Experts Critique U.S. Nuclear Energy

K-School Professors Submit Report to Presidential Committee

Two Kennedy School of Government professors, appearing this week before the presidential Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee, presented a report which they hope could reshape the future policy debate on the governance of nuclear energy.

Graham T. Allison, Jr. '62, dean of the K-School and professor of Public Policy, and Albert Carnesale, professor of Public Policy, testified in Washington Wednesday on their "think-piece," entitled "Governance of Nuclear Power," in which they noted that commercial nuclear power in the United States "has reached a deadend."

Allison and Carnesdale did not attempt in the report to provide concrete solutions for the current problems facing the U.S. atomic energy program, but criticized the nature of the controversy itself, stating. "We must begin to peer beyond the confines of the current debate to more fundamental changes in the governance of nuclear power."

Spread the Nukes

The four-member committee, chaired by Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbit, will send out copies of the report to more than 1000 government employees, environmental groups, and interested citizens.

Highly critical, however, of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)--"a much maligned agency that has much to be maligned for"--the report blames the NRC for actually exacerbating problems of public safety, cost, and public acceptance.

Allison and Carnesale strongly recommended scrapping the NRC, which has five directors, and replacing it with an executive agency with a single administrative head. They flatly rejected recent proposals to create additional regulatory bodies.

The report asks for consideration of the "director's dilemma"--the problems facing company directors when trying to decide on whether or not to build a nuclear power plant. Allison said yesterday that he doubts that significant changes in policy will take place in the Reagan administration, adding that the President's statements so far have been "filled with very little recognition of the problem or what to do about it."

The report also blasts previous similar studies for "tunnel vision." Previous works, like the President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, focused only on specific nuclear accidents, and they also produced excessively costly recommendations, the study says.

"It was well-received. It brought out new issues, gave a new wrinkle to things," a committee aide said of Allison and Carnesdale's work, adding, however, that the committee, which commissioned the report simply to present ideas rather than recommendations, neither agreed nor disagreed with the findings.

Harold W. Lewis, professor of Physics at University of California at Santa Barbara and a member of the oversight committee--which will disband September 30--called the report "a contribution, it collected a lot of the relevant facts together," but said it was no more significant than other works on the subject.

Carnesale, who was nominated last July by President Carter to head the NRC, was unavailable for comment.

When they originally started the project last March, the two did not intend to carry it further than they have now. But they are now considering expanding it into a book.