There Ought to Be a Law?

Share on facebook
Facebook 0
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn 0
Share on reddit
Reddit 0
Share on delicious
Share on digg
Share on stumbleupon
StumbleUpon 0
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Share on print



Sardonicus, otherwise known as commenter Jonathan, at his blog Sardonic Ex Curia, takes a look at the avalanche of criminal laws that transforms most of us, unknowingly, into unconvicted felons:

Consider the concept of “promulgation.” St. Thomas Aquinas stated in his Summa Theologica  defines the essence of law as an “ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.” Further regarding promulgation, Aquinas states  that “in order that a law obtain the binding force which is proper to a law, it must needs be applied to the men who have to be ruled by it. Such application is made by its being notified to them by promulgation.”  Aquinas takes his definitions from the Decretum of Gratian, published by Gratian in roughly 1139 (which is, of course, debated by scholars).

Reasonably, it seems to me that there are two concepts contained in the idea of “promulgation.” One is the act of making a law public, the other is the ability of the public to know and understand the law, the latter a function of the complexity of the law and the time to learn to adjust one’s behavior in accordance with the law. This occurred to me after reading the following passed, from James Madison in The Federalist, no. 62:

It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood: if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes, that no man who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.

As diverse authorities as Jeremy Bentham and Blackstone agree with the ideas behind this statement.

Obviously then, the American political tradition is replete with the necessity for promulgation, both by announcement and by permanence. Blackstone, a jurist much admired by the American founders, cites the following anecdote by Cassius Dio regarding Caligula in his own discussion of promulgation:

But when, after enacting severe laws in regard to the taxes, he inscribed them in exceedingly small letters on a tablet which he then hung up in a high place, so that it should be read by as few as possible and that many through ignorance of what was bidden or forbidden should lay themselves liable to the penalties provided….

The difficulty of the sheer number of federal crimes, as discussed above, is the average person’s ability to know them, or guide their behavior accordingly. (Note: for the purposes of this post, I am including statutes which produce fines, as well as imprisonment.) For example: in August of 2011, a girl, age 11, discovered that her cat was about to eat a baby woodpecker. In order to save the bird, she placed it in an empty cage. Traveling from her father’s to her mother’s house, she was confronted by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee in a Lowe’s with the bird, and the girl promised to release the bird. Two weeks after releasing it, the same employee showed up with a state trooper at the mother’s house, with a citation for the mother. She was summoned to court, ordered to pay a $535 fine for violating the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act; and she also potentially faced up to a year in prison. The Fish and Wildlife Service later cancelled the ticket and apologized.

In a less sanguine outcome, the Sacketts were a couple who purchased a lot near a lake in Idaho. They began grading the lot, but were suddenly ordered to cease by the Army Corp of Engineers, who claimed that a wetland was on the property, thus enabling the EPA to halt construction and demand that the Sacketts return the land to it’s prior state. The EPA refused to give the Sacketts a hearing, and asserted that the EPA could extract a daily $37,500 fine, or double, if the Sacketts refused to comply with the order. The case went to the Supreme Court on the sole issue of whether the EPA could prevent the Sacketts from suing the agency until the EPA decided otherwise. The Court decided 9-0 that the Sacketts could seek judicial remedy. The case is still ongoing, so the EPA may potentially be permitted to impose the penalty for failure to comply. The Sacketts claim that there was no way to know the land they purchased was subject to EPA jurisdiction.

These are by no means isolated incidents. They show what happens both when excessive numbers of laws are passed, and when people’s natural behavior becomes criminalized. In his notes on promulgation, Blackstone notes several ways that a law might be made known to people:

But the manner in which this notification is to be made, is matter of very great indifference. It may be notified by universal tradition and long practice, which supposes a previous publication, and is the case of the common law of England. It may be notified viva voce, by officers appointed for that purpose, as is done with regard to proclamations, and such acts of parliament as are appointed to be publicly read in churches and other assemblies. It may lastly be notified by writing, printing, or the like; which is the general course taken with all our acts of parliament. 

