The Public Interest

Fission Decisions

Roger Starr

Summer 1982

DAVID ORKENT a professor in the School of Engineering at UCLA, has been a member of the Advisory Committee on Nuclear Safety longer than anyone else. That Committee advises the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on safety matters and reviews the licensing process of each nuclear power plant before final action is taken by the Commission. The committee, originally an informal body set up by the old Atomic Energy Commission, was established officially by Congress in 1957. It has 15 members appointed by the NRC, and its chairmanship rotates among the members annually. It is at the heart of the system for applying nuclear fission to the production of electricity in the United States, and Professor Okrent’s book-consisting almost entirely of separate discussions of specific design, site selection, and safety criteria problems that came up in the course of licensing nuclear power plants in California, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, and other states-illuminates slowly but thoroughly the hard problems posed by the development of a new technology as complicated, useful, hazardous, controversial, and important as nuclear energy.

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