Upton planning bill to streamline nuclear licensing process

Republicans are expected to focus this year on expanding the U.S. nuclear energy industry. It’s been decades since a new nuclear plant has come online in the United States.

President Obama has named nuclear power as one of a slew of low-carbon energy sources that can help reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. But opponents point to the huge costs associated with nuclear power.

Upton sent a letter to the NRC late last month criticizing the nuclear reactor license renewal process. Two nuclear power plants – the Pilgrim Power Plant in Massachusetts and the Vermont Yankee Power Plant in Vermont – submitted applications to renew their reactor licenses more than five years ago, Upton noted. Though the licenses expire next year, the NRC has not yet completed its review of the applications.

"With a dozen outstanding renewal applications, the alarming rate of delay has put thousands of good-paying jobs in jeopardy and has threatened to disrupt a reliable source of clean, affordable energy for surrounding communities and businesses,” Upton said.

The NRC has said it should take between 22 and 30 months to review an application for a license renewal.

“Why is it that the NRC normally said it was going to take two years to figure out whether a nuclear reactor should be extended another 10 years and yet we’ve got two plants that just hit five [years],” Upton told The Hill. “We’ve got a deadline to meet.”

Upton’s criticism comes as NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said last week that it’s possible the commission could approve license applications for new nuclear plants by the end of the year.