Joint House hearing examines Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversight

The Subcommittee on Energy and Power and the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy held a joint hearing this week to discuss oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The efficiency of the commission is of particular importance to the Energy and Power Subcommittee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY). The NRC is  responsible for licensing and regulating the nation’s nuclear reactors and materials.

“The NRC’s reputation as the gold-standard nuclear regulator was established over the 40 years since its creation in 1975,” Whitfield said. “However, proposed regulatory actions have threatened to deviate from the commission’s stated principles, diminishing the commission’s credibility. In fact, (Energy and Commerce Committee) Chairman (Fred) Upton (R-MI) and I sent a letter expressing our concerns with the use of qualitative factors by the NRC to justify rulemakings. I’m hopeful the NRC will work to improve the organization’s efficiency.”

During the hearing, legislators stressed the need for sound regulatory policies and outlined concerns with the increasing price of regulatory compliance associated with NRC rulemaking and activity.

“Nuclear power generation faces strong economic challenges, from low-cost natural gas to minimal growth in electricity demand,” John Shimkus (R-IL), chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, said. “On top of that, regulatory costs have doubled over the last decade, and I’m concerned that these increased compliance costs will further harm vital, but economically distressed, nuclear power plants. I’m hopeful the commission will take actions to limit the cumulative effects of regulation in cases where there is little to no additional safety benefit. The nuclear industry needs certainty from a reliable and efficient regulator.”