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ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT 6-0, seni
APPROPRIATIONS FOR 1982
SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT
TOM BEVILL, Alabama, Chairman
VIRGINIA SMITH, Nebraska
ELDON RUDD, Arizona
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
Printed for the use of the Committee on Appropriations
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1981
COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
JAMIE L. WHITTEN, Mississippi, Chairman EDWARD P. BOLAND, Massachusetts
SILVIO O. CONTE, Massachusetts WILLIAM H. NATCHER, Kentucky
JOSEPH M. McDADE, Pennsylvania NEAL SMITH, Iowa
JACK EDWARDS, Alabama JOSEPH P. ADDABBO, New York
JOHN T. MYERS, Indiana CLARENCE D. LONG, Maryland
J. KENNETH ROBINSON, Virginia SIDNEY R. YATES, Illinois
CLARENCE E. MILLER, Ohio DAVID R. OBEY, Wisconsin
LAWRENCE COUGHLIN, Pennsylvania EDWARD R. ROYBAL, California
C. W. BILL YOUNG, Florida LOUIS STOKES, Ohio
JACK F. KEMP, New York TOM BEVILL, Alabama
RALPH S. REGULA, Ohio BILL CHAPPELL, Florida
CLAIR W. BURGENER, California BILL ALEXANDER, Arkansas
GEORGE M. O'BRIEN, Illinois JOHN P. MURTHA, Pennsylvania
VIRGINIA SMITH, Nebraska BOB TRAXLER, Michigan
ELDON RUDD, Arizona JOSEPH D. EARLY, Massachusetts
CARL D. PURSELL, Michigan CHARLES WILSON, Texas
MICKEY EDWARDS, Oklahoma LINDY (MRS. HALE) BOGGS, Louisiana BOB LIVINGSTON, Louisiana ADAM BENJAMIN, JR., Indiana
BILL GREEN, New York NORMAN D. DICKS, Washington
TOM LOEFFLER, Texas MATTHEW F. McHUGH, New York
JERRY LEWIS, California BO GINN, Georgia
CARROLL A. CAMPBELL, Jr., WILLIAM LEHMAN, Florida
South Carolina JACK HIGHTOWER, Texas
JOHN EDWARD PORTER, Illinois MARTIN OLAV SABO, Minnesota JULIAN C. DIXON, California VIC FAZIO, California W. G. (BILL) HEFNER, North Carolina LES AUCOIN, Oregon DANIEL K. AKAKA, Hawaii WES WATKINS, Oklahoma WILLIAM H. GRAY, III, Pennsylvania BERNARD J. DWYER, New Jersey
KEITH F. MAINLAND, Clerk and Staff Director
ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT
APPROPRIATIONS FOR 1982
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 1981.
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
JOHN F. AHEARNE, CHAIRMAN
MENT JOHN DAVIS, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL SAFETY AND
SAFEGUARDS ROBERT MINOGUE, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF NUCLEAR REGULATORY RE
SEARCH VICTOR STELLO, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF INSPECTION AND ENFORCE
MENT LEONARD BICKWIT, GENERAL COUNSEL HOWARD K. SHAPAR, EXECUTIVE LEGAL DIRECTOR LEARNED W. BARRY, CONTROLLER B. PAUL COTTER, JR., CHAIRMAN, ATOMIC SAFETY AND LICENSING
Mr. BEVILL. The committee will come to order.
We have with us today the Commissioners and principal staff members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This committee has been concerned for a number of years about the performance of the Commission, particularly in the licensing area.
There is currently a backlog of 53 pending operating license requests and 13 construction permits. Of these, 13 operating licenses will not be granted when the nuclear power plants they are intended for will be completed. This will result in a direct and inflationary cost to consumers of over $3 billion.
We are having this hearing today to examine the Commission's performance, particularly in the licensing area. Before we turn to your statement, Mr. Ahearne, I would like you to explain to the committee why the operating license backlog has gotten so bad. Is the Commission totally helpless in dealing with this situation, or
are there actions that can be taken now to license nuclear power plants safely?
LICENSING BACKLOG Mr. AHEARNE. To start with the question: Why has it gotten this bad? I think that there are obviously several factors contributing to what has happened.
The initiating event, or what really started it, was Three Mile Island. After Three Mile Island, when most of the reactor people in NRC turned to try to review that accident and to try to understand what happened, and then what changes ought to be made with respect to plants and to plant operations, much of their efforts were turned to those plants actually operating.