The enforcement of laws of which people cannot know, and which criminalizes behavior far removed from what seems criminal is problematic. Many great legal reformers have realized this, and both simplified laws and condensed the number of laws, so that the people might know them. Aquinas himself argues that a law which fails to be promulgated loses its force, saying:

Now a rule or measure is imposed by being applied to those who are to be ruled and measured by it. Wherefore, in order that a law obtain the binding force which is proper to a law, it must needs be applied to the men who have to be ruled by it. Such application is made by its being notified to them by promulgation. Wherefore promulgation is necessary for the law to obtain its force.

Go here to read the rest.  This is the product of living under a regulatory state where the law no longer is used only to punish what most would consider criminal activity, but also is used to regulate behavior where most people would be astounded to learn that criminal penalties attach.  Thus the law is transformed from a weapon to punish evil doers into a tool of harassment at the whim of Federal bureaucrats.  As we have seen from the misuse of the IRS under the current administration, this is an open invitation for regimes to punish and harass those who dare speak out against them.  How to correct this?  All Federal legislation with a criminal penalty should have a sun set provision of 5 years unless repassed by Congress and no regulation should have a criminal penalty attached to it, unless specifically passed by Congress.


More to explorer

Eating Their Own

  News that I missed, courtesy of The Babylon Bee:   WASHINGTON, D.C.—Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is busy celebrating her victory over the


  1. “…. no regulation should have a criminal penalty attached to it, unless specifically passed by Congress.”
    Congress is incapable of understanding these regulations and their necessity:
    Equally, DOT and FDA and FAA and other regulations designed to protect public health and safety when it comes to technology and engineering are beyond Congress’s capability to understand. You cannot just advocate an end to regulation without understanding the technology that requires the regulation. Otherwise, airplanes fall out of the sky, trains collide, patients are poisoned with bad medicine and nuclear power plants have accidents.

  2. “You cannot just advocate an end to regulation”

    Certainly if criminal penalties are attached it is not too much to expect that Congress approve it. If the criminal penalties make sense in a given situation they should pass without much debate.

  3. All Federal legislation with a criminal penalty should have a sun set provision of 5 years unless repassed by Congress and no regulation should have a criminal penalty attached to it, unless specifically passed by Congress.

    Amen, amen, AMEN. I’ve long ago figured out that the first sign of an honest liberal is one that will grant laws should be written with either sunset clauses or “fail out” clauses (“if _ happens, this law is null & void”). That’s at least a sign they realize laws can have unintended consequences and maybe should be undone if they turn out worse. Love this post, Don.

    Equally, DOT and FDA and FAA and other regulations designed to protect public health and safety when it comes to technology and engineering are beyond Congress’s capability to understand. You cannot just advocate an end to regulation without understanding the technology that requires the regulation. Otherwise, airplanes fall out of the sky, trains collide, patients are poisoned with bad medicine and nuclear power plants have accidents.

    LQC, your post makes no sense. First of all, I’m 99% sure that if we were to banish all regulations right now that planes flying wouldn’t suddenly halt and plummet. I believe it’s the laws of physics that keep them in the air, not the regulations of man.
    Second, if Congress has no ability to understand or grasp the regulations and how they work… how then does the regulation work at all? Is it just sheer dumb luck that congress has always – somehow – written effective rules?
    And where’s the evidence the regulations even work? Planes still fall, trains sometimes collide, and patients are poisoned (no idea about nuclear plants). If anything it seems like we can rely upon the regulation of the operators’ self-preservation and business sense to be just as effective as whatever rules might be written by a body your self admits really has no knowledge to draw from with which to be writing the rule in the first place.

  4. In early 2002 significant degradation of the reactor vessel head at the Davis Besse Nuclear Power Plant in Ohio was discovered.
    The Wikipedia entry provides a fairly accurate and good explanation. I will summarize: Because four people – engineers and supervisors – did not do their job in following the regulations, the only thing standing in the way of the atmosphere in containment and the fires of creation in the reactor core was a mere 3/8 inch thickness of stainless steel cladding.

