I was happy to hear President Obama’s positive statement during the State of the Union Address about building new nuclear power plants. I was also encouraged when that statement was seemingly followed up with an expansion of the DOE’s authority to provide loan guarantees for new nuclear energy production facilities.
I was even pleased to hear that the Administration had decided to stop wasting time and money on a license application for the Yucca Mountain facility since it had already decided that the facility would not be opened. I know that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been strapped for resources and figured that the cancellation would offer the opportunity to redirect some scarce bodies and office space to something more useful – like reviewing new reactor license application in a more time efficient manner.
Unfortunately, I recently discovered that the chairman of the NRC has decided to save a few pennies for the government and request $13.3 million LESS than his agency received in its 2010 appropriation.
If this presidential budget submission request is not corrected by decisive congressional action, it will lead to continued NRC bottlenecks driven by a scarcity of adequately trained and experienced license reviewers. The noted scarcity of office space and conference areas required to efficiently drive through the detailed process of reviewing the mountains of paper associated with each application will continue to plague the agency and demoralize its employees.
When license reviews are delayed due to bureaucratic constraints, hiring gets delayed, purchases from suppliers get delayed, production of clean, emission-free electricity gets delayed, and investors find more amenable places to put their money. It is unfathomable to me that an agency that is the gatekeeper on multi-billion dollar projects would decide NOW that it needs to constrain its budget request so that not only does it fail to keep up with an increasing mission, but it fails to even keep up with inflation.
The dollars saved are tiny compared to the dollars that will be wasted because of applications that wait that much longer on desks of overworked reviewers. This issue just might be worth a letter or two to your friendly neighborhood congressman.