During this time, of course, the plants that were being built continued to be built. That is the one year or one and one-half year hiatus in much of the staff effort while they were trying to understand the accident and apply the lessons, was a block of time when the construction process did not slow down.
In the past, the licensing process has worked so that the NRC was ready to issue a decision prior to or at the same time the construction was completed. What is now happening is that the time when the NRC process is complete is, in many cases, as much as 13 months after the projected time of construction completion.
This is the initial factor that caused this slip.
Mr. BEVILL. Actually you have not issued a license since July 1978. Before Three Mile Island you were not issuing any licenses. Go ahead.
Mr. MYERS. This situation is not all right.
Mr. Bevill. No, it is not all right. We were aware that you were not issuing licenses even before Three Mile Island.
Mr. AHEARNE. But I do not believe there were any plants or any cases prior to Three Mile Island where the plant was ready to go into operation and the license was not there.
Mr. BEVILL. We will come back to that issue.
Mr. AHEARNE. The second part of the problem was the other people in senior positions in the Agency and I did not see the magnitude of this slippage until the last couple of months.
It is only after we started to turn the Boards and the staff back on those reviews; then go through the detailed numbers that you had requested we put into those tables; and push on the staff to get the best estimates of how long it will take to do the revised safety evaluation reports, and how long it will take the Boards to go through the hearing process, that we finally began to see the magnitude of the slippage problem.
The third question you asked was: Is there anything that can be done?
Starting at the beginning of December when this problem really began to become a lot clearer than it had been, Harold Denton has been trying to then get the best estimates possible by working with the Licensing Boards to get their best schedules.
Starting about the beginning of January, we have tried to begin a series of steps which hopefully may cause a lot of this impact to be reduced, or in the future to be eliminated.
There are several steps that we can take. One is to focus the people more clearly on the pacing SERs and make sure there are teams of people on those SERs which are on the critical path before they get to a Licensing Board.
A second thing which the EDO is now doing, is to look across the Agency and see what other resources we have working on less significant items to see if we could find enough qualified people to put back into the case work and operating licensing review to get the additional NRC work done to prevent this same problem from getting aggravated.
The third thing we can do is this. We have asked the Licensing Board to examine its allocation of resources and the people they have on the Boards to see if they are overloaded and to focus the Board's attention more carefully on which plants they should be first worrying about.
We have asked the General Counsel to see whether there are ways we can, from the Commission side, offer direction to the Boards to improve the processing, reduce the amount of time it takes to begin hearings, and reduce the amount of time for the decision.
So I think there are at least three separate actions: Staff resources, board functioning, and Commission direction that we can take. We are now trying to see what we can do to reduce this rapidly growing and unacceptable problem.
Mr. BEVILL. You may proceed with your regular statement. We will come back to that.
Mr. AHEARNE. Thank you.
I have a very short opening statement, and would ask that my prepared statement be included in the record.
Mr. BEVILL. Without objection, your entire prepared statement and justification material will be placed in the record. [The information follows:
STATEMENT OF JOHN F. AHEARNE, CHAIRMAN, U.S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION, CONCERNING THE COMMISSION's FISCAL YEAR 1982 BUDGET REQUEST
FISCAL YEAR 1982 BUDGET STATEMENT Introduction
I am pleased to be here today with my fellow Commissioners and our principal office directors to discuss NRC programs for fiscal year 1982. I would like to summarize the important regulatory actions taken by the Commission during the past year, describe the current status of Three Mile Island, and mention some of the issues facing the agency in the coming year. Then I will provide the details of our budget request for fiscal year 1982.
The accident at Three Mile Island has had a profound effect on the public, the nuclear industry, and on the Commission. Analyses of the Three Mile Island accident have led to an NRC program which will result in substantial improvements in the safety of all present and, the Commission believes, future nuclear power plants. Furthermore, in actions unrelated to TMI we have laid the groundwork for improved protection of the public in the areas of fire protection, equipment qualification, and quality assurance and control. We have also substantially strengthened and codified the Commission's enforcement policy. We have extended the resident inspection program, and just recently we have issued the procedural rule that will guide our licensing of an eventual long-term nuclear waste repository. We regard this last action as a very significant step toward enabling the federal government to meet its commitment to dispose of these wastes in a manner consistent with both the public health and safety and full protection of the environment.
The Three Mile Island-related actions were specified in the Action Plan, approved last June. That document requires substantial improvements in such areas as