WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), questioned Jeffery Baran, nominee to be reappointed as a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) during a nomination hearing of the committee.
Barrasso questioned Baran on how his views on nuclear licensing differ from the remaining bipartisan members of the NRC. After questioning Baran, Barrasso stated:
“I find the position that the nominee today has taken is deeply troubling and outside the mainstream. It is tailor-made to those looking to delay NRC’s licensing process indefinitely and to stop nuclear energy projects from going forward.”
On Baran’s Refusal to Follow a Court Order Regarding Yucca Mountain:
Click here for video of Chairman Barrasso questioning Commissioner Baran on court order.
“As you know in 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered the NRC to resume the licensing process for Yucca Mountain.
“The court found that the NRC, under former Chairman Jaczko, had illegally terminated the licensing process.
“Under that chairman, the NRC argued that it suspended the licensing process because Congress had not appropriated the funds necessary to complete it.
“The NRC also speculated that Congress would not appropriate additional funds in the future.
“In the order, the court rejected the NRC’s rationale.
“It explained ‘federal agencies may not ignore statutory mandates simply because Congress has not yet appropriated all of the money necessary to complete a project.”
“The court also stated that ‘[A]n agency may not rely on political guesswork about future congressional appropriations as a basis for violating existing legal mandates.’
“Last month, the NRC, under Chairman Svinicki, voted to spend funds on activities related to the licensing process of Yucca Mountain.
“The NRC took this step to comply with the court’s order. The NRC took this step on a bipartisan basis. You were the lone person to dissent.
“You wrote that you ‘do not believe that NRC should take such a step without knowing whether Congress will decide to appropriate funds for the licensing proceeding.”
“You suggested that Congress might not appropriate funds, you stated ‘It has been six years since Congress last appropriated monies from the Nuclear Waste Fund.’
“Commissioner, I find your rationale deeply troubling. The court has ordered the NRC to resume the licensing process.
“Why are you following in the footsteps of former Chairman Jaczko and using a discredited rationale – uncertainty about appropriations as an excuse not to follow the law and the courts?”
On Baran’s Views on Nuclear Licensing Process:
Click here for video of Chairman Barrasso questioning Baran on nuclear licensing process.
“The National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA, requires agencies to prepare an ‘environmental impact statement’ for every ‘major federal action.’
“At the NRC, major federal actions can include the issuance of licenses or license amendments.
“NEPA requires an agency to provide notice and take public comments as it prepares an environmental impact statement.
“In contrast to many federal agencies, the NRC has voluntarily decided to take steps beyond those required by NEPA.
“Specifically, the NRC allows parties to challenge the NRC’s environmental impact statement at its evidentiary hearing on security and safety measures.
“Recently, anti-nuclear activists have argued that if new information is presented at this hearing, then the NRC cannot supplement its environmental impact statement.
“Instead, these activists argue the NRC has to go back and rewrite the environmental impact statement before issuing a license or license amendment.
“If the NRC has already issued a license, these activists argue that the NRC has to then vacate or suspend a license that has been issued.
“A bipartisan majority of NRC Commissioners has repeatedly rejected this argument.
“You are the only commissioner who agrees with these anti-nuclear activists. The only one.
“This issue is now before a federal appeals court.
“If these activists succeed, they will add significant delays to NRC’s licensing process.
“This will make nuclear energy more expensive to produce and, in some cases, jeopardize safety.
“Is it still your position, I know how you voted, that if new information is presented at NRC’s evidentiary hearing, NRC staff must: rewrite the environmental impact statement before
NRC issues a license or license amendment; and if NRC has already issued a license or license amendment, vacate or suspend that license or license amendment?”