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Nuclear Energy Industry Backs Legislation to Sharpen Regulatory Safety Focus

WASHINGTON—Citing the need for a strong, credible oversight agency, the nuclear energy industry told members of Congress today that it believes many provisions in proposed legislation governing the direction and operations of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will enable the agency to fulfill its safety mission more effectively and efficiently.

Provisions that would eliminate potential conflicts over NRC-imposed radiation cleanup standards and eliminate requirements that the NRC duplicate the efforts of other agencies conducting antitrust reviews are chief among those that will allow the commission to most effectively focus its resources on public health and safety issues, the chief nuclear officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, Ralph Beedle, told the House Commerce Energy and Power Subcommittee. Beedle also cited the value of a proposal to eliminate restrictions on foreign ownership of nuclear power plants and research reactors.

Beedle testified before the House Commerce panel at an authorization hearing on H.R. 3521, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Authorization Act for fiscal year 2000.

"As utilities continue to make the transition to a competitive electricity market, the NRC must seek to maintain public trust and confidence in the safety of nuclear energy while improving the efficiency and effectiveness of its regulations," Beedle said. "Not surprisingly, the transition to an objective, safety-focused regulatory process will require a review of statutory provisions that are no longer relevant in the evolving regulatory environment."

An ongoing dispute between the NRC and the Environmental Protection Agency over radiation cleanup standards at NRC-licensed facilities is an area ripe for a legislative fix, Beedle said.

"Resolving this impasse is particularly important at sites where nuclear plants have closed and are in the process of being decommissioned and the site cleaned. The NRC has set a radiation cleanup standard based on sound science and experience that fully protects public health and safety. The EPA's continued efforts to develop a radiation standard and to ignore the NRC standard inappropriately focuses resources on a bureaucratic stalemate. This effort detracts from the primary mission of safe and effective site cleanup."

Beedle also called for the House panel to adopt authorizing language that would accomplish the following goals:

  • Reauthorize the NRC's user fee in a manner that does not require NRC licensees to pay $50 million annually for programs that do not directly benefit them.
  • Based on the regulatory reform initiatives undertaken by NRC to date, require the NRC to develop and submit to Congress a long-term blueprint for regulatory reform that provides measurable objectives and anticipated results.
  • Eliminate impediments to NRC's reform, including language in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and the Energy Reauthorization Act of 1974 that prevents the commission from determining its own organizational structure.

The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at