406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room

James M. Inhofe


Statement of Sen. James M. Inhofe

FY 2016 Budget Request for Nuclear Regulatory Commission

10:00 AM, Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

We are holding this hearing to review the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2016.  I’d like to begin by welcoming the commissioners and Mr. Burns who is testifying before us for the first time in his new role as chairman. 

·        We will continue with the Committee’s practice of a five minute opening statement from Chairman Burns and two minutes for each of the commissioners.

·        The NRC’s mission is a vital one and must be adequately funded.  I want our nuclear plants to be safe and they are safe. 

·        However, resources are not unlimited.  As the size of our nuclear industry shrinks, the NRC must recognize that it can accomplish its mission with fewer resources.  In fact, it has done so in the past.

·        When I conducted my first oversight hearing as chair of the nuclear safety subcommittee in 1998, over four years had passed since the Committee had last conducted an oversight hearing with the NRC. 

·        In 1997, we had 104 reactors operating in the U.S. and the NRC executed its safety mission with a budget of $477 million and 3000 employees. 

·        Since then, we experienced the tragedy of September 11th and NRC expanded its efforts on security.  A few years later, our country seemed poised to experience a nuclear renaissance and the NRC expanded to review a surge of applications for 31 new reactors.

·        Ten years ago, the NRC had a budget of $669 million and 3,108 employees to oversee 104 reactors and review 1,500 licensing actions. 

·        For fiscal year 2016, the NRC is requesting a budget of $1.032 billion and 3754 employees to oversee 100 reactors and review 900 licensing actions.

·        After an increase of $363 million and 646 employees, the NRC is struggling with a backlog to review 40 percent fewer licensing actions. 

·        In 2005, the NRC reviewed sixteen license renewal applications.  In 2016, it plans to review nine.

·        In 2005, the NRC budgeted $69 million for preparing to review the Yucca Mountain application.  For fiscal year 2016, the NRC hasn’t requested any funding.

·        In 2005, the NRC oversaw 4,400 nuclear materials licensees versus only 2,000 in 2016.

·        What we have seen over time is an agency that has grown in spite of a decreasing workload and now, unfortunately, a shrinking industry. 

·        What these numbers tell us is that the NRC has, in the past, accomplished more work with fewer resources. 

·        Last year, the Commission recognized the need to “right-size” the agency and instituted Project Aim 2020.  Project Aim’s recommendations include reducing the NRC’s budget and staffing levels ten percent by 2020. 

·        It is a nice start, but the NRC has performed far more efficiently in the past.  I’ve seen the NRC accomplish more with less so I know it can do better.

·        I don’t think there’s any reason to delay making changes to the agency’s size and numbers until 2020.  Certainly, the 2016 budget heads in the wrong direction.

·        Ninety percent of the NRC’s budget is collected by fees recovered from its licensees. However, it is hardworking families who ultimately pay these costs in their electricity bills.  They deserve prompt action to address the imbalances between your declining workload and the budget you have requested.

·        It is incumbent upon the NRC to ensure that these funds are used prudently and focused on achieving genuine safety benefits.