.

Can we just shut the f___ up about bridges? Ever since the 1970's the Chicken Little's have been screaming about the bridges and how they're all going to fall down any day now. Yet, the sky persists in not falling. Yes, bridges have fallen - but it's literally a one-in-ten-million event. So what? (And no, you can't trust the various reports. They depend on self reporting, and the locals flat out lie to raise their position on the lists so the get to the head of the line for pork.)

Regulatory capture, it's not just for oil anymore! (4, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 3 years ago | (#36501826)

Some people are concerned about waste (which is a good thing to be concerned about) and some are concerned about accidents.

I am concerned about regulatory capture, which is the consistent theme of government regulation. This is just one example of many. Yes, it will lead to accidents in the future. But I think examining the root cause is useful.

Almost any kind of government regulation is eventually going to result in the regulatory body being co-opted by those doing the regulation. This will happen largely invisibly, and most of the time will only be readily apparent when disaster strikes. And then, the problem will be blamed on a few corrupt individuals and it will be 'fixed'.

It, of couse, was systemic, and not the result of a few corrupt individuals. And all that will be fixed is perception while the problem continues to persist. We see this in the oil industry, the telecommunications industry, and now we're seeing that the same is true of the nuclear industry.

Of course, this was a problem in Japan too. It's quite obvious that the company running the Fukishima reactors consistently understated the severity of the issue while it was happening, and I expect that a detailed investigation will show that the plants should probably never have been operating in the first place.

Regulatory capture. It's inevitable.

This is my biggest worry. I'm not at all sure how the problem can be fixed either.

Re:Regulatory capture, it's not just for oil anymo (3, Insightful)

Sprouticus (1503545) | more than 3 years ago | (#36501938)

your premise, that capture is inevitable, is false in my opinion. If regulating bodies are/were properly funded this would not be the case. The problem is to fund them properly, the governement would have to pay the regulators more than they would get in the industry itself. That is how you prevent losee of people to the industry and thus create minimal conflict of interest.

Actually by doing this you reverse the flow, making being the regulator the end goal, so that the best in the field are regulators.

The problem of course is the cost is really high for this. Especially in areas such as finance.

Re:Regulatory capture, it's not just for oil anymo (4, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502006)

your premise, that capture is inevitable, is false in my opinion. If regulating bodies are/were properly funded this would not be the case. The problem is to fund them properly, the governement would have to pay the regulators more than they would get in the industry itself. That is how you prevent losee of people to the industry and thus create minimal conflict of interest.

Actually by doing this you reverse the flow, making being the regulator the end goal, so that the best in the field are regulators.

The problem of course is the cost is really high for this. Especially in areas such as finance.

Regulatory capture is not so much about a revolving door between industry and regulator as about how companies use regulation for their benefit and to keep out competition. While paying regulators more would help lessen the revolving door it would not do much about the underlying reasons behind regulatory capture. You'd just have better regulators to capture.

Re:Regulatory capture, it's not just for oil anymo (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502310)

But if being a regulator paid better than the industry did, why would someone risk losing such a great paying job by taking bribes? The reason regulators get bought off now is because, worst case scenario, they lose their job and accept a higher paying job at the company that bought them.

Re:Regulatory capture, it's not just for oil anymo (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502474)

But if being a regulator paid better than the industry did, why would someone risk losing such a great paying job by taking bribes? The reason regulators get bought off now is because, worst case scenario, they lose their job and accept a higher paying job at the company that bought them.

Regulatory capture has nothing to do with taking bribes or other illegal activity. It's about using regulatory power to the company's advantage.

Re:Regulatory capture, it's not just for oil anymo (2)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502734)

Yes, it can take many forms, for example if big company X and big company Y are both losing market share to small companies A though W they both lobby to support a measure requiring that every company in the field should have to file a fuckton of paperwork but they make sure it's a fixed cost per company in the field.
say 100K.
(but it's for the sake of accountability or safety or some other nice sounding thing, doesn't really matter if it's not useful at all)

for the big companies it makes little difference since they're making millions and millions but suddenly all the small guys who were only making 50K each get pushed out of the market.

X and Y absorb the market share of A through W . They more than make back the cost of that extra 100K. They then raise their prices even more since they're no longer having the problems with competition.

Re:Regulatory capture, it's not just for oil anymo (1)

kirillian (1437647) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502636)

I think the point might be that it would just cost more money in the end.

On the other hand, you would have an arms race - the companies would begin to pay more to outpace the regulatory body and the body would have to come up with more money as the whole thing spiraled...not sure it is a feasible solution...

There's also a question of who would be unable to afford the cost first - government or industry?

Re: reverse the flow (0)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502060)

Important safety tip: Don't cross the streams!

Re: reverse the flow (3, Funny)

danbert8 (1024253) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502198)

I'm not clear on this "good/bad" thing. Are we talking cats and dogs living together bad, or complete particle reversal bad?

