It is time to remind Congress and the President that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s budget is, by law, almost 90% funded with fees assessed on licensees. The structure was put into place during the Reagan Administration at a time when David Stockman was selling the idea that the government could charge fees on users of its “services” instead of imposing taxes on people that might not use specific government services. For fiscal year 2013, the NRC fee total will be $924.8 million.
The other 10% or so of the NRC’s budget comes from appropriated money because the NRC does some things that cannot be counted as a service to its licensees. One example activity that would be instantly recognized as a special tax on nuclear operators if charged to licensees is the NRC’s support of international agencies. For FY 2013, the net appropriations number is $128.5 million, resulting in a total of $1,053 million.
For some unexplainable, politically inspired reason, the accountants at the Office of Management and Budget have forgotten where the NRC’s money comes from. They have announced to the agency that its share of the sequester that is commonly called the “fiscal cliff” that will happen if Congress and the President do not take action will be $85 million plus a $1 million reduction in the NRC Office of the Inspector General.
In other words, the 8.2% “across the board” reduction has been applied to the entire NRC budget (with a mark of $86 million), not just the portion that is appropriated from general tax revenues. If there is a sequester, it would make sense to apply a mark of $10.5 million against the appropriated portion of the budget.
I’ve written about the way the NRC’s budget has been used to constrain the nuclear industry and to add hidden costs of doing business. Reducing regulatory resources increases costs to licensees and license applicants by increasing the wait at the only “check-out lines” that the industry is allowed to use.
We must recognize that antinuclear accountants at OMB are once again using any excuse they can find to remove resources from the government established monopoly supplier of permission to to build and operate nuclear power plants in the United States. Tell the President, your Senator and your Congressman that it is wrong for the Administration think it move money paid by licensees in return for NRC licensing services into other budget lines and use it for unrelated general government functions.