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In an exclusive interview on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour with host Earl Ofari Hutchinson on KTYM 1460 AM Los Angeles on March 18, 2011, Angie Howard, Former Vice President and Director of Industry Relations and Information Services for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.
Transcription by Annette Lockett, McAl Typing Service * 323-293-3244 * FAX 323-293-0404 * E-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org
EOH: How safe is Nuclear Energy Power?
AH: Nuclear Energy Plants today are safe. They have operated safely, reliably and with out omitting green house gases. The situation in Japan was of Biblical proportions, with the earthquake and tsunami that damaged the nuclear plants. Today the plants are safe, but we are a learning industry and we are going to learn as much as we can from this event and look at how we can continue to upgrade our facilities to make them even safer.
EOH: What is your point of view about safety?
AH: Our plants are safe in the context that they are designed for extremely adverse situations from earthquakes, flood, wind, etc. We have made additional upgrades after 9/11, to insure that there is adequate backup power for the diesel generators, and additional generators that can be brought in. It is important to recognize that the industry continues to improve the way it looks at adverse situations and the training of our operators. There are many areas that we take very seriously. Safety is the number one responsibility.
EOH: Should we be concerned about the Japanese radiation coming across the Pacific?
AH: I do believe the President is making statements based on sound scientific information from the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and their people on the ground in Japan. What does concern people about radiation is that they know very little about it, yet it is a term that causes fear. There is a very good website I would encourage people to go to; http://www.radiationanswers.org. It was produced by people who work in the radiation and medical fields. It answers a lot of questions and puts radiation into context. Our world is radioactive with naturally occurring background radiation, plus medical diagnostics and therapeutic use. There are many uses that are beneficial to society and enhance public health and safety.
EOH: What does a review of safety and standards entail?
AH: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is the regulator. They have resident inspectors at all nuclear power plants. They are always there, available to look at the operations of the facilities. There are technical specifications that the operators must meet and immediately report anything outside of those specifications. The NRC will do specialized inspections such as operator training and other procedures. In addition, the industry has its own independent evaluation organization, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operation, and it too goes in and looks at standards of operations. There is quite a lot of evaluation that goes on at these plants.
EOH: What is the prospect with regards to new permits for nuclear plants?
AH: I think that just as the president requested the NRC to do a review of the existing plants and look at the lessons we can learn from the Japanese situation, the industry will be doing the same. Nuclear energy generates 20% of our electricity, operating 24/7. They operate around the clock to provide energy to our hospitals and factories, without emitting green house gases. We need to continue to develop our other clean energy sources such as solar and wind, but they are a very small part of our energy mix. Nuclear provides a lot of base load clean energy. President Obama and many in congress feel it is important to build new nuclear plants.
EOH: The implication is that the industry is buying political favors. How do you respond to that?
AH: From an industry standpoint, we want to express our opinions to our elected representatives, and it is an important role that the industry carries out; to make sure they have the ability to come to us and provide a resource space. It is important that we are active in our political process.
EOH: How do you respond to the Armageddon attitude on nuclear power?
AH: The Nuclear Energy Institute does public opinion polling and the last poll they took about a month ago shows about 70% of the public favors nuclear energy and building more. There is a vocal minority that does not favor nuclear energy, but in general the public does.
EOH: Do you see new nuclear energy expansion as a good thing and safest and surest way to go?
AH: It is now and will be a very important part of our energy future.
EOH: In your opinion, will Congress approve the new permits for nuclear power plants?
AH: Yes. We think that there will be new plants built. They will be reviewed to make sure that they meet all of the current standards for safety and are being built to withstand seismic and wind and other issues. We think plants should be and will be built to provide safe, reliable and clean electricity.