Lawmakers Concerned about NRC's Heavy Workload

Reps. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-LA), Joe Barton (R-TX) and James Greenwood (R-PA) are seeking assurances from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that it has enough resources to adequately address its current workload, as well as any additional regulatory activities that are likely to come the agency's way, going forward.

"We are writing to you regarding our concerns with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's ability to respond to the significant increase in licensing activities at operating nuclear power reactors, as well as potential future licensing activities associated with applications for new site permits and new reactor licenses," the three lawmakers wrote in an April 26 letter to NRC Chairman Richard A. Meserve. All three members sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Tauzin serves as the committee's chairman.

The lawmakers noted in the letter that they have asked committee staff to conduct a detailed evaluation of the NRC's current resources, fiscal year 2002 budget request and future plans for dealing with the agency's new workload. "Although the committee's review is not complete, we would like to share with you some of the initial findings that are of concern to us," the lawmakers wrote.

Turning first to nuclear licensing activities, Tauzin, Greenwood and Barton said it is apparent that the number of power uprate applications, license transfer applications, license renewal applications and pre-application interactions for new licenses received by the NRC this year "was well beyond the number anticipated." They highlighted the fact that although the NRC has no planned budget for new licensing activities, the agency has had to create a future licensing organization within its office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. Such a move, the lawmakers note, was spurred by several requests from the nuclear industry to start reviewing next generation technologies.

The lawmakers also said that the committee wants a better understanding of the regulatory, research, licensing and other activities that will be delayed as a result of resource constraints the NRC is experiencing this year. Also, Tauzin, Greenwood and Barton said they are concerned that the agency's fiscal year 2002 budget request does not include a request for funds to support license and research activities toward new nuclear plant technologies or early site approvals, among other things. They asked the NRC to provide them with a briefing to discuss the issues detailed in the letter, as well as the agency's plans to respond to emerging work for potential new license applications.

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