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In 1956–57, the staff of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy conducted a study of certain problems in the AEC regulatory process. That study, published as a Joint Committee print and entitled “A Study of AEC Procedures, and Organization in the Licensing of Reactor Facilities,” explored three principal questions: (1) Whether public hearings should be required on applications for facility licenses; (2) whether safety reports on such applications by the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards should be made public; and (3) whether the regulatory functions of the Commission should be separated from its nonregulatory functions. The present study grows out of an exchange between former AEC Chairman McCone and the undersigned, acting as chairman of the Subcommittee on Legislation during the annual hearings on indemnity and reactor safety in the spring of 1960. Mr. McCone, after noting the increasing workload facing the Commission and certain problems which had appeared in the regulatory process, including the separation-of-functions question, announced plans for a study of the Commission's regulatory organization and procedures: What we propose to do is this: Over the next several months we are going to carry on a concerted study of this whole question of licensing, of the discharge of the Commission's responsibilities in this field. This study will be made by the staff of the Atomic Energy Commission and the members of the ACRS. I
would hope out of that study we could come before you with some recommendations for improvements in the organization.
The undersigned replied:
I think sooner or later there has to be some solution to this problem. I think that solution has to be made in the public interest and it has to be made in such a way that the Commission itself is not continually placed under the criticism of Confusing its safety regulations with its promotional objectives, both of which are valid and both of which are necessary. I am hoping that something can be suggested to us that will solve this problem. In August 1960, Senator Anderson, my predecessor as chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, wrote to Mr. McCone stating that a study by the JCAE staff had been initiated, and that it would update the earlier study by the staff in 1957 and would “also analyze a number of current problems and possible organizational arrangements.” Mr. McCone replied by letter of September 10, 1960, stating that the AEC staff would cooperate with the JCAE staff in the study. The Joint Committee and the AEC thus commenced separate staff studies of the AEC regulatory process. The AEC staff completed in November a document entitled “The Regulatory Program of the Atomic Energy Commission,” reprinted in volume II. The AEC report furnishes important background data which have been utilized in preparing this study. In addition, the AEC has submitted a supplementary document containing recommendations for improving the regulatory process. This document, entitled “A Report on the Regulatory Program of the Atomic Energy Commission,” is similarly reproduced in its entirety. The study by the Joint Committee staff discusses, in Part I, the functions of the AEC and briefly sets forth the activities of other Federal agencies and State and local governments in the use and regulation of radioactive materials. Part II contains a factual account of the AEC regulatory process in its many phases. Parts III and IV are devoted to an examination of selected case histories and a discussion of problems which have arisen in the AEC regulatory process. Part V explores possible improvements in the existing regulatory organization while Part VI examines one possible improvement— creation of an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board within the AECin greater detail. This study is a presentation of information and analysis designed to assist the Joint Committee and the Congress in evaluating the need for change in the AEC’s regulatory organization and procedures. It should be understood that this study is not a committee report and that the considerations and alternatives set forth do not necessarily represent the views of the committee or its individual members.
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
MARCH 6, 1961. Hon. CHET HOLIFIELD, Chairman, Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, U.S. Congress.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: Transmitted herewith for the information of the Joint Committee, the Congress, and the public, is a study entitled “Improving the AEC Regulatory Process,” prepared by the committee staff between September 1960 and February 1961.
Volume I of this study contains a detailed examination of the AEC regulatory process, including an analysis of case histories in reactor licensing, materials licensing, and rulemaking. The staff has identified certain problems in the AEC regulatory process, considered alternative organizational arrangements to meet those problems, and, finally, set forth in some detail the plan which it believes will best Serve the atomic program’s needs in the developmental period ahead.
Volume II contains selected materials bearing on the AEC regulatory process, including correspondence between the JCAE staff and the AEC and excerpts from the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and AEC regulations. A report on the regulatory program of the Atomic Energy Commission, prepared by the AEC, has been reproduced in its entirety and excerpts from other studies of the AEC regulatory process are also included.
The report has been prepared as a group effort by David Toll, staff counsel, and the undersigned, with Prof. David F. Cavers of the Harvard Law School, and William Mitcheil of the Washington, D.C., bar (former AEC General Counsel), who served as consultants to the committee. Mr. Toll coordinated the preparation of the report with the assistance of Mr. Jack Newman, formerly with the AEC legal staff, for the latter phases of the report.
In conducting this study, the staff held extensive discussions with representatives of applicants, intervenors, AEC staff, the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) and one of the Commissioners. The staff also met with groups studying regulatory organization problems, including representatives of the Bureau of the Budget, the Brookings Institution and the Atomic Energy Research Project of the University of Michigan Law School. In addition, the staff had the benefit of a discussion with James M. Landis, Special Assistant to the President on matters affecting the regulatory agencies.
Several of the points raised by the staff study focus on the hearing process utilized by the Commission. Thus we have called attention to the lack of adequate notice of safety issues in proposed hearings, and the number and formality of the hearings themselves. It is understood that the AEC is already undertaking to correct many of the procedural deficiencies noted by the staff, including the lack of adequate notice.
With respect to the hearings themselves, the Commission with some justice can point out that it was the Joint Committee and the Congress which instituted the mandatory hearing procedure. However, as this report indicates, the Commission has gone further in some respects than the law required, particularly in regard to the number of hearings required and the formality of procedures. The intent of the 1957 staff report was that AEC safety proceedings should be public and on the record. It would appear that the Commission has utilized the hearing process to extend the Commission's affirmative control over licensing to include startup operations and changes. While such control may be desirable, it might be accomplished without unnecessary hearings, but on the public record, with a later opportunity for hearing in the event of exceptions filed by any party or intervention.
It is hoped that this staff study and appendix will provide a useful setting and background for the committee members and all others interested in this vital area of inquiry.
Enclosure: “Improving the AEC Regulatory Process.”
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