Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Stephen G. Burns said Nov. 1 that the nuclear watchdog is effectively reducing its staff headcount.
NRC has been under pressure by congressional Republicans to reduce its payroll given that the surge in building new nuclear reactors, which had been envisioned a decade ago before the shale gas boom, has never materialized.
“Meanwhile, the Commission has been taking a hard look at overhead resources, especially in the corporate support areas, reducing both FTE [full-time equivalent staff positions] and contract dollars,” Burns said in a speech to the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) in Georgia.
“Buy out/early outs have been offered and accepted, the NRC is now in alignment with how other federal agencies treat support costs and we’ve severely curtailed external hiring,” Burns said.
“We set a goal of an FTE ceiling of 3600 by the end of fiscal 2016 – Sept. 30th, not counting the OIG [Office of Inspector General],” Burns said. “We’ve already exceeded that goal by some 120 FTE,” he added.
Subsequent to the Burns speech, an NRC spokesperson informed GenerationHub that the regulator’s official headcount was 3,367 employees (not counting OIG) at the start of FY 2017 on Oct. 1.
Burns also briefly addressed new nuclear plant applications during the INPO speech.
Burns said that since he became chairman in January 2015, NRC has issued combined construction and operating licenses (COLs) to DTE Energy (NYSE:DTE) for Fermi 3; the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Co. for new units at South Texas Project and Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) Levy County.
“Since I last was here, the drumbeat for small modular and advanced reactors has gotten louder,” Burns said. “Within available resources, the NRC staff is pursuing a multi-part strategy to prepare for efficient and timely reviews of non-light-water reactor technologies. The strategy was presented to the Commission in June and was open for public comment through early September. We expect the final document to be issued by the end of the year – so stay tuned.”
NRC has also approved the commencement of a rulemaking on emergency preparedness for small modular reactors, Burns said.