“Remember when you were a little kid and your mom would fawn over you before
you left the house; making sure your hair was combed, you had on a clean
shirt and there were no holes in your socks?
You may have hated it, but Mom knew what she was doing. She knew that how
you appeared to the world was important. She may have known deep down that
her little kid was a slob at heart, but she wasn’t about to let anyone find
out. Keeping up appearances was important to her.
Appearance is everything. Just ask those that run Major League Baseball. In
1919, it endured a major scandal when the Chicago White Sox were caught
throwing the World Series after being paid off by gamblers. MLB banned
eight White Sox players from the game for life and established a rule that
anyone even associating with known gamblers would face the same
castigation. And they were serious. Just ask Pete Rose.
The problem MLB officials were facing was appearances. They knew that if
the integrity of their game was to remain intact, they needed to maintain a
zero tolerance policy when it came to gambling. There could not even be an
appearance of impropriety (games being thrown) because even the slightest
amount of suspicion from the fans would ruin the sport forever.
This is a concept that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and, by extension,
Entergy, does not seem to understand.
As part of a safety review, the NRC asked Entergy, owners of the Indian
Point Nuclear Facility, to form an “independent” panel of industry experts
to perform the review of the plant. While it’s not exactly like having the
fox guard the henhouse, it’s not far off.
It’s a matter of credibility. Entergy hand selected each panelist and will
compensate them for their work. If this isn’t a conflict of interest, then
that concept doesn’t even exist. Most logical people would wonder, and
rightly so, if these panelists would be willing to bite the hand that is
Again, it all comes down to appearances. The panel that Entergy has
assembled is certainly an august body, a veritable who’s who in the nuclear
energy industry. We have no evidence that any member is or has engaged in
unethical behavior regarding this issue. But because of how this panel was
put together, there will always be the perception that something untoward
is afoot. Once there is an appearance of impropriety, then anything the
panel says or does will automatically be tainted with suspicion.
In fact, before the panel could even take its first, tentative steps this
week, people were already calling for its dissolution.
Manna Jo Green, the environmental director of Clearwater, told the panel
this: “Public policy would require a true independent safety analysis and I
don’t think this is, so I request that all of you consider resigning to
preserve your integrity.”
In other words, just by serving on the panel, says Green, these individuals
are risking their integrity.
The critics may be wrong. The panel may conduct itself with the utmost
integrity and do a thorough, unbiased safety assessment. But because so
much doubt lingers, we will truly never know. We need to be able to embrace
the veracity of their findings, or the panel is moot before it even begins.
Consequently, the NRC and Entergy need to go back to square one and take
the necessary steps to put together a truly independent panel that the
public can believe in.