NRC’s FY 2015 accountability report gives snapshot of nuclear regulator

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has released its Performance and Accountability Report for Fiscal Year 2015, which finds that the nuclear regulator met key performance goals for the 12 months that end Sept. 30.

The 180-page report covers Oct. 1, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2015. The agency has two strategic goals: safety and security. The agency achieved both of those goals and met all of its performance indicator targets in FY 2015, NRC said Nov. 17.

“This report shows the NRC staff’s steadfast commitment to meeting the agency’s safety and security goals,” NRC Chairman Stephen Burns said in a news release. “At the same time, we continue to do all we can to manage our resources efficiently and effectively.”

The agency is in a sound financial position, having sufficient funds to meet programmatic needs and adequate control of these funds in place. The agency received an unmodified audit opinion on its financial statements from its auditors, with no instances of noncompliance with laws and regulations, according to the report.

NRC’s budget for FY 2015 was a little over $1bn with the full-time equivalent of 3,778 staff positions. NRC has also rolled out a “vision” plan to reduce its workforce. That’s in part to satisfy congressional critics who note that the torrent of new nuclear plant applications expected a decade ago never materialized.

The commission has agreed to set a target staffing level of 3,600 positions by Sept. 30, 2016.

The NRC’s headquarters is located in Rockville, Md. The NRC has an Operations Center in the headquarters building. As part of agency efforts to reduce its footprint, the NRC completed various office moves to support consolidation of headquarters staff at the three-building White Flint North complex.

The agency also has four regional offices located in King of Prussia, PA; Atlanta, GA; Lisle, IL; and Arlington, Texas.

The NRC is primarily supported by fees collected from its licensees. The agency collected $885.3m (approximately 90%) of its budget for FY 2015 from licensees, with the remaining funds provided by the U.S. Treasury.

The NRC performs five principle regulatory functions: developing regulations and guidance for applicants and licensees; licensing or certifying applicants to use nuclear materials, operate nuclear facilities, construct new nuclear facilities, and decommissioning facilities; inspecting and assessing licensee operations and facilities to ensure that licensees comply with NRC requirements and taking appropriate follow-up or enforcement actions when necessary; evaluating operational experience of license facilities and activities; and conducting research, holding hearings, and obtaining independent reviews to support regulatory decisions.

The NRC is responsible for regulating all aspects of the civilian nuclear industry. The industry can best be described by examining the nuclear material cycle. This extends from the mining and production of nuclear fuel to the transportation and storage of spent nuclear fuel and other nuclear waste.

The agency inspects all facilities that it licenses on a regular basis. NRC specialists conduct 10 to 25 routine inspections each year at each of the 99 operating nuclear power plants.

The NRC’s efforts to implement the lessons learned from the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident in March 2011 continued during FY 2015.

The agency oversaw implementation of new requirements to address hazards such as earthquakes and flooding. The NRC has also been using the insights from Fukushima to inform its licensing and oversight activities.

In addition, the agency oversees approximately 2,800 licenses for medical, academic, industrial, and general uses of nuclear materials. The agency conducts approximately 1,000 health and safety inspections of its nuclear materials licensees annually.

The NRC has developed an oversight program for cyber-security that includes an inspection program, inspector training, and a process for evaluating the significance of inspection findings. This was accomplished collaboratively with stakeholders, including members of industry and representatives from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The report also offers a brief summary of Inspector General Assessment reports of certain NRC programs and management challenges.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
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 wayneb@pennwell.com.