Nuke regulator chided for safety ‘sluggishness’

On the four-year anniversary of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, safety advocates are urging U.S. regulators to heed to the lessons learned in Fukushima, Japan.

Public Citizen on Wednesday accused the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of “sluggishness” in improving nuclear reactor safety standards that could have "potentially lethal consequences."

"If a nuclear disaster of the scope of Fukushima were to occur tomorrow, the blame for the ensuing destruction would rest squarely on the NRC’s shoulders,” Public Citizen’s outreach director Allison Fisher said in a statement.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is the government agency responsible for overseeing nuclear reactors.

Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a NRC task force recommended 12 steps the agency could take to improve nuclear safety around the country.

During a speech given earlier this week, NRC Chairman Stephen Burns touted “a number of significant enhancements to safety (that) have already been implemented at nuclear power plants."

“Both the NRC and the U.S. nuclear industry took swift and decisive action to address many of the key lessons learned from that event,” Burns said.

Burns said the most significant safety reforms will be completed by the end of 2016.

But safety advocates are challenging the NRC's claims.

The NRC "has yet to require nuclear power plant operators to complete implementation of a single one of the post-Fukushima safety upgrades recommended by the agency’s own staff,” Fisher said. “Not a single one."

Furthermore, only four of those recommendations are even on track to be implemented in the coming years, she added, while no action has been taken on many of the other recommendations.

Fisher also pointed out that some nuclear reactors do not comply with current safety standards. She even suggested that the NRC may be “knowingly allowing plants to operate with safety deficiencies."

"Delaying the lessons learned from the tragedy in Japan, failing to identify safety lapses and weak enforcement of current regulations are putting the safety of the American people at risk every day,” Fisher said.