America's budgetary crisis has hit the country's nuclear safety regulator, which will cease non-essential work from today until its industry-collected funding is allowed to flow from federal budgets.
|Safely shut down: NRC offices in Washington DC
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is 90% funded by fees collected from nuclear operators, but this is held by the US Treasury and has to be appropriated back to the NRC by Congress. With political deadlock over the federal budget in Congress, there has been a progressive shutdown of US government departments.
US trade group the Nuclear Energy Institute was among 251 organizations that signed a letter sent by the US Chamber of Commerce to Congress on 30 September urging it to pass a resolution that could have avoided the shutdown that began on 1 October.
The NRC was able to continue normal operations for ten days on a small excess of funds from last year, but chairman Allison Macfarlane said that from today the commission would not conduct non-emergency work such as "reactor licensing, reactor licence renewal amendments, emergency preparedness exercises, reviews of design certifications and regulatory guidance." Also suspended would be "routine licensing and inspection of nuclear materials and waste licensees" among other things.
All but about 300 of the NRC's 3900 employees will be idle during the shutdown. Inspectors stationed at nuclear power plants will continue working, as will those staff that would be required in case of emergency, while more staff are available for recall should such a situation occur.
The NRC said: "Some people are confused about why the lapse of appropriations is affecting the NRC when we collect fees [from industry] for 90% 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 US Treasury and Congress provides us an appropriation."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News