On October 13, 2011 the Reuters news service published an article titled NRC delays reactor certification to study Japan damage that led with the following paragraph.
WILMINGTON, N.C., Oct 13 (Reuters) – U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission certification of new reactor technology has been delayed by the agency’s evaluation of the earthquake and tsunami damage to Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant in March, NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said on Thursday.
The article went on to say that the commission’s priority with its available resources was to complete the work required to issue a final design certification for the Westinghouse AP1000, which may be completed by the end of 2011 (or may not). After that effort is completed, the staff would then turn to focus on the ESBWR design certification, which was first turned into the NRC in 2005 – more than six years ago.
Since April 2011, I have been asking senior members of the NRC staff when their agency was going to seek additional resources from their Congressional appropriations committee to cover some of the unplanned expenses associated with the Fukushima Daiichi response effort. On August 31, I wrote a post titled NRC lack of planning will increase delays for new reactor licenses that asserted that delays in new license application reviews were inevitable, no matter what the offical spokespeople at the NRC said. That post includes a number of bureaucratic denials and obfuscations, but the bottom line was that the NRC leaders had decided NOT to ask for any additional resources.
I spent the last nine years of my naval career as a Washington, DC mid-level staff officer, so I have had the opportunity to be more deeply involved in the preparation processes of eight federal budgets than most people could stand. I know how the game is played. I have seen how reluctant politically ambitious decision makers can be to strongly make the case for sufficient resources when the people that they work for have made it clear that praise (and promotion) will only go to those who aggressively sell the party line of a need to cut back.