Thomas Wellock (born 1959) is the American historian for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Trained as both an engineer and a historian, he writes scholarly histories of the regulation of commercial nuclear energy.His most recent book is Safe Enough? A History of Nuclear Power and Accident Risk with the University of California Press in 2021.
Until 2010 he was a Professor in the Department of History at Central Washington University, in Ellensburg, Washington in the United States.In 2007 he received the "CWU Phi Kappa Phi Scholar of the Year" Award. His teaching and research interests include environmental history, western history, recent US history, and political history. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley in 1995, with a dissertation published as Critical Masses: Opposition to Nuclear Power in California, 1958-1978 Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998. His MA in history is from the University of Toledo; his B.S. in mechanical engineering is from the University of Bridgeport.
Wellock also published Preserving the Nation: The Conservation and Environmental Movements, 1870-2000 in 2007.
The United States Atomic Energy Commission, commonly known as the AEC, was an agency of the United States government established after World War II by U.S. Congress to foster and control the peacetime development of atomic science and technology. President Harry S. Truman signed the McMahon/Atomic Energy Act on August 1, 1946, transferring the control of atomic energy from military to civilian hands, effective on January 1, 1947. This shift gave the members of the AEC complete control of the plants, laboratories, equipment, and personnel assembled during the war to produce the atomic bomb.
The Three Mile Island accident was a partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island, Unit 2 (TMI-2) reactor in Pennsylvania, United States. It began at 4 a.m. on March 28, 1979. It is the most significant accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history. On the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale, it is rated Level 5 - Accident with Wider Consequences.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is an independent agency of the United States government tasked with protecting public health and safety related to nuclear energy. Established by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, the NRC began operations on January 19, 1975, as one of two successor agencies to the United States Atomic Energy Commission. Its functions include overseeing reactor safety and security, administering reactor licensing and renewal, licensing radioactive materials, radionuclide safety, and managing the storage, security, recycling, and disposal of spent fuel.
Nuclear power in the United States is provided by 92 commercial reactors with a net capacity of 94.7 gigawatts (GW), with 61 pressurized water reactors and 31 boiling water reactors. In 2019, they produced a total of 809.41 terawatt-hours of electricity, which accounted for 20% of the nation's total electric energy generation. In 2018, nuclear comprised nearly 50 percent of U.S. emission-free energy generation.
Nuclear safety is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as "The achievement of proper operating conditions, prevention of accidents or mitigation of accident consequences, resulting in protection of workers, the public and the environment from undue radiation hazards". The IAEA defines nuclear security as "The prevention and detection of and response to, theft, sabotage, unauthorized access, illegal transfer or other malicious acts involving nuclear materials, other radioactive substances or their associated facilities".
Steven Chu is an American physicist and former government official. He is a Nobel laureate and was the 12th United States Secretary of Energy. He is currently the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University. He is known for his research at the University of California, Berkeley, and his research at Bell Laboratories and Stanford University regarding the cooling and trapping of atoms with laser light, for which he shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and William Daniel Phillips.
Nuclear safety in the United States is governed by federal regulations issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC regulates all nuclear plants and materials in the United States except for nuclear plants and materials controlled by the U.S. government, as well those powering naval vessels.
The anti-nuclear movement in the United States consists of more than 80 anti-nuclear groups that oppose nuclear power, nuclear weapons, and/or uranium mining. These have included the Abalone Alliance, Clamshell Alliance, Committee for Nuclear Responsibility, Nevada Desert Experience, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Plowshares Movement, Women Strike for Peace, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. The anti-nuclear movement has delayed construction or halted commitments to build some new nuclear plants, and has pressured the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to enforce and strengthen the safety regulations for nuclear power plants.
The 1970s proved to be a pivotal period for the anti-nuclear movement in California. Opposition to nuclear power in California coincided with the growth of the country's environmental movement. Opposition to nuclear power increased when President Richard Nixon called for the construction of 1000 nuclear plants by the year 2000.
Core damage frequency (CDF) is a term used in probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) that indicates the likelihood of an accident that would cause severe damage to a nuclear fuel in a nuclear reactor core. Core damage accidents are considered extremely serious because severe damage to the fuel in the core prevents adequate heat removal or even safe shutdown, which can lead to a nuclear meltdown. Some sources on CDF consider core damage and core meltdown to be the same thing, and different methods of measurement are used between industries and nations, so the primary value of the CDF number is in managing the risk of core accidents within a system and not necessarily to provide large-scale statistics.