Re: reverse the flow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502280)

...except when its actually useful to do so!
Sounds like how regulations are made to me!

Re:Regulatory capture, it's not just for oil anymo (1)

ymenager (171142) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502644)

I can see you're not familiar with the Japanese culture :-)

Let's say that there, regulatory capture is not just inevitable, it's part of the system. They even have a name for it: "amakudari", translates to "Descent from Heaven" ...

Re:Regulatory capture, it's not just for oil anymo (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502788)

So, basically, you are suggesting that you put the tax payer on the hook for how much the companies are willing to hire regulators away from the regulatory agency. The problem is that even without regulatory capture, people with experience enforcing the regulations are valuable for the companies being regulated. The fact of the matter is that most government regulations are subject to interpretation. The best way for a company to ensure that it is in compliance with the regulations is to hire someone who was trained by the agency that enforces the regulations and spent several years enforcing those regulations. That someone understands how the agency interprets the regulations (which means that it is in the company's economic interest to offer regulators more than they are making for the government). On the other side, the best way for a regulatory agency to get people who understand how an industry works and where companies hide regulatory violations is to hire people who have worked in the industry. The problem is this results in a revolving door between the regulated industry and the regulating agency.
Even without the revolving door between industry and regulators, there is still significant interaction between industry and regulators and there needs to be. Regulated industry needs to understand how the regulatory agency interprets the rules it is enforcing in order to comply with those rules and the regulatory agency has to understand how the industry operates in order to create regulations that do not result in more danger than the danger they are designed to mitigate.

Re:Regulatory capture, it's not just for oil anymo (2)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502252)

Regulatory capture. It's inevitable.

Not sure if it's inevitable, but it's definitely a concern. It's especially a concern when at least one goal of the regulatory agency is to not inflict too much harm on the industry it is regulating. You know, kinda like in the US, where regulatory agencies are regularly pilloried for standing in the way of a business doing its business.

This is my biggest worry. I'm not at all sure how the problem can be fixed either.

Step 1: Make a decision on whether it is important for you to control the dumping of externalities onto the public, or whether you want corporate success.
Step 2: Remove one of the conflicting goals from the agency's charter.

There, done. If you decide that controlling externalities is your main goal, you avoid regulatory capture because the agency is supposed to be antagonistic. If the agency and the industry get too chummy, fire the bureaucrats, get new ones, install antagonistic metrics of what successful regulation looks like, and go home. If you decide that corporate success is your main goal, defund the agency, and you won't have to worry about regulatory capture, because there won't be any regulation to capture.

Just in case you missed the obvious point, here is the short version: regulatory capture may be bad, but it has solutions. The solutions merely require having the stomach to live with the consequences. The real problem is that no one likes the consequences. Politicians don't like solution A, because it will make them look bad in front of the conservatives. They also don't like solution B, because voters ultimately don't like being told to go live in a toxic dump. So they waddle around in the middle, and we end up with agencies open to regulatory capture.

Re:Regulatory capture, it's not just for oil anymo (2)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502282)

Step 1: Make a decision on whether it is important for you to control the dumping of externalities onto the public, or whether you want corporate success.

I think active regulation is a short-term way to handle this. The goal in all regulation should be the creation of an objectively applied set of rules that force the externalities back in.

Re:Regulatory capture, it's not just for oil anymo (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502312)

It is not inevitable. You find those regulators who were willing to bend the rules and you jail them. For long times. You end the revolving door between regulators and those they regulate and you pierce the corporate veil in any case of regulation violation. If the engineers said the piping was bad but the managers did not replace it to get bigger bonuses, then those managers can rot in a cell.

Simple! (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502500)

Regulatory capture. It's inevitable. This is my biggest worry. I'm not at all sure how the problem can be fixed either.

Just privatize the regulating bodies, silly!

Re:Regulatory capture, it's not just for oil anymo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502742)

Well, of course, government is bad and can't do anything right, compared to modern market driven corporations. If they'd just get the gov't out of the regulation business all together, the market would eventually correct things, as people who weren't happy with the way one corporation ran things would take their business, assuming they've survived, to another corporation. And if the first corporation didn't like it, they could then raise a private army and attack the other corporation who could also raise an army. And then there'd be jobs for everyone!

...so make it easier to build new plants! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36501866)

What the hell do you expect when the regulatory bodies are hostile to licensing new plants, which would use newer, safer designs and technologies, and when they do deign to license one they smother it in enough red tape to quadruple the cost?

Re:...so make it easier to build new plants! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502002)

If they cant make the current ones safer I would hope they're not allowed to build any more however safe they claim to be.

Nuclear is unsafe technology. They might try to make it safer but it will never be safe and no amount of "we screwed up last time but give us another chance" will change that.

