Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a committee oversight hearing of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The hearing featured testimony from Kristine Svinicki, chairman of the NRC; Jeffery Baran, commissioner at the NRC; and Stephen Burns, commissioner at the NRC.
For more information on their testimonies click here.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“Today’s oversight hearing will be looking at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or NRC.
“I would like to welcome Chairman Svinicki, Commissioner Baran, and Commissioner Burns.
“I am sad to say that the commission remains without its full strength of five commissioners.
“I believe that the commission functions best with all five commissioners in place. I continue to work to resolve this situation.
“If we don’t make progress shortly, the NRC will lose its three-member quorum at the end of June.
“The senate cannot let that happen.
“Since Congress established the NRC in 1974, the agency has lost its quorum only once.
“That took place over a seven month period in 1995 and 1996.
“During that time, the commission delegated its authority to Chairman Shirley Jackson.
“Not surprisingly, antinuclear activists then challenged that delegation of authority.
“If the NRC loses its quorum in June, I fully expect those same forces to once again challenge the NRC’s authority and ability to act.
“We simply cannot allow our nation’s nuclear safety regulator to lose its quorum.
“I will now turn to the NRC’s budget request for fiscal year 2019.
“Last month, the NRC requested about $971 million to support the work of 3,247 fulltime equivalent in terms of employees.
“The Nuclear Reactor Safety Program, which includes the NRC’s efforts to license, regulate, and oversee civilian nuclear power, would account for about $475 million and 1,925 full time equivalents s in fiscal year 2019.
“The Nuclear Materials and Waste Safety Program, which includes the NRC’s efforts to license, regulate, and oversee nuclear materials and waste, would account for about $184 million and 650 full time equivalents in fiscal year 2019.
“Under federal law, the NRC must recover 90 percent of its budget through fees that the agency levies on licensees.
“I believe the key question that Congress needs to ask itself is: does the NRC’s expected workload in 2019 justify licensees paying for a budget increase?
“I ask this because at the end of fiscal year 2017, the NRC had over budgeted by $31 million.
“For years, the NRC’s workload has been decreasing.
“Once again the agency is requesting a budget increase.
“For example, in fiscal year 2019, three of the nation’s 99 nuclear power plants are scheduled to close.
“This includes Oyster Creek Power Station, which Exelon recently announced would close one year ahead of schedule.
“Nonetheless, the NRC is asking for an increase in funding to oversee our nation’s decreasing civilian nuclear fleet.
“The NRC’s workload on licensing activities for fuel facilities is also expected to decrease in fiscal year 2019.
“Last year, the number of fuel facilities declined from nine to seven.
“Still, the NRC is asking for an increase in funding for its fuel facilities program.
“I continue to believe Congress must ensure that the NRC’s budget accurately reflects the agency’s workload.
“Finally, I’d like to say a few words about the dire situation that our nation’s uranium producers are facing.
“In 2017, the U.S. produced uranium at the lowest level since 1950 that was before our country had commercial nuclear power reactors.
“Despite the rich uranium resources in Wyoming, Nebraska, and other western states, America’s uranium producers now supply less than 5 percent of America’s nuclear fuel.
“Instead, we import 90 percent of our fuel.
“40 percent of these imports come from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.
“In January, two U.S. uranium producers filed a petition with the Department of Commerce asking for an investigation into the unfair trade practices of these countries.
“I understand some utilities are asking the Department to reject this petition.
“I find that deeply troubling.
“For years, these utilities have complained that the market undervalues their product, electricity generated from nuclear power.
“These utilities have lobbied Congress and state legislatures for help to keep their plants open.
“Now, Russia and its satellites are trying to put America’s uranium producers out of business.
“Some of these same utilities are fighting efforts to prevent that.
“I find their position profoundly shortsighted.
“Nuclear fuel production is vital to our national security, and I call on the Commerce Department to begin an investigation.”