    (I was working at the James FitzPatrick nuclear power plant at the time, and the nuclear industry underwent a pretty massive but unseen upheaval because of this event caused by an underwhelming minority of people who decided to take a shortcut around regulations. Here’s a fuller explanation:
    In March 2002, plant staff discovered that the borated water that serves as the reactor coolant had leaked from cracked control rod drive mechanisms directly above the reactor and eaten through more than six inches (150 mm) of the carbon steel reactor pressure vessel head over an area roughly the size of a football. This significant reactor head wastage on the interior of the reactor vessel head left only 3⁄8 inch (9.5 mm) of stainless steel cladding holding back the high-pressure (~2500 psi, 17 MPa) reactor coolant. A breach most likely would have resulted in a massive loss-of-coolant accident, in which reactor coolant would have jetted into the reactor’s containment building and resulted in emergency safety procedures to protect from core damage or meltdown. Because of the location of the reactor head damage, such a jet of reactor coolant might have damaged adjacent control rod drive mechanisms, hampering or preventing reactor shut-down. As part of the system reviews following the accident, significant safety issues were identified with other critical plant components, including the following:
    1. the containment sump that allows the reactor coolant to be reclaimed and reinjected into the reactor;
    2. the high pressure injection pumps that would reinject such reclaimed reactor coolant;
    3. the emergency diesel generator system;
    4. the containment air coolers that would remove heat from the containment building;
    5. reactor coolant isolation valves; and
    6. the plant’s electrical distribution system.
    The resulting corrective operational and system reviews and engineering changes took two years. Repairs and upgrades cost $600 million, and the Davis–Besse reactor was restarted in March 2004.
    The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) investigated and penalized the owner of the plant over safety and reporting violations related to the incident. The company paid $28 million in fines under a settlement with the DoJ. The NRC determined that this incident was the fifth-most dangerous nuclear incident in the United States since 1979, and imposed its largest fine ever —- more than $5 million —- against FirstEnergy for the actions that led to the corrosion.
    During the period when the corrosion was taking place undetected, Davis-Besse accumulated 5 million worker-hours without a lost-time accident. “Employees and managers at Davis-Besse have achieved this and other milestones by paying close attention to detail and striving for excellence in even minor daily activities. Because of this operating philosophy, Davis-Besse has been recognized within the nuclear industry as a top performing plant”
    Now consider this: why did the accident at Fukushima happen? Because TEPCO and the Japanese regulator were in bed with each other. Tsunami flooding of the air intakes of the emergency diesel generators that supplied electricity for emergency core cooling could have been avoided if the Japanese had the same regulations as us. They took a shortcut in where they located the diesels, and they ignored our post-TMI regulations. So when the inevitable tsunami happened, all hell broke loose. This was entirely avoidable by having the right regulation s and following them. Congress is incapable of understanding this. You need real scientists, real engineers to make these regulations.
    Why did Chernobyl happen? Because the Soviets ignored their own regulations, overrode the reactor protection system, violated their own test procedure, and started the emergency power test with control rods at an adverse position. I do not have time and space here to give all the technical details, nor can I distill 30 years of training and experience into a sound bite. The bottom line is this: politicians know zip point squat about science and engineering, and we have technologies today – nuclear, chemical, etc. – which if not properly regulated can cause massive impact on public health and safety. But if they are correctly regulated, then the benefit to mankind is without limit.

  5. To Nate: the proof that regulations – at least nuclear ones – work: no member of the public has been injured or has died as a result of 50 years of commercial operation of nuclear power olants in the US. None. Zero. Zip point squat. One cannot say the same for the airline industry.

  6. To Nate: the proof that regulations – at least nuclear ones – work: no member of the public has been injured or has died as a result of 50 years of commercial operation of nuclear power olants in the US. None. Zero. Zip point squat. One cannot say the same for the airline industry.

    Again, you’re not making any sense. 1) The airline industry, has regulations so… your proof is invalid. 2) You just admitted THREE TIMES in the previous comment that regulations don’t work:

    did not do their job in following the regulations

    TEPCO and the Japanese regulator were in bed with each other

    Soviets ignored their own regulations

    Are you perhaps confusing the difference between a government regulation and industry standards/guidelines?

  7. If there were no regulations for the airline industry then the rate at which fatalities happen would be far far greater than what it is now

  8. If there were no regulations for the airline industry then the rate at which fatalities happen would be far far greater than what it is now

    Because airlines prefer to lose repeat customers, new customers, and to have to purchase new planes & recruit new crew?

    How exactly do you expect those airlines to stay in business?