Re:...so make it easier to build new plants! (2)

SomeKDEUser (1243392) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502244)

This is stupid. Reality is that you have plant A at the end of its operational life. Now you can a) replace A with a newer design, b) remove A and not replace it c) remove A and replace it by a different technology d) extend its life.

You can only pick a solution which is cost-effective and politically acceptable. Thus, you end with c) or d) which in practise means coal or increasingly unsafe plants (actually, I prefer d) to coal, but clearly it is not a good solution).

Now you can change this by making a) politically acceptable or by inventing a way of making alternate energies economical so c) means coal no more. Both are probably required. You cannot make b) politically acceptable, in practise.

Re:...so make it easier to build new plants! (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502434)

Option D should not even be on the table.
The regulatory agency should limit renewals to only what the engineers approve of. No concern should be given to loss of electric supply, nor to cost. They are there to regulate not assist.

These regulations should only be allowed to be made more harsh, loosening should only be done once a decade or so.

Delays in maintenance to scheduled windows should be forbidden. Any such delay should result in criminal charges.

Re:...so make it easier to build new plants! (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502652)

The regulatory agency should limit renewals to only what the engineers approve of. No concern should be given to loss of electric supply, nor to cost. They are there to regulate not assist.

Reading the article, I notice that, in fact, this has all been done with the engineer's approval.

No, the article doesn't actually come out and say that things are less safe than they were before.

Nor does it say that there is any greater danger of a catastrophe than there was before.

What they spend a lot of time saying is that it is conceivable that these changes could cause bigger problems, maybe, possibly, if the reactor(s) were to have problems down the line.

When they can point at something and say "this, right here, is unsafe, and here's why", I'll start getting concerned. Until then, this looks like more "well, noone has died as a result of Fukushima, so we'd better stir up some more nuclear phobia just in case"....

Note that this article might have been more imformative, and less hysterical, if they'd bothered to include things like "the engineers looked over this particular issue, and decided it this way for the following reasons:", rather than "the engineers weakened a safety feature! AHHHHH!!!!".

Re:...so make it easier to build new plants! (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502746)

Read the part about the plant with a football sized hole eaten into the vessel. It had another two months and they would have had a leak. No one is going to really suggest the engineers were ok with that, are they?

The maintenance was delayed to save money and they got lucky that is was not delayed again.

Re:...so make it easier to build new plants! (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502600)

They are hostile because business is not to be trusted, is never to be trusted, that has never been different, and can never be changed.

Surprise-ometer (1)

dcollins (135727) | more than 3 years ago | (#36501878)

Reading: zero.

This is the result of the "invisible hand" in regards to projects so overwhelmingly expensive that they're too big to fail for the stakeholders.

Capitalism in terminal decay (-1, Offtopic)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 3 years ago | (#36501932)

Only workers revolution can save human kind! Forward to a socialist world! Reforge the Fourth International!

History in the making (-1, Troll)

woboyle (1044168) | more than 3 years ago | (#36501970)

"And all of them could escalate dangers in the event of an accident." You mean, like the one going on in Nebraska 20 miles from Omaha on the Missouri River, that the Obama administration has placed under a total news blackout? That has been placed in a no-fly zone because of the radiation leaks? Oops sorry. You haven't heard about it, because of the news blackout...

Re:History in the making (2)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502336)

Fuck off, liar. There's no way the US government could institute a news blackout in this day and age. Trying to would just get the media there faster.

Re:History in the making (2)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502436)

Nuclear power plants have been restricted airspace since 9/11, it has nothing to do with radiation leaks.

This is why we need to pay for journalism (4, Insightful)

AcidPenguin9873 (911493) | more than 3 years ago | (#36501980)

Folks, this is why we need to find a way to pay for true investigative journalism. This sort of thing is NOT going to be uncovered by crowdsourced reports or bloggers with (other, non-journalist) day jobs and bills to pay. Wikileaks relys on insiders having a motive for revealing information; there are merits to that method but it doesn't cover all cases.

Those of you complaining about how journalism is crap, this is an example of non-crap journalism.

I don't know a great way of funding journalism like this. The Associated Press is funded by member newspapers who use their stories in the local papers. No one is paying for the local papers because of Google News and the like, so if those papers go under, AP's funding is probably in some jeopardy over the next 5-10 years. I would be fine with paying the AP directly somehow, but I still don't see a means of making that work.

Re:This is why we need to pay for journalism (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502182)

Maybe if the "news outlets" did more if this kind of thing, rather than the never ending celeb gossip drivel, they'd still have a business? When the "news" is fluff about a kid getting his hair cut and several quoted tweets from twatter, it's pretty clear why no one pays any attention to so-called news.

Re:This is why we need to pay for journalism (5, Interesting)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502320)

That's why I contribute to my local NPR station. They, and the programs they run from NPR and Public Radio International, all do real investigative journalism (and post transcripts on their website in addition to free podcasts and radio broadcasts). I feel like my $100/yr is going to a good cause and I listen all the time. That said, at my house we also receive two daily newspapers, so we contribute to the AP that way.

