Nuclear energy companies, salivating over the prospect of millions of dollars in new federal subsidies, are eager to launch a construction boom of new power plants. In the past, nuclear power plant construction has been hampered by such nettlesome things as construction permits and public hearings on the construction’s environmental impact. To fix that problem, Bloomberg reports, the Nuclear Energy Institute successfully lobbied federal regulators to redefine what they meant by “construction.”
Now, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says such bulldozer-heavy activities as excavation, road building, and the erection of new cooling towers no longer count as construction under permitting rules. The change comes over protests from the agency’s own environmental oversight official, who believes that the change will allow 90 percent of the environmental impact of new power plants to escape federal oversight.
It took the NRC 11 years to come up with new rules for drug-testing plant workers, but the new industry-friendly construction reg sailed through in a mere six months. Of course, the industry had a ringer in the regulatory agency. One of the NRC commissioners who voted for the new regs, Jeffrey Merrifield, cast his vote while looking for a new job. He now works for a company that builds nuclear power plants.