  9. Wouldn’t it be possible to both make it so that no regulation is allowed to have criminal penalties without it being approved by congress, and not basically yell “hey, no regulations matter!”, by punishing the bad results using existing law (ie, negligence, actual harm caused, etc) and having regulatory consequences for breaking regulations, such as the regulating authority suspending your license?
    This would both fulfill what I understand to be the reason for “regulatory agencies”– regulating an industry that can’t reasonably be managed with normal laws– and prevent the really dumb abuses like “harassing a girl for saving an endangered bird” or “claiming someone’s man-made water display is navigable waters.”

  10. Pilots are licensed. Nuclear reactor operators are licensed. Owners of property are not licensed. I think we can work out against whom complex, unknowable-by-the-non-professional regulations should apply, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.

    Try again.

  11. I have been trying to think of the best way to respond to those ignorant of technical regulations, codes and standards, and fankly, I have neither the desire nor the time to distill 30 years of working in a regulated environment to those who lack the knowledge, skill and technical expertise to understand. Instead, I am going to return to work. I am going to follow the regulations that ensure your health and safety while supplying you with clean, pollution free electricity via a process whose science and engineering you do not and cannot understand. Am I an arrogant filius canis? Perhaps. But I will do my job and obey the regs because that is what a professional in my industry does instead of whining that “it’s too heavy, too high, too hot, too hard” – the 4H club of selfish demand for licesnse to do what one wants with neither responsibility nor accountability. Period. I have nothing more on this topic to say. Convincing the invinciably ignorant isn’t worth my frustration. Bye.

  12. LQC, I’m glad you work, I was just a little shocked at the earlier revelation that you apparently are always on the verge of reducing us all to living in a nuclear wasteland if it wasn’t for government regulations. I had always assumed far better about you.
    Or it could be that you are confusing a call to eliminate regulation with a call to eliminate standards – apparently because you still buy into the leftist paradigm that if the government doesn’t approve it, it doesn’t exist or isn’t done. But of course a moments reflection will reveal the nonsense of that. Do moms avoid poisoning their children and cooking them wholesome meals because they follow the regulations of restaurant kitchens? Is your yard a slovenly mess because you don’t heed the EPA’s rules?
    Heck you outright started by pointing out Congress is too dumb to write anything meaningful towards highly technical fields. Then proceeded to claim they were responsible for keeping “planes in the air.” Now I’m guessing you were eventually going to try and explain how professionals in the field write the regulations but then that just circles around back to my ultimate point: if professionals in your field, are writing the rules for the other professionals in your field to work by . . . why do you need Congress at all? Why not just cut out the middle man?
    Learn to think outside the Left’s paradigm.

  13. LQC makes some good points. Which is why we should all be concerned when bad regulation, like bad money, drives out good.

    I’d start by eliminating the right of government employees to unionize. If FDR, of all people, thought government employee unions were a bad idea, then they must be a really, really bad idea. I’d severely curtail civil service protections as well.

  14. Corruptissima Republica Plurimae Leges. LQC makes a valid point, drawn from his profession, and who dares refute it? Not I the retired building official but I can say that building codes would much benefit from the application of Ockham’s Razor. Madison’s remarks in the Federalist No. 62 very much applies to our quite corrupted republic. That the just man sins seven times a day is due to our common flaws but that the good citizen can break three laws a day is due to our flawed and oppressive administrative dictatorship.

  15. Aww, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, you’re just mad ’cause we aren’t ignorant and that crushes your preferred narrative. Unlike you, we know and understand the difference between an 11-year old girl who is trying to save a wounded bird, owners of a parcel of vacation property, and a nuclear reactor operator at the controls of powerful, immediately dangerous machinery. Duh.


  16. Hey now, LQC is generally a fair enough sort, and should be corrected out of his blind spot, not mocked for it (lest ye find yourself mocked when thine own blind spot is uncovered).