The Associated Press is actually set up in a similar manner [ap.org] : "The Associated Press is a not-for-profit cooperative, which means it is owned by its 1,500 U.S. daily newspaper members." That means it is set up the same way as NPR. If you want to support the AP then you should pay your local papers. If you don't want the paper (or them to incur the cost of it) see if they have an online-only membership. Unfortunately, a lot of papers don't have that if they don't have a paywall, so that's something we should start pushing for.

The future of journalism is definitely nonprofit, which means it will be supported by good samaritans like ourselves. The value of information in the eye of the public has dropped so much that it can no longer be sold as a commodity and must be provided as a public service.

Re:This is why we need to pay for journalism (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502438)

Folks, this is why we need to find a way to pay for true investigative journalism.

It's not that big a mystery, just pay quality journalists. Open a newsfeed site, mandate that only proper journalism will get rewarded, and charge people a subscription to see it.

Re:This is why we need to pay for journalism (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36503114)

Report facts only, and no celeb or sports crap and I will go for it.

Re:This is why we need to pay for journalism (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502778)

Those of you complaining about how journalism is crap, this is an example of non-crap journalism.

In some ways, yes. In others, not so much.
 
In particular, the article fails to point out that in many cases relaxing of safety standards is routine when it's legitimately discovered that the original standard was too stringent. Famously in the case of nuclear power, (then) Capt Rickover considerably relaxed safety standards and removed safety systems while proceeding from the prototype to the first operational reactors.
 

I don't know a great way of funding journalism like this. The Associated Press is funded by member newspapers who use their stories in the local papers.

Which leads to pseudo investigative reporting seeking sensationalism because sensationalism attracts eyeballs.

Re:This is why we need to pay for journalism (1)

darien.train (1752510) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502968)

Pro-Publica is a new and viable model for non-profit investigative journalism. They constantly impress me (take a look at their awards [propublica.org] ) and put most other news orgs to shame. If only other public media orgs would take notice and stop being such MSM wannbes. I'm looking at you NPR.

This IS Engineering (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36501990)

Sometimes, this is what engineering is about. When faced with a difficult problem, sometimes the design solution is rewrite the problem. It's a fact of life. Conservatism is the easy side to fall on when you write requirements. The time and effort it would take to write just-conservative enough requirements doesn't justify the cost of doing so. With equipment built and in-place, it is now worth the time to find out what you really need.

And yes, I realized there is a flip-side to going to far with this. But that's why we pay engineers - to make tough decisions when money, equipment, and lives are on the line. -- www.awkwardengineer.com [awkwardengineer.com]

Re:This IS Engineering (1)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502424)

but we dont pay engineers anymore.

Re:This IS Engineering (1, Insightful)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502520)

Naaaaahhhh, I'm sure the requirement writers knew everything there was to know about all the equipment, tolerances, lifespan, safety margins and risk of every piece of equipment that was going to be used in the nuclear industry for the next 50 years and any deviation or revision to their good documents is the heresy of a government-corporate conspiracy.

Re:This IS Engineering (2)

Mspangler (770054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502566)

It's called "fitness for service". It's a pretty standard exercise. I've been through a couple myself in the chemical industry.

http://www.fitness4service.com/publications/pdf_downloads/ReliabilityConfJaskePaper.pdf [fitness4service.com]

The root question is how much safety margin do you do you really need? If the unit was designed for 600 psi, and you have found you now operate at 500 psi, you have more safety margin than originally planned.

This happens quite a lot on plants that were a bit experimental when they were first built full-scale. The designers left bigger than needed margins as they were sure exactly how things would settle out. Much later on, you find out you never push some of those limits, so that excess margin can be traded for something else.

There are engineering companies that specialize in this, as it can be rather arcane.

Channeling Rumsfeld (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502650)

You can adress the 'known unknowns' with a high Factor of Safety and when more research and experience bears it out, those FOSs can be justifyably lowered.

It is the 'unknown unknowns' that can jump up and bite you - especially if the lazy and greedy are allowed to extend the service life far beyond what any competent and moral Engineer would ever agree to; aka, 'test to failure'.

Re:This IS Engineering (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502880)

Even as a casual reader that isn't the slightest bit familiar with the workings of a nuclear reactor, this concept does make perfect sense to me.

So I guess the real question is, are they lowering the bar on all these tests to a more practical (and still entirely safe) level, or is it a slippery slope manifested by the extreme cost and complexity of keeping these things online?

I mean, at some point, you've gone too far. I'm not sure where we're at on that... and I'm pretty sure only the people who are appropriately familiar with each and every one of these tests could tell us.

The ultimate problem? Us. (3, Insightful)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502054)

The biggest issue is ultimately the short sighted consumer (read: voter) who wants everything and as cheaply as possible...

