Nuclear regulators to downsize agency

Nuclear regulators to downsize agency
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The agency regulating nuclear power is planning to cut employees in an effort to better meet the new needs of the industry and regulators.

The five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said Monday that it approved various plans under its Project Aim 2020 program to streamline the agency, improve the timeframes for permit approvals and better prepare for the future.

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The plan comes as the NRC is under increasing pressure from Republicans that now control both chambers of Congress as well as the nuclear power sector to reduce its staff level and budget and improve efficiency. The NRC has grown in recent years despite the fact that no new nuclear reactor has come into service this century and very few are planned.

“The measures the agency will be implementing through Project Aim will better prepare us to meet the challenges of 2020 and beyond, while ensuring we have the right staff in the right

places to accomplish our critical mission,” NRC Chairman Stephen Burns said in a statement.

Under the plan, the NRC will cut its staffing to 3,600 by September 2016, from the current 3,778. The agency did not say whether the plan involves any layoffs.

The agency is asking its employees to identify programs and tasks that could be cut and to merge the offices responsible for reactor regulation and reviewing new reactors, a consequence of the dearth of new reactors being planned.

The ideas set out in Project Aim 2020 were compiled last year by the staff and various experts.

Republicans have long said that the NRC is too big for its mission.

“As the size of our nuclear industry shrinks, the NRC must recognize that it can accomplish its mission with fewer resources,” Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate panel advances Pentagon chief, Joint Chiefs chairman nominees Trump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Trump says US will not sell Turkey F-35s after Russian missile defense system purchase MORE (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and a champion of the nuclear industry, said in an April hearing.

He said the NRC’s budget had increased by about half over 10 years, but it is faced with 40 percent fewer licensing requests and about half as many license renewal applications.

“What we have seen over time is an agency that has grown in spite of a decreasing workload and now, unfortunately, a shrinking industry, something we hope to reverse and turn around,” he said.