  17. Amici,
    I wasn’t going to comment on this topic again, but maybe I should. First, I too should not disparage my detractors. My sincerest apologies. However, when it comes to highly technical engineering fields of endeavor, people are generally ignorant, which literally means without knowledge.
    First, I totally agree that regulating a little girl’s rescue of a bird which is a member of an endangered species is clearly regulatory overreach and completely ridiculous – just as ludicrous as regulating the lemonade stand run by two little boys in the neighborhood out of what pitiful existence it has.
    Second, certain regulatory agencies such as the EPA and the FCC are out of control and need to be reigned in by Congress. When the EPA regulates coal fired power plants out of existence because the climate change hype, but cannot prevent a mine from leaking toxic chemicals into the waterway system, then the bureaucrats running it needs to be summarily dismissed. When the FCC seeks to limit freedom of discourse on the internet, then it needs recalibration as to its mission in life by the appropriate congressional oversight committee.
    That all said, there are regulatory agencies which provide vast benefit for public health and safety: FAA, NRC, FDA and similar ones. Since I am familiar (quite intimately) with the NRC, I will deal with that one.
    I have met and worked with many inspectors from the US NRC during the past 30+ years of my employment as a nuclear professional. Every single inspector whom I have met was a model of decorum and professionalism and ethics. Their goal was always, everywhere and everytime public health and safety. They demanded unflinching obedience to regulation, and they accepted no gifts or services from those whom they regulated. In fact, if there were a day long meeting between plant staff and NRC representatives, the NRC people would make arrangements for their own food. They accepted nothing from the utility.
    The only time I have seen a problem with the NRC was under Barack Hussein Obama when he appointed anti-nuke Gregory Jackzo as Chairman. Not even that adulterer Clinton $crewed with the NRC as Obama has. Under him the NRC began to be polluted with liberal progressive adherents of the precautionary principle. Friends who were employed in the NRC would complain (albeit privately) about the adverse direction the NRC was taking. Fortunately, after Jaczko’s abuse of women employees in the NRC was made public (another Democrat abusing women – oh what a surprise!), he was made to resign (an embarrassment to Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012). Some semplance of sanity has since returned to the Commission.
    Now I recall what things were like just after the TMI accident in the nuclear industry in 79. There was no training of non-licensed plant staff (like engineers, technicians, etc). Only operators got training. And procedures for working on anything non-safety-related were non-existent. And there was no regulation of working hours and fitness for duty. That all changed for the better. The NRC required the industry to create its own watch dog group – the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations – which in turn created the National Academy for Nuclear Training, and that began the whole training program through the 100+ reactors in the US for non-licensed plant staff. Because of that, I eventually became certified as an Instrumentation and Controls and an Engineering Support Training Instructor. Procedures for everything got written so that when people when out in the plant, mistakes were avoided and equipment up-time increased. And working hours got limited so that the utility could no longer slave drive people to get stuff done. And people were now limited to working no more than 16 hours every 24 hours, no more than 24 hours every 48 hours, and no more than 72 hours in any rolling 7 day period without special dispensation from on high, and that dispension was always monitored by the Regulator. Life got bearable.
    One other thing: mandatory drug testing and alcohol abuse programs got set up in this time period. I was caught as a violator because of my drinking and drugging, and got sent to the rehab and AA – thank God for regulation because it saved my life!
    What was the upside of all these regs? Well, capacity factor of nukes in the 80s was in the toilet at 70 to 80%. By the late 90s we were up to 92+% capacity factor and have been ever since – better than coal, gas, oil, or anything else. And what happened to industrial safety accident rate? The lowest in all of energy at 0.04 deaths per terawatt year, compared to coal at 15 deaths per terawatt year in the US, oil at 36 deaths per terawatt year, natural gas at 4 deaths per terawatt year, solar at 0.44 deaths per terawatt year and wind at 0.15 deaths per terawatt year. Intelligent regulation helped to do this.
    Now as for the NRC, every year the five members (now four – there is a vacancy) have to testify before various subcommittes in Congress and the Senate: air and water, energy, etc. The proceedings of these conferences are published at the web site of the US NRC, the House of Representatives and the Senate for all to see. Congressional oversight is continuous, intense and never ending.
    Additionally, the NRC publishes events at nuclear facilities on its web site every day. I don’t have time to give web links to all this stuff, but a plant cannot burp an exhaust from an emergency diesel during a routine test, or drop a test tube sample of reactor coolant without it being reported and monitored. The same is true of medical staff at hospitals who use radioactive sources or radiological equipment. Did you know that fully 30% of all NRC reportable events happen at hospitals by doctors who don’t know $h1t about radiation? Did you know that it was the NRC who put tthe kibash on Dr Kao at the Dept of Veterans Administration for overdosing patients, misusing radioactive sources, and even dropping a radioactive source on someone’s a$$? The NRC put a stop to that crap, not anti-nuke Bernie Sanders who headed the senate committee on VA affairs!
    One last thing before I stop my rant. Recently the staff in the NRC (polluted by liberal idiocy from Obama’s Jackzo) wanted the Commission to approve IEEE Std 603-2009, IEEE Standard Criteria for Safety Systems for Nuclear Power Generating Stations. The way in which this was going to be approved with all the additions of restrictions the staff was proposing would have $crewed us in the digital instrumentation and cotnrols world – no more digital upgrades. So the Comissioners (three of four) said no, go back to the drawing board and come up with a different plan in 90 days. Except for Commissioner Baran who is Iranian (you just got to understand whom Obama appoints – keep track of what’s going on, folks!), the Commission put a stop to irrational regulation.
    So the next time somone says no more regulation, my response is, “Do you want another Chalk River? Another TMI? Another Chernobyl? Another Fukushima?” As much as I curse the NRC on a daily basis, what those guys and girls do is for the most part pretty damn awesome. The only time there has been a problem is when Obama gets his finger stuck in the works.