If there were a real market for clean safe energy that cost twice the amount of regular juice someone would supply the demand. Same thing with sweat shops producing our clothing, electronics, everything. Humans aren't ultimately that smart.

Yes, I'm cynical. But also an idealist. Maybe one day we'll learn?

Re:The ultimate problem? Us. (2)

kaiser423 (828989) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502526)

It took over a year of investigation to figure out that this was the case with our nuclear power plants. You can't expect individual humans or even small collectives to undertake that type of investigation for most of their services. Especially for a system that's easily gamed --- how do you ensure that all coal plants, mines, etc are being operated safely? You can't without a government, and even they'll miss lots of things, and many safety standards can be beefed up or slimmed down within a day or two of notice. Too easy to game.

BTW, in Albuquerque NM more businesses than not have signs on their doors that they buy all of their electricity, at greater cost, via local wind power. So the market is there, and it's easy to do with solar/wind, etc.

Re:The ultimate problem? Us. (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502758)

If there were a real market for clean safe energy that cost twice the amount of regular juice someone would supply the demand.

I'm sure you're right. And various technologies are coming online, bit by bit. But I don't think customers (including me) are being irrational when they reject power at twice the price.

Given the opportunity to pay the same price or a small premium, you'd see plenty of people switch. I mean, people do pay considerably more for hybrid cars and such. They like the idea of better, cleaner solutions. We just can't afford to pay massive premiums to feel good about it.

This is a little off topic, but I had hoped some of the safer, cleaner, modern and more efficient reactors would come online. That seems like a very workable solution to large power requirements. I guess it's just the extreme up-front costs and public perception that keeps it from happening. Tis unfortunate.

Re:The ultimate problem? Us. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502780)

The biggest issue is ultimately the short sighted consumer (read: voter) who wants everything and as cheaply as possible...

Why, I would almost call you a government shill...

It's not a problem that I want everything, and cheap (read: free). The real fucking problem is lying bastard politicians that prey on this fact, and tailor their lies and bastardizations around it. Dumb people vote for lying assholes that lie and essentially convince these voters that they are fucking Saint Nicholas, all you must do is fill in the right blank and your wish-list will come to fruition.

Blaming people for what they are, beings that perpetually want better, is fucking retarded. Better quality of life, better tools, better food, better shelter.

You can't blame nature. You can blame lying, cheating, sons of bitches politicians. Civic duty should be a duty, not a career. People seeking a political career should be cast immediately as suspect.

Re:The ultimate problem? Us. (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36503278)

Blaming people for what they are, beings that perpetually want better, is fucking retarded. Better quality of life, better tools, better food, better shelter.

Isn't wanting more/better/cheaper while assuming that no input has to go into producing more/better/cheaper equally fucking retarded? The laws of physics dictate that you can't get something for nothing.

Corrupt politicians is a huge problem, yes. But don't underestimate the power of the masses... The problem is most of the time the masses mostly want to not do stuff.

I guess my point is that I hope humanity on average will eventually, one way or another, become smarter and wiser on average.

Re:The ultimate problem? Us. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36503206)

Sadly there's no solution to this - we have to drive prices down because we can't overpay and expect anything better. More money == more profit, it doesn't create a better product. The root problem is greed and it affects the whole population, not just the consumers.

The notion of overpaying for "green energy" is kinda silly. It's like paying for organic food, eventually the regulation catches up with it and marginalizes all the gains from the more expensive product. Essentially the organic food of today becomes the same as regular food except we pay more, they make more profit, and we lose. Same will happen with green energy; we'll pay for green kW/hs expecting it to come from a wind turbine...except it won't, it'll come from the cheapest source they can find and they just won't tell us. 50 years later that 2x money we've been pumping in will have funded a few new Lamborghinis and some polystyrene wind turbine look-alikes and then we'll be pissed.

So, yeah...Spend less and you have a disaster, spend more and you have a disaster + complete regulatory capture.

Regulatory agencies had their teeth taken away (2)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502078)

Regulatory agencies once had teeth for the purpose of enforcing their regulations. We have been seeing this with other agencies such as the FCC which ruled that activities which violate net neutrality are prohibited. Not long after that, we see other government rule that the FCC has no authority over the internet.

And since nuclear power is in the forefront of the news for now, people are noticing the same happens in nuclear power. Big business doesn't want to reinvest its profits back into the company and wants to take them home with them instead. They complain to regulators saying "we can't afford this!" Most regulators are powerless to do anything but rule based on the policies and standards they have to work with. So they "appeal" the matter with senators and congressmen who make phone calls to other peoples' bosses who, in turn, arrange to have policy match the current situation forgetting that these regulations and requirements are designed to prevent horrible disasters.

I think the people who are willing to put the public at risk should also be required to live among that same public so they and their families can suffer the same disasters as the rest of us.