Critical Masses: Opposition to Nuclear Power in California, 1958–1978 is the first detailed history of the anti-nuclear movement in the United States, written by Thomas Wellock. It is also the first state-level research on the subject with a focus on California. Reviewer Paula Garb has said:
The book is rich with vivid verbal pictures and the passionate voices of participants on all sides of the controversy around the peaceful atom. It is based on interviews, documents from state and federal archives, and activist papers. Wellock brings to this project the expertise of a former engineer for civilian and navy nuclear reactors, a thorough archivist, and a sensitive interviewer.
More than 80 anti-nuclear groups are operating, or have operated, in the United States. These include Abalone Alliance, Clamshell Alliance, Greenpeace USA, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Musicians United for Safe Energy, Nevada Desert Experience, Nuclear Control Institute, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Public Citizen Energy Program, Shad Alliance, and the Sierra Club. These are direct action, environmental, health, and public interest organizations who oppose nuclear weapons and/or nuclear power. In 1992, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that "his agency had been pushed in the right direction on safety issues because of the pleas and protests of nuclear watchdog groups".
The Sundesert Nuclear Power Plant was a proposed California nuclear power station, formally submitted in 1976. Facing firm opposition from the state's Governor Jerry Brown and denied a permit by a state agency, plans for the construction of the power facility were rejected in 1978 after 100 million dollars had been spent towards its construction. The Sundesert proposal was the last major attempt to build a nuclear plant in California.
The Bodega Bay Nuclear Power Plant was a proposed Northern California nuclear power facility that was stopped by local activism in the 1960s and never built. The foundations, located 2 miles (3.2 km) west of the active San Andreas Fault, were being dug at the time the plant was cancelled. The action has been termed "the birth of the anti-nuclear movement."
The application of nuclear technology, both as a source of energy and as an instrument of war, has been controversial.
The United States Government Accountability Office reported more than 150 incidents from 2001 to 2006 of nuclear plants not performing within acceptable safety guidelines. According to a 2010 survey of energy accidents, there have been at least 56 accidents at nuclear reactors in the United States. The most serious of these was the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant has been the source of two of the top five most dangerous nuclear incidents in the United States since 1979. Relatively few accidents have involved fatalities.
Harold ("Hal") Warren Lewis was an American Emeritus Professor of Physics and former department chairman at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). He was chairman of the JASON Defense Advisory Group from 1966 to 1973, and was active in US government investigations into safety of nuclear reactors.
The nuclear energy policy of the United States began in 1954 and continued with the ongoing building of nuclear power plants, the enactment of numerous pieces of legislation such as the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, and the implementation of countless policies which have guided the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy in the regulation and growth of nuclear energy companies. This includes, but is not limited to, regulations of nuclear facilities, waste storage, decommissioning of weapons-grade materials, uranium mining, and funding for nuclear companies, along with an increase in power plant building. Both legislation and bureaucratic regulations of nuclear energy in the United States have been shaped by scientific research, private industries' wishes, and public opinion, which has shifted over time and as a result of different nuclear disasters.
Thomas H. Pigford was a professor and the founding chairman of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. The scope of his career in nuclear engineering consisted of reactor design, nuclear safety, fuel cycles, and radioactive waste management. He is credited for having an influential voice in nuclear policy. Pigford was generally well respected by scientists and environmentalists alike because of the expertise he brought to the subject and his objectivity. He was considered a pro-nuclear advocate, but only if done so in a safe way.
Charles H. Eccleston is a former employee of the United States Energy Department (DOE), and later the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) who was convicted for attempting to breach protected computer systems. Eccleston, a U.S. citizen who had been living in Davao City in the Philippines since 2011, was terminated from his employment at the NRC in 2010. He was detained by Philippine authorities in Manila, Philippines, on March 27, 2015, and deported to the United States to face U.S. criminal charges. He initially came to the attention of the FBI in 2013 after he entered a foreign embassy in Manila and offered to sell a list of over 5,000 e-mail accounts of all officials, engineers and employees of a U.S. government energy agency. He said that he was able to retrieve this information because he was an employee of a U.S. government agency, held a top secret security clearance and had access to the agency’s network. He asked for $18,800 for the accounts, stating they were “top secret.” When asked what he would do if that foreign country was not interested in obtaining the U.S. government information he was offering, he stated he would offer the information to China, Iran or Venezuela, as he believed these countries would be interested in the information. On February 2, 2016, he pled guilty to one count of "attempted unauthorized access and intentional damage to a protected computer". In his guilty plea, he admitted scheming to cause damage to the computer network of the DOE through e-mails that he believed would deliver a computer virus to particular employees. He was incarcerated as inmate number 68974-112 and was released on July 15, 2016.