House subcommittee holds hearing on NRC issues

September 9, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), today held a hearing on “Oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).”

The committee has a long tradition of conducting thoughtful oversight of the NRC, which is of utmost importance as the commission is responsible for licensing and regulating the nation’s nuclear reactors and nuclear material. Members stressed the importance of good regulation and outlined concerns with the increasing price of regulatory compliance associated with NRC rulemaking and activity.   

“Nuclear power generation faces strong economic challenges from low cost natural gas and minimal growth in electricity demand. On top of that, regulatory costs have doubled over the last decade, and I’m concerned that these increased compliance costs will further harm vital but economically distressed nuclear power plants. I’m hopeful the commission will take actions to limit the cumulative effects of regulation in cases where there is little to no additional safety benefit. The nuclear industry needs certainty from a reliable and efficient regulator,” said Chairman Shimkus.

Chairman Whitfield added, “The NRC’s reputation as the ‘gold standard’ nuclear regulator was established over the 40 years since its creation in 1975. However, proposed regulatory actions have threatened to deviate from the commission’s stated principles diminishing the commission’s credibility. In fact, Chairman Upton and I sent a letter expressing our concerns with the use of ‘qualitative factors’ by the NRC to justify rulemakings. I’m hopeful the NRC will work to improve the organization’s efficiency.”

Stephen Burns, Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission highlighted the commission’s desire to improve its regulatory process. He testified, “The commission is making a concerted effort to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its regulatory processes. The commission has recognized that it must be deliberate, judicious, and predictable when it comes to establishing new regulatory requirements.”

Chairman Shimkus also stressed the importance of proceeding with a permanent repository at Yucca Mountain following the recent release of two NRC reviews that show the Nevada repository can operate safely for one million years with negligible environmental impact. Shimkus said, “The NRC and Department of Energy must resume consideration of the Yucca Mountain license application and reach a final decision whether the site, as science has indicated, can store spent nuclear fuel safely.”