WASHINGTON—The nuclear energy industry today called for a legislative remedy to break a regulatory impasse between two federal agencies whose duplicative oversight of nuclear energy facilities threatens to waste public and private resources while undermining public confidence in the government's ability to protect public health and safety.
Pending legislative action, the industry urged Congress to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from using appropriated funds for dual regulation of nuclear facilities licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
"Our industry is encouraged by the new Administration's support of energy issues. We hope the EPA will recognize that this conflict undermines the credibility of the NRC's regulatory process and erodes the trust and confidence of public and government stakeholders in the NRC's health and safety standards," said Ralph Andersen, chief health physicist for the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). Andersen testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on VA-HUD and Independent Agencies.
Despite congressional directives to the contrary, the EPA has continued to inject itself into the decommissioning and cleanup of NRC-licensed nuclear facilities that no longer operate, Andersen said. For example, the EPA was heavily involved in the Maine legislature's enactment last August of a law establishing cleanup standards for decommissioning nuclear facilities.
While Maine was within its right to enact the law, "We object to EPA's engaging in duplicative and conflicting regulatory efforts which undermine the legitimacy of the NRC's regulatory process and standards," Andersen said.
In calling for a federal legislative remedy, Andersen said the industry is not convinced that development of a formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two agencies will provide a lasting resolution to the problem of dual regulation.
"The agencies entered into a similar MOU in 1992 … (and) it is the breach of that agreement between the two agencies that has created the existing dual regulation," he said. Also, the General Accounting Office last year concluded a review of duplicative regulation that showed compliance costs would be immense, likely in the hundreds of billions of public and private dollars, if this problem is not fixed.
NEI proposed these interim actions to eliminate dual regulation:
The committee should explicitly prohibit the EPA from using appropriated funds for dual regulation of NRC-licensed facilities.
The committee should reconsider its previous report language regarding an NRC-EPA memorandum of understanding and provide definitive direction and guidance on what the MOU should address, as well as establishing a firm deadline for completion of the MOU.
If the EPA does not submit a report on the committee-directed review of the situation, the committee should consider initiating an independent audit of EPA actions and expenditures of resources with regard to the previous direction of the committee.
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 http://www.nei.org .