Energy & Commerce Committee Cautions NRC Chairman to Follow Commission Procedures to Ensure Thorough, Thoughtful, and Deliberate Review of Task Force Recommendations

July 18, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) are spearheading a committee effort to ensure Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko follows proper commission procedures when considering task force recommendations. The six-member NRC panel last week released, "Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century - The Near-Term Task Force Review of Insights From the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Accident."

Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee are concerned that regular NRC procedures for full and deliberate review may be circumvented, depriving the commission of the full information necessary to properly do its work.

The full text of the committee letter to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko follows below:

We are in receipt of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's 90-Day Task Force Report that makes recommendations in light of the Fukushima Dai-ichi incident in Japan.   We are pleased to see that the Task Force concludes that, taking into account the current regulatory approach and nuclear power plant capabilities, a sequence of events like the Fukushima incident is unlikely to occur in the United States and that ongoing operations at U.S. nuclear reactors do not pose an imminent risk.

We understand that this report, prepared by a small team of experienced NRC staff, offers a range of recommendations concerning ways to further enhance nuclear reactor safety. We understand that, given the time constraints for producing this report, there was limited, if any, interaction with the broader body of experienced NRC technical staff and there was no engagement with the NRC's Advisory Committee on Nuclear Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) or with NRC stakeholders. 

Given the importance of the regulatory issues identified by the Task Force, we believe it is essential that the Commission have the benefit of the full and deliberate process of review, in accordance with established Commission procedures, its principles of good regulation, and statutory requirements.  This review process includes thorough evaluation of the Task Force analyses and recommendations by NRC technical and senior staff. It would also include the involvement and perspective of industry and other stakeholders, and the ACRS.  Such a process ensures the Commission has the full information necessary to evaluate the Task Force recommendations and to make effective policy decisions.

We will be conducting our own oversight of this process.  To assist in this effort, please supply the specific plans and schedule for full NRC staff review, ACRS review, and stakeholder involvement by July 22, 2011. We appreciate your prompt attention to this request. 

NOTE: A signed copy of the letter and list of its signatories will be available later today.