US NRC could shrink by 10% in five years, says report

19 February 2015

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) could be about 10% smaller in 2020 on a "declining interest" in nuclear power in the USA. The projection is contained in the Project Aim 2020 report the agency released yesterday.

That would mean an NRC workforce of about 3400 employees compared with 3677 projected for fiscal year 2015 and 3976 employees at the height of the agency's expansion in financial year 2010.

"The NRC expanded over the past decade, anticipating a wave of new reactor licence and other applications. Changing economic conditions, especially reduced prices for natural gas, led to declining interest in constructing new nuclear plants," the NRC said in a statement to accompany the report.

Project Aim 2020 was established last June and was supported by Mark Satorius, the NRC's executive director for operations, and Maureen Wylie, the agency's chief financial officer.

The Project Aim 2020 team conducted outreach to external parties, other federal agencies, the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), and Chapter 208 of the National Treasury Employees Union. The team performed an analysis comparing the current state of the agency and the challenges and trends the agency may need to face between now and 2020. The analysis included interviews with senior NRC managers and 23 focus groups of staff members. It yielded more than 2000 suggestions, strategies and observations the team used to formulate its report.

Further evaluation of the report by NAPA is expected in March. The NRC will provide a report to Congress in May.

The report is a "staff-developed look at the agency's future designed to improve the agency's agility, effectiveness and efficiency while ensuring its ability to protect the public health and safety," the NRC said.

It identifies 17 recommended strategies under the themes of people, planning, and process to prepare NRC for the future, which it proposes implementing during the next couple of years.

The NRC needs to function more efficiently by: "right-sizing" itself to retain appropriate skill sets needed to accomplish its mission; streamlining agency processes to use resources more wisely; improving timeliness in regulatory decision making and responding quickly to changing conditions; and promoting unity of purpose with clearer agency-wide priorities.

NRC chairman Stephen Burns said: "This study gives us a starting point for our Commission discussions about how to position the agency for a different environment and different challenges. We will start that dialogue, but I want to be clear about one thing - in determining the size of this agency in the future we will not take any step that would compromise our mission of protecting the American people and our environment."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News