Kristina Baum (EPW) – 202.224.6176

Donelle Harder (EPW) – 202.224.4721

EPW Republicans Challenge NRC on New Regulatory Requirements Under Backfit Rule

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee; Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), chairman of the subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety; David Vitter (R-La.); John Barrasso (R-Wyo.); Mike Crapo (R-Idaho); John Boozman (R-Ark.); Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.); Deb Fischer (R-Neb.); Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), today sent a letter to Stephen Burns, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), expressing concern with the NRC’s increased use of qualitative factors to justify new regulatory requirements that are not cost-justified under the Backfit Rule:

As we stated previously, the Backfit Rule provides a sound basis for distinguishing between significant safety enhancements and unnecessary regulatory burden.  Undermining the Backfit Rule through the increased use of qualitative factors will erode this distinction thereby increasing the imposition of requirements that are not safety-significant or cost-justified,” the Senators said in the letter. 

“Such growth in unnecessary regulatory burden would exacerbate the cumulative effects of regulation.   In SECY 11-0032, Consideration of the Cumulative Effects of Regulation in the Rulemaking Process, the NRC staff concluded:  ‘CER can potentially distract licensee or entity staff from executing other primary duties that ensure safety or security.’   Preventing the imposition of requirements that lack safety benefit is a necessary corrective action to address a root cause of cumulative effects,” the Senators cited. 

The Senators concluded the letter with, “Undermining NRC precedent and established processes in pursuit of matters lacking safety significance puts at risk the credibility of the NRC’s tremendous progress in implementing post-Fukushima safety enhancements.  To date, the NRC has largely focused on items of highest safety benefit.  It is our hope that the Commission will strengthen its resolve in this respect.” 

Two significant proposals currently pending before the Commission seek to impose requirements that are not cost-justified under the NRC’s Backfit Rule: 

  • SECY 15-0065: Proposed Mitigation of Beyond-Design-Basis Events (Mitigating Strategies); and
  • SECY 15-0085: Evaluation of the Containment Protection and Release Reduction for Mark I and Mark II Boiling Water Reactors Rulemaking Activities (Containment Protection).

A response to the questions posed to the NRC in the letter was requested to be provided no later than July 31, 2015.

To read the full text of the letter, click here