Re:Regulatory agencies had their teeth taken away (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502226)

MANDATORY employee daycare centers in all containment vessels.

jr

Re:Regulatory agencies had their teeth taken away (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502458)

You can't build new plants, you can't fix current plants, you have to continue to provide power to people.

I don't care how you do it, just do it.

Discount MBT Sandals MBT Walking Shoes Outlet (-1, Offtopic)

alitery (1941324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502130)

The reporter interviewed 20, to understand, the Yellow River highway bridge zhengzhou is still in charge. Whether to revoke toll booths reflect problems of Internet users, henan province transportation hall all refused to respond.
"The first large highway MBT Shoes Outlet [mbtshoesmasai.net] Bridges in Asia," said the zhengzhou Yellow River highway bridge, from 1986 to now, was formally opened charge has been the subject of duties. On February 27, 2008, the national audit office in 18 provinces of construction and operation management of the toll roads audit results show that: the total investment is 178 million yuan of zhengzhou Yellow River highway bridge, 1996 years have all to pay off the mortgage, charge of 1.45 billion yuan. Illegal The survey results in henan caused uproar in zhengzhou, public opinion accused the Yellow River highway bridge become vehicles "vampire".
-charges have 26 years of jinan Yellow River bridge: whether to stop charge will have to wait a month or two
The reporter from 20, shandong high-speed Co., LTD to realize, jinan Yellow River bridge is still in charge, the relevant departments are to continue research, whether to charge will be in the next one to two months have the result.
Jinan Yellow River bridge now more than 26 years, charge according to the toll road management regulation and the toll road to transfer the rights and interests of the related regulations, "has been more than eastern China top 25 years of charge deadline. Jinan Yellow River bridge at present for the listed company shandong expressway Co., LTD all assets. In December 1999, shandong province communications department authorized by the government and shandong construction Co., LTD. (later renamed shandong expressway Co., LTD) signed an agreement, awarded shandong construction Co., LTD charge the bridge tolls, etc, the charging period from the concession on nov 16, 1999 to November 15, 2017.
-" charge the evergreen tree "foshan, guangdong sanshui bridge: Discount MBT Shoes [mbtshoesmasai.net] " MaiLuQian "is still in charge fees fixed number of year to correction
The reporter interviewed 20, that charge of 55 years time, Internet users for "charge the evergreen tree" irony of foshan, guangdong, was still in charge sanshui bridge continues at the original standard collection "MaiLuQian". The vice DiaoYanYuan, foshan city, guangdong province, YuChun but confessed, foshan is in line with the national five ministries notice requirements processing sanshui bridge, will be fixed charge fees fixed number of year, to comply with the state regulations. At present scheme are developing.
Guangdong foshan sanshui bridge, collect fees from ending fixed number of year November 23, 1993 to September 2049 22, time for more than 55 years. The bridge is caused by the charge dissatisfaction. According to information, sanshui bridge engineering investment about 456 million yuan, up to last year fee of RMB 750 million. At present the bridge has entered the pure profit sanshui period, if press now travel income 100000 yuan every day calculation, by 2049, nearly 1.4 billion RMB income.
Zhejiang taizhou jiaojiang bridge-for the second bridge built: charge, it will not reduce, stop charges
The reporter from zhejiang taizhou jiaojiang 20, bridge industrial Co., LTD. That, at present jiaojiang bridge charge is still going on. Taizhou transit authority officials say, jiaojiang bridge to loans, MBT Womens Sandals [mbtshoesmasai.net] to belong to the construction and their own charges, to bridge loans, not in the central file to cancel the scope of the charge of the bridge column.
Jiaojiang bridge is JiaoJiangOu connection jiaojiang south and north of the bridge, the only completed in 2001, with the total investment of 320 million yuan, from that year on 12 December toll collection. At present the vehicles for 25000 cars each day, fee standards for motorcycle every time, other motor vehicles 4 yuan RMB 10 to 30 yuan.
Taizhou jiaojiang bridge industrial Co., LTD standing deputy general manager TaoJianMing admit, construction of the bridge loans in 2009 has paid off, at present jiaojiang bridge wouldn't stop charging, from the second bridge, because and jiaojiang construction have implemented bound.

Where are you pro-nuke idiots NOW ? Huh ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502138)

Yeah, all you smug morons who think nuclear is "perfectly safe" ...

What's your excuse for THIS mess ?

I cannot WAIT to hear your answer. Don't expect me to believe what you write,
though, because I am not in the habit of accepting bullshit unquestioningly.

Re:Where are you pro-nuke idiots NOW ? Huh ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502348)

Why would anyone waste their time talking to you? You sound like a complete turd.

Re:Where are you pro-nuke idiots NOW ? Huh ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502568)

no one said that running generation 1 reactors past their life span is safe or wanted. Nuclear has inherit dangers no matter how advanced they are. It's still better than coal which causes 100x more deaths a year than Nuclear does.