  18. LQC, I don’t think you’re quite following here.

    Why does the NRC need to be a government entity? Why can’t it be a private entity like Underwriters Laboratories (they approve electronic & appliance safety)?

  19. Nate and LQC,
    Maybe I can referee. Go to a neutral corner.
    I think a distinction needs to be drawn between a public utility (universal, vital, and dangerous – in the nuclear realm) and all other activities. The former needs to be highly regulated. The latter does not.
    Now, come out swinging.
    PS: Banking is a highly-regulated industry. However, regulation didn’t prevent the subprime mortgage crisis/great recession and won’t prevent the insipient commercial catastrophe.
    PPS: The Fed was instituted to provide an elastic money supply and make extinct the business cycle. It continuously seizes more financial power over our economic lives despite its 100+ year record of constant failure.

  20. Nate,
    It simply doesn’t work that way. We have an industry watchdog called the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations created out the aftermath of TMI. The NRC gave it the job of overseeing training for non-licensed plant staff and for collecting and monitoring operating experience. It does a good job as far as those things go. But during an INPO visit to a site, it’s all about dancing with and pleasing the INPO people. I have seen INPO 1 plants suddenly go down the tubes because non-compliances were hidden so long as the INPO people were wined and dined – hey, that was Davis Besse before the hole in the reactor vessel head! A true regulator has to have the force of law behind him and self-policing doesn’t do that. Remember I talked about Dr Kao who dropped a radioactive source on someone’s a$$? Or in a previous comment I talked about those engineers at Davis Besse who said they inspected the reactor vessel head for boric acid corrosion, but they hadn’t and there was a football size hole in 6 inches of low alloy carbon steel? The NRC has the power to pursue civil penalties against the VA or the utility, and to enact and collect punitive fines, and it can (and sometimes does) refer a person to the Dept of Justice for more punitive action. Organiizations like INPO cannot do any of those things. Self-policing has benefits and the nuke industry does that. But an independent regulator answerable to Congress is the key. That’s how every other country is doing it, even the UAE which is now building four APR-1400s from South Korea. Where there was failure was in countries like Japan where there was too much collusion between the regulator and TEPCO, so they ignored where they should have located the emergency diesel generators to prevent water flooding of their air intakes on a tsunami. When the inevitable tsunami happened, the air intakes got flooded, the diesels were lost, the backup batteries died after 7 hours, and the electronic controller for the governor of the Reactor Core Isolation Cooling Pump Turbine lost power, and the turbine governor valve shut, and the turbine stopped, and the pump stopped, and the cooling water stopped flowing, and the core overheated, and you know the rest. All avoidable by having an independent regulator saying: “Put those diesels where they won’t be flooded or shut the heck down.” No industry watch dog group has the power to force a shut down.
    The regulator therefore cannot be an industry self-policing watch dog. It’s got to be independent of the industry being regulated and answerable to elected government legislators. In the US system the President appoints members of the 5 person commission – two have to be from the majority party and two from the minority. The members have to be confirmed by the Senate. And every year the members have to report to Congressional subcommittees on air and water, and on energy. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commissionis a little different, but like the NRC completely independent. So is the United Kingdom Office of Nuclear Regulation. And Japan finally created its Nuclear Regulation Authority – about time!
    Now try goggling and see how far you get in seeing what’s going on with the nuclear industry watch dog group. It’s all hidden from the public. Then go to and everything is revealed (well, you got to know how to use the web site – tons of stuff). I can show you Dr. Kao’s enforcement action: Just click on the IAORDER and read. No self-policing industry watchdog group would every do that. You $crew up and deliberately violate regs, you better be able to hire a good lawyer like Donald McClarey, otherwise you are doomed and rightly so.
    PS, remember this the next time your doctor wants to use radioactivity for some sort of test on you – he’s being watched for your own health and safety, and he should be.
    PPS, I explained to my sister a nurse the fitness for duty working hour limits for nuke workers, and she said the medical industry would do well to have the same regs. The FDA still has to get its $h1t together.

