They go by the name Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but it might as well be called the Nuclear Industry’s office of rubber stamping. Basically, they’ve done nothing to ensure that the public will be safe from the hazards inherent in the operation of nuclear power plants.

The Union of Concerned Scientists last week issued a report finding that dozens of safety violations at the nation’s nuclear power plants have been routinely ignored by the NRC. The bad news is that prior to 2006 NRC enforcement of safety regulations is called “spotty,” but since then it’s become nonexistent. Despite more than two dozen known safety violations, not a single fine or sanction has been levied by the agency.

There are arguments for nuclear power as a source of energy, but not unless the two major issues of safe operation and spent fuel disposal can be solved.

The findings of the UCS have disturbing echoes of the problems surrounding the Gulf oil spill. The long-term environmental and economic effects of that disaster are still being evaluated. A major nuclear disaster would make the oil spill pale in comparison. A quarter of a century after the fact, animals in Germany and other parts of Europe are still showing up with high levels of radioactivity, the result of eating food still contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster in Russia.

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