The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)’s proposed $970.2m Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 operations budget to regulate the nation’s nuclear power plants and radioactive materials users is down nearly $20m from FY 2016’s spending levels.
This continues a steady decline in both spending and staffing, the NRC said in a Feb. 9 news release. The budget is down 8% since 2014. The proposed budget for the Office of the Inspector General is an additional $12.1m.
Whether the budget proposal is slim enough to satisfy congressional Republicans, who frequently say that NRC’s staffing and funding levels remain bloated given the scant number of new nuclear plant applications now before NRC.
“This budget recognizes the changing environment in the nuclear industry and reflects the considerable steps taken by the NRC to become more efficient, while still meeting our obligation to protect public health and safety,” said NRC Chairman Stephen Burns. He said that the agency used a variety of cost-saving approaches to pare the budget back well below the previous year.
Since the NRC recovers approximately 90% of its budget from licensee fees, which are sent directly to the Treasury, the resulting net appropriation request is $121m.
The NRC’s budget submission for operations was boosted by $5m for work to develop the regulatory infrastructure for advanced reactor technologies in support of President Obama’s Mission Innovation program. The $5m is not included in the amount recouped by licensing fees.
The FY 2017 operations budget funds 3,462 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, a decline of 90 FTE from the FY 2016 budget and 280 FTE since 2014. This year’s decline is due to a number of initiatives to improve the efficiency of agency operations, including the centralization of corporate functions and merger of two program offices.
Before issuance of the FY 2017 budget, as part of agency initiatives to become more efficient and as a result of the 2016 appropriation, NRC was able to reduce spending by $30.1m. This will likely result in a reduction to the recovery of nuclear reactors and materials licensee fees, NRC said.
Project Aim, the NRC’s realignment effort, will ensure the agency has the right resource levels and workforce staffing to conduct its future work. The goal is to improve the NRC’s effectiveness, efficiency and agility. The FY 2017 budget incorporates some Project Aim recommendations and the Commission is considering a variety of other further potential efficiencies from the effort, NRC said.
During FY 2017, NRC plans to continue to address the lessons learned from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in Japan. It will also review three new reactor combined operating licenses (North Anna, Turkey Point, and Bell Bend). NRC will also review new reactor design applications from GE-Hitachi and Toshiba. NRC also expects to receive one early site permit application from Blue Castle.