U.S. Nuclear Inspectors Still Working, NRC Shut Down

The agency's chairman said carryover funds are exhausted, and the agency cannot function without a new appropriation.

The nation's nuclear power plants will still be inspected, but the rest of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is down for the count. "Despite our best hopes, the NRC on Thursday will be joining the rest of the federal government in shutting down due to a lapse in appropriations. I believe we all share a deep disappointment that this action has become necessary," Allison Macfarlane, the agency's chairman, said in a statement posted Oct. 9.

She wrote that carryover funds "have now been depleted," and as of Oct. 10, "we will not conduct non-emergency reactor licensing, reactor license renewal amendments, emergency preparedness exercises, reviews of design certifications, or rulemaking and regulatory guidance. Also suspended for now will be routine licensing and inspection of nuclear materials and waste licensees, Agreement State support, and rulemakings, including Waste Confidence. This is just a short list of the actions we are prohibited from performing under Anti-deficiency Act restrictions. Let me stress, however, that all of our resident inspectors will remain on the job and any immediate safety or security matters will be handled with dispatch. We can — and will without hesitation — bring employees out of furlough to respond to an emergency. We must, in this regard, err on the side of safety and security."

"Finally, the shutdown will negatively impact our ability to be transparent," Macfarlane wrote. "The NRC website will remain available to the public, but it will not be updated until we return fully to work. In addition, routine press releases, meeting notices, plant status and event reports, or other information will not be available. The backlog of normally reportable information will be posted to the website once we are again fully functioning. Updates on the NRC status and the status of upcoming meetings will however continue to be made here, on the NRC blog, and via Twitter."

She also reported NRC's Inspector General's office "will also be fully functional."

"Some people are confused about why the lapse of appropriations is affecting the NRC when we collect fees for 90 percent 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 U.S. Treasury, and the Congress provides us an appropriation. We are mindful of the impact the shutdown will have on the public, our licensees, our staff, and contractors and others who count on us. We are a proud agency with a serious, important mission and talented, dedicated people who make that mission a reality every day. The NRC staff deserves an enormous amount of credit for continuing to fulfill its normal responsibilities for the past week under very challenging circumstances," Macfarlane wrote. "We hope this interruption is as brief as possible and we look forward to being back at our desks, hard at work, doing what we do best here at the NRC in service to the nation."

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