  21. PS, I agree with what T Shaw wrote. Banking regs seem pretty useless. But regs for medicine, airlines, railroads, nuke plants, petrochemical facilities, hydroelectric dams, etc. are necessary.

  22. Amici,
    I apologize if I belabor a point, but I just came across the following letter from the US NRC to management at the Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (a federal government agency estabished by FDR in the 1930s to provide electrification of the rural southeast of the United States):
    This letter chastises TVA management for fostering a chilled work environment among the operators in the control room at the nuclear power plant. In other words, TVA management pressured operators about raising safety concerns. This prioritzed schedule and production of electricity ahead of safety – always verbotten. As it so happened, no actual safety violation occurred, but that isn’t the point. Rather, control room operators – the first line of defense – were chilled from raising safety concerns.
    Imagine if you will the nurse caring for you in a hospital or the technician performing maintenance on the plane which you are about to board or the railroad engineer on the train carrying toxic ammonia or chlorine just a mile away from your housing development is chilled from raising a safety concern to the authorities. This is NOT unique to nuclear power and it affects all manner of industries: medical, airlines, rail, petrochemical, hydroelectric dams, natural gas fired electric plants, trucking, etc. Google “Lac-Megantic Rail Disaster” if you think otherwise. And this is one more reason why there has to be independent federal regulators with the power of the law behind them to enforce safety. They have to be federal because mishaps and accidents can cross state lines or have impacts in multiple states (or countries, which is why there is an International Atomic Energy Agency with which the US NRC works), and they have to be government so as to be independent of the industry being monitored.
    Now I work in a nuclear company (as almost everyone here knows). In fact, I have worked in nuclear energy since 1976 when I went in the US Navy and became a submarine reactor operator (which means that I am an old, cantankerous fart). Regulations are part and parcel of my daily existence. We nuclear professionals live and breathe regulations, and believe me that you want us to so live and breathe (you would want the same for railroad engineers and doctors and aircraft technicians, too). I would further bet that next Tuesday when we have our weekly safety briefing at 09:30 am this letter from the US NRC to TVA Management will be read to us by our management. My company takes Safety Conscious Work Environment very seriously. Why? We don’t want the publicity that this letter gives TVA Management. Indeed, if you simply go to the main web page of the US NRC, then you will see a link to this letter right at Anyone who pays TVA for his home electric bill now knows what kind of management that organization has, and nothing stimulates corrective action better than loss of money and bad publicity (unless of course you’re a Clinton or a Trump, but that’s a horse of a different color).
    I will however, before I end, put a caveat on this: regulation should be for public health and safety, NOT for regulating the rescue of an endangered avian species by a little girl. And as for banking regulations, I defer to T Shaw. Regulations for that industry should be simple: “Thou shalt not steal.” Oh wait, there already is one – along with nine others! 😉
    But back to my point: Government’s job is the common defense, including defending public health and safety. That’s where regulation belongs along with appropriate Congressional oversight. Oh to be a fly on the wall when TVA has to do its report to the Congressional Subcommittte on Water Resources and Environment, and explain this letter – maybe when the meeting minutes come out, I will remember to post them. 😉 Yes, folks, I keep track of stuff like this. You should, too (especially if you pay an electric bill or visit a doctor or ride a plane or live near railroad tracks).

Comments are closed.