NRC’s Preparations for Hurricane Season Enable Quick Response – If Necessary

Roger Hannah
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region II

The hurricane season officially begins next week, and this year hurricane experts are predicting 12-14 named storms in the Atlantic with at least a couple of major hurricanes. After two years of seeing a below average number of storms, some of those experts are saying this could be an unpredictable and potentially dangerous season.

2016 Tropical Weather Outlook MayAs they do prior to every hurricane season, NRC staff members are preparing for the challenge and will be ready for any storms that make landfall and threaten the facilities we regulate. NRC preparations begin with training for all those staff members who might have to respond during a storm, testing of communications systems, and inspections to confirm that nuclear power plants in hurricane-prone areas have completed their extensive hurricane preparations.

The annual hurricane season runs until Nov. 30, and the NRC staff routinely tracks each storm from formation until dissipation, constantly evaluating whether it could pose a threat to U.S. nuclear plants and other NRC-licensed facilities.

If a storm approaches the mainland, the NRC regional offices provide regular updates to the NRC’s Headquarters Operations Center in Rockville, Md. Depending on the location of the storm, the Region II office in Atlanta, the Region I office outside Philadelphia, or the Region IV office in Arlington, Texas, may be involved. These briefings include information about staffing of the regional Incident Response Centers, assignment of additional staff to supplement the NRC resident inspectors at the potentially affected plants, and actions underway to ensure continuous communications with NRC-licensed facilities along the projected path of the storm.

Before a storm even forms, the NRC’s regional offices make sure that appropriate equipment, including satellite phones, are available and operational.

When a storm does form and its projected path shows possible impact on a coastline, one or more of the regional offices begins continuous hurricane tracking using the resources of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center, other federal agencies and commercial weather forecasting services.

Within 48 hours of expected hurricane force winds, NRC officials are dispatched to the State Emergency Operations Centers in the affected states. Additional NRC personnel are identified and placed “on-call” to respond if needed for any storm-induced emergency.

About 12 hours before the arrival of hurricane force winds, the agency will begin receiving continuous status updates from all of the NRC-licensed facilities in the hurricane’s path. Communications links will also be established with state emergency response officials and other federal response agencies.

During a storm’s landfall, NRC staff members maintain close contact with the plant staff and with NRC resident inspectors on site. If normal communications are lost, emergency communications systems are used.

Following any hurricane, the NRC inspectors help assess the extent of any damage to the facility and, if necessary, respond to any storm-induced problems. The agency also works closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to determine when evacuation routes are passable and offsite emergency response organizations will be sufficiently recovered from the hurricane response to resume normal activities.

We all hope 2016’s hurricane season has little or no effect on NRC-regulated facilities and all other areas where people live, but in any case, our advance preparation allows the NRC staff to respond quickly and effectively if a hurricane or major storm does strike.

The 411 on NRC Fees for Licensees

Michele Kaplan
Team Leader
License Fee Policy Team

questionnewThe NRC is an independent agency chartered by Congress to regulate the civilian use of nuclear materials. By law, we’re required to recover 90 percent of our budget from the companies and people that we provide services to (such as applicants for licenses, operating nuclear power plants that we inspect, etc.)

The two main laws that govern NRC’s fee recovery are called the Independent Offices Appropriation Act of 1952, and the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1990, as amended.

Here are some common questions (and answers) about the NRC’s fee structure and process.

Q. Does the NRC get all of its funding from the fees that it charges?

A. No, all NRC funding is appropriated by Congress. The 90 percent of our budget that we collect in fees is paid to the U.S. Treasury. This is called “cost recovery.”

Q. How are the NRC’s budget and the NRC’s fees related?

A. Each year, Congress decides the amount of the NRC’s budget. As our budget increases or decreases, or as the number of applicants and licensees increases or decreases, the amount that must still be recovered from fees may cause the fees to go up or down in a given year.

Q. How does the NRC determine the amount of the fees?

A. The NRC goes through a rulemaking process each year that describes the cost recovery process and allows members of the public to comment on the proposed fees, which is then followed by publication of the final fees.

Q. What are the different types of fees?

A. There are hourly and annual fees. Hourly fees are charged according to how much work the NRC performs for a particular applicant or license. For example, a company with a reactor license may pay $5 million in annual fees, and, in addition, may pay $200,000 for hourly fees because they asked the NRC to review and approve an amendment to their license. Annual fees recover regulatory costs not directly attributed to a licensing action or oversight of a specific license.

budgetQ. What is the hourly staff fee?

A. Currently, the staff fee is $268 per hour. This hourly rate includes the internal costs that are necessary to operate the agency, such as human resources, rent, computer support, etc. Our fees are published every year and the current fees can be found here.

Q. If I want to submit something to the NRC for review, can you tell me what the review will cost?

A. It depends. For some applications, such as import licenses or sealed sources, the NRC charges a flat fee to complete the entire review. For other applications, the NRC charges hourly rates for the full amount of time that agency staff spends on the review of that particular application. Some applications require more review than others.

Q. Are there exceptions for small businesses?

A. Yes, the NRC does take into consideration “small entities.” Please see more information here.

Q. How much does it cost to get a new reactor design certified by the NRC?

A. The two reactor designs most recently certified by the NRC resulted in fees of between $45 million and $70 million. These costs included hourly fees for pre-application interactions between NRC and the applicant, the NRC’s review of the application itself, and the NRC’s review of application revisions that were submitted by the applicant.

Q. What if I want to discuss a potential application with the NRC but don’t have the money to pay large fees?

A. You’re encouraged to call or email the NRC staff to discuss your questions or to set up a meeting. Short, infrequent meetings of a general nature may not be billed. However, more in-depth or technical meetings, or activities such as the review of applications, will incur fees.

Still want to know more? A longer list of Q&As are available here.