NRC furloughs start Thursday, Oct. 10

After using unspent ‘carryover’ funds to keep its offices open nearly two weeks into the ongoing federal shutdown, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will furlough most of its employees starting Oct. 10.

NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane made the announcement via the NRC blog Oct. 9.

“Despite our best hopes, the NRC on Thursday will be joining the rest of the federal government in shutting down due to a lapse in appropriations,” Macfarlane said. “I believe we all share a deep disappointment that this action has become necessary,” she added.

“Wednesday [Oct. 9] is the last full day that the NRC will be operating normally until we receive an appropriation. Beginning on Thursday, we will not conduct non-emergency reactor licensing, reactor license renewal amendments, emergency preparedness exercises, reviews of design certifications or rulemaking and regulatory guidance,” Macfarlane wrote.

Also suspended for now will be routine licensing and inspection of nuclear materials and waste licensees, and rulemakings, including Waste Confidence. “This is just a short list of the actions we are prohibited from performing under Anti-deficiency Act restrictions,” Macfarlane said.

“Let me stress, however, that all of our resident inspectors will remain on the job and any immediate safety or security matters will be handled with dispatch. We can — and will without hesitation — bring employees out of furlough to respond to an emergency. We must, in this regard, err on the side of safety and security,” Macfarlane added.

While the NRC website will remain available, it will not be updated until NRC returns to work. In addition, routine press releases, meeting notices, plant status and event reports, or other information will not be available. The backlog of normally reportable information will be posted to the website once we are again fully functioning, the chairman said.

Some NRC updates will be available through the NRC blog, she added.

“Some people are confused about why the lapse of appropriations is affecting the NRC when we collect fees for 90 percent of our budget. The bottom line is this: the NRC is not funded directly by the fees we collect. Fees collected by the NRC must be deposited in the U.S. Treasury, and the Congress provides us an appropriation,” Macfarlane said.

The NRC chairman said she hoped the interruption proves to be as brief as possible.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) is believed to be in a similar situation to NRC, although an EIA spokesman said Oct. 9 that he currently expects usual daily reports to continue to come out through Friday Oct. 11.

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Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at