Re:Where are you pro-nuke idiots NOW ? Huh ? (2)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502730)

Nuclear is perfectly safe in the same way that drain cleaner is perfectly safe. Follow the directions and keep it out of reach of children. You probably don't want to store it in your fridge in a koolaid jug.

These old plants were meant to be retired and replaced with newer ones. If we had been building new nuclear plants, these aging and decaying plants could have been put offline and shut down safely decades ago.

Investigative journalism (1)

SoupGuru (723634) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502146)

Isn't that the real story here? A journalist actually investigated a story and uncovered something interesting.

Re:Investigative journalism (1)

cratermoon (765155) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502810)

There's plenty of investigative journalism, real journalism, still happening. What's different is that this was done by a large mainstream news organization.

What you expect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502184)

Did anybody seriously didn't see this coming? Since there been no construction of nuclear plants to replace them nor will there be in the near future. Add in the fact that there is no plan to deal with these plants when they reach their end of life and you get the current situation. Nuclear plants are expensive to dismantle and the sudden drop in power capacity would have a large impact without something to replace it. No matter what plan be in place, it would cast alot of money in comparison to trying to extend the nuclear plants life (though may increase risks the more this is done).

Quite simply, no politician would have the balls to do anything other then what they are doing now. For doing so would be a large risk for them for the public good, while the opposite has little backlash.

In Defense Of Evil Plutocrats (1)

Sneftel (15416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502202)

According to their investigation, when reactor parts fail or systems fall out of compliance with the rules, studies are conducted by the industry and government. The studies conclude that existing standards are 'unnecessarily conservative.' Regulations are loosened, and the reactors are back in compliance.

I hate to come down on the side of Big Industry, but this is exactly how things should go. First of all, of course compliance problems spur studies on whether the standards are too conservative. If there's no difficulty in complying with the standards, why bother to do a study? Secondly, of course standards are going to be loosened over time. When you make the first nuclear reactor, you want to have incredible safeguards, even where they seem conservative, just in case. Then, once you've got fifty years of nuclear power under your belt and you have a more informed idea of what's important and what's not, you revise the standards.

That's not to say that nothing smells fishy here, of course. If these "studies" were performed in a biased and unscientific manner, and/or without enough transparency to determine how much bias affected the outcome, then that in itself is the problem. And when a single standards-loosening turns out to have been unwise, that should properly throw doubt on the conclusions of many related safety studies. But the framing of this story seems to be "science can prove anything". No, just bad science... and the solution is not to stop doing science.

Re:In Defense Of Evil Plutocrats (2)

cratermoon (765155) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502722)

This is exactly how NASA treated anomalies with the Space Shuttle solid rocket boosters. Each time they'd have the engineers look at the problem, then decide it was really probably OK, and that the strict rules in place were overly cautious. Everything went fine, until the flight of STS-51-L [wikipedia.org] .

Don't worry, the market corrected (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36503368)

The shuttle disaster, fixing everything - bringing everybody back to life, and in fact giving us a much stronger foothold in space than we could ever have had if the Challenger hadn't exploded.

Right?

So the invisible hand of free market dogma will fix this just as well, after we have any kind of major problem with a nuclear plant. The fact that it hasn't just means we haven't had any problems so far!

Right?

Besides we shouldn't be messing with atoms and such when we have unlimited sources of oil. The invisible hand has shown us the way there, too. Just find scientists willing to say that oil is unlimited and burning it has no effect on the atmosphere and all will be well.

Right?

Cooper Nuclear Plant and the Missouri River (5, Interesting)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502214)

There are currently two nuclear plants impacted by the Missouri flooding - Fort Calhoon and Cooper Nuclear Plant. I live in Omaha - ~40 miles from FC and ~50 from CNP.

FC had been in shutdown mode for refueling and is supposed not at any risk from the water surrounding it's sandbags on all sides. That said just over a week ago they had a fire lasting 40 minutes and loss of power to the spent fuel cooling pools.

CNP in Brownville, NE is at full capacity despite rising waters and the possibility Gavins Point Dam might increase it's water flow further. Protocol demands a shutdown if the river reaches 902 feet above sea level, and the current level for the Missouri is officially 900.56 at CNP. No hurry or anything.

News Flash: old stuff breaks! (1)

davek (18465) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502232)

I've got an idea: instead of fudging the regulations in order to keep old reactors running on ancient technology, why don't we build new nuclear reactors like we haven't done decades! What a concept!

this what you get for voteing in MR burns (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502278)

this what you get for voteing in MR burns safety takes a back seat to profits and kick backs.

This reminds me of dancing with (1)

nagnamer (1046654) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502356)

a Devil... You get some, then you can't get enough soon enough. If you shut a nuke down, you have to somehow make up for the electricity it was producing. Given enough outdated nukes, it becomes a challenge to shut them down. At some point, it will be too late, and you'd have to shut lots of them down at once, but you won't have resources or time to make up for the loss in energy production. Maybe that point has already been reached and passed.

A bank that is made unstable becomes unstable... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502364)

There's a saying that a bank that is perceived as unstable, becomes unstable. It's about self-fulfillment, where people think they know, but really don't, leading to actions that actually makes those actions true.

Here, it's worse. It's a bloody combination of certain people don't want nuclear power, combined with corporate greed. The fist prevents nuke plants from being replaced with another so these plants are falling apart. When these plants do fail, they point to the failure of nuclear power.

And plants at the end of their lifespan, instead of being shut down, are deem needed, so companies are loathe to do upgrades, since the plant has a limited, unknown lifespan and any upgrade is a financial risk. See, a complete replaced plant is engineered for a certain lifespan. The old plants, kept running, need upgrades, but they don't know how long before they really do need to shut the plant down, and that's begging for an unplanned shutdown--caused by a nuclear accident.

Then, the finances of the industry, the profit, rears it's ugly head. Instead of pouring money into upgrades, it's cheaper to persuade, pay off, or lead regulators into relaxing problematic regulations. Absurd and irresponsible. No wonder there are accidents waiting to happen.

The regulatory agency is THE line of defense against corporate greed to make sure things are done right. No new plants or no replacement plants just puts them in the middle and a damn big target to be influenced by factors that lead to leaks and accidents. Freaking absurd. Our power need were solved 70 years ago with nuclear power, breeders, and thorium reactors, and we're still burning wood, coal, gas, diesel, kerosene, and the like, as our main fuels.

A gallon of gasoline weighs something like 6 pounds. On roughly 60 pounds of gasoline, a Prius might travel some 500 miles. A Soviet icebreaker (heavy metal big ass ship) traveled 22,000 miles (not sure if nautical but doesn't really matter for this point) and used less than 60 pounds of fissionable material/waste.

That gallon of gasoline might run your home for maybe a few days if you are conservative. The energy requirements for your entire life could run on a softball size amount of uranium. Look at the size/volume of a gallon versus the size of a softball.

And we're surprised the stuff is dangerous. Yeah, it is. It's also quite a potent amount of energy we're talking about. What the hell are we doing.

Too Bad (2)

CopterHawk (981545) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502374)

It's really too bad we are relaxing regulations to keep Older nuke plants around instead of relaxing regulations to make it easier to build new much safer ones. Our national strategy for nuclear safety is completly ass-backwards.

Similar developments in Healthcare (1)

CyberDong (137370) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502400)

Who'd have expected such prescience from The Onion [youtube.com] ?

Not surprising at all! (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502412)

Of course, just like finding an excuse why to invade a country that just so happens to have all the oil you need, you can find reasons why decisions were a little too severe in restricting nuclear power plant security....I mean who cares about how corroded a nut has to be before being replaced, it is not like having a few of them pop could mean a reactor leaks.....then again...I wonder if this reactor was sitting in the white house backyard, how much of those "strict" decisions would have been changed...and how many would have gone the other way for not being "strict" enough!!!

Easy Fix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502558)

Make it easier to deploy new facilities. It is virtually impossible to build a new, safer, plant due to NIMBY'ism and non-grandfathered regulations.

You got to be the smart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36502606)

To nuke yourself Homer something something.

Ok, let's suppose a plant blows up... so what? (2)

Issarlk (1429361) | more than 3 years ago | (#36502772)

USA is not cramped like Japan, there's plenty of space and a 100km wide forbiden zone wouldn't be much of a bother.

no surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36503198)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Nuclear "Regulators" Are Captured By the Nuclear Industry

Indeed, governments have been covering up nuclear meltdowns for fifty years to protect the nuclear power industry.

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/05/every-nuclear-regulator-is-captured-by.html

Sharpening is not fudging (2)

anorlunda (311253) | more than 3 years ago | (#36503280)

The original article does a hack job on the basic premise. It says that expert after expert cited "sharpening the pencil" as the justification for relaxing standards. The AP author wields a very broad brush and characterizes all of that as "fudging the answers"

The implication is that the tens of thousands of people world wide employed in engineering analysis to sharpen the pencil of nuclear plant analysis are all liars and frauds. Then throw into the pot all the regulators from all the companies who conspire. Of course the AP author cites no sources nor gives any basis for his allegation of fudging. Nevertheless, many gullible readers will praise him as a fearless investigative journalist.

I'll confess. I was once one of the engineers employed to do the analysis to help sharpen the pencils. Believe me, if all they wanted was fudged answers, I could have sent them a fudged report then gone out sailing instead of sweating to get it right. Of course people strain extra hard to prove the desirable result if possible. But in 30 years with four companies in three countries, I never ever saw any instance of fudging.

Is there any other field in which one can get away with generally branding engineering analysis and scientific research as fudging? Oh wait, how about climate research? Are Slashdot readers ready to believe an unsubstantiated accusation that all that work is fudged?

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