NRC Shutdown: Day Two of Furloughs

Mark Satorius
Executive Director for Operations
 

As you know, the NRC was able to continue to keep its doors open a bit longer than the rest of the federal government. But yesterday, we, too, shut down due to the lapse in appropriations. Furlough notices were sent to all employees. At this time, only about 300 of our 3900 staff members are reporting to duty. That number includes the resident inspectors, who continue to do their job at the nuclear power plants in your communities.

It’s important to reiterate that while we continue to uphold our fundamental safety and security mission – and can bring workers back quickly in an emergency – there is important long-term work that just isn’t getting done.

All public meetings are suspended while the NRC is shutdown. Those already postponed or cancelled include both Commission meetings scheduled for next week (Oct. 16 and Oct. 18). Also postponed are the Waste Confidence meetings originally scheduled for the weeks of Oct. 14th and Oct. 21st. No decision has yet been made about other Waste Confidence meetings. As soon as we are back to work, we’ll begin planning for when the postponed meetings will be held.

Also postponed is the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing originally scheduled to begin Oct. 16, in Houston, and the public meeting on performance at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant scheduled for Oct. 16 in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

In addition, we’ve had to temporarily suspend action on all pending licensing or enforcement matters before the licensing boards or Commission, with the exception of those related to the Yucca Mountain licensing proceeding (as that work is funded by the Nuclear Waste Fund, not the general agency appropriation.) Those litigants have all been notified.

During the shutdown, we will continue to receive safety and security concerns via the web page and the hotlines listed here. The Inspector General’s Office also continues to function.

Unfortunately the NRC’s public website is not being updating during the shutdown. It is still accessible, though. Some key documents related to the shutdown include:

• the NRC’s shutdown plan, approved by the Office of Management and Budget;

press releases on postponed meetings: and

• a Regulatory Information Summary on our shutdown operations.

While no one knows how long the shutdown will last, the NRC staff is already making plans for a smooth, quick “restart” of the agency. While we know there will be some lag time between bringing all employees back and becoming fully functioning again, we want that lag to be as short as possible. We hope we are all back at work soon.

From the Chairman: An Update on the NRC Shutdown

Allison Macfarlane
NRC Chairman
 

Despite our best hopes, the NRC on Thursday will be joining the rest of the federal government in shutting down due to a lapse in appropriations. I believe we all share a deep disappointment that this action has become necessary.

By using “carryover” funds, we’ve been able to stay open, but those funds have now been depleted. Wednesday is the last full day that the NRC will be operating normally until we receive an appropriation. Beginning on Thursday, we will not conduct non-emergency reactor licensing, reactor license renewal amendments, emergency preparedness exercises, reviews of design certifications or rulemaking and regulatory guidance.

Also suspended for now will be routine licensing and inspection of nuclear materials and waste licensees, Agreement State support and rulemakings, including Waste Confidence. This is just a short list of the actions we are prohibited from performing under Anti-deficiency Act restrictions.

Let me stress, however, that all of our resident inspectors will remain on the job and any immediate safety or security matters will be handled with dispatch. We can — and will without hesitation — bring employees out of furlough to respond to an emergency. We must, in this regard, err on the side of safety and security.

Finally, the shutdown will negatively impact our ability to be transparent. The NRC website will remain available to the public, but it will not be updated until we return fully to work. In addition, routine press releases, meeting notices, plant status and event reports, or other information will not be available. The backlog of normally reportable information will be posted to the website once we are again fully functioning. Updates on the NRC status and the status of upcoming meetings will however continue to be made here, on the NRC blog, and via Twitter.

And, importantly, during the shutdown, we will continue to receive safety and security concerns via the web page and the hotlines listed here. The Inspector General’s Office will also be fully functional.

Some people are confused about why the lapse of appropriations is affecting the NRC when we collect fees for 90 percent of our budget. The bottom line is this: the NRC is not funded directly by the fees we collect. Fees collected by the NRC must be deposited in the U.S. Treasury, and the Congress provides us an appropriation.

We are mindful of the impact the shutdown will have on the public, our licensees, our staff and contractors and others who count on us. We are a proud agency with a serious, important mission and talented, dedicated people who make that mission a reality every day. The NRC staff deserves an enormous amount of credit for continuing to fulfill its normal responsibilities for the past week under very challenging circumstances.

We hope this interruption is as brief as possible and we look forward to being back at our desks, hard at work, doing what we do best here at the NRC in service to the nation.

The NRC and the 2013 Shutdown – Next Steps

Mark Satorius
Executive Director for Operations
 

As you may know, the NRC has been operating largely normally this week using “carryover” funds in the absence of an appropriation. Based on our current projections, however, we do not believe the agency can continue to operate beyond the middle of next week.

budgetinfographicIn the absence of action by Congress and the President, we expect to begin notifying employees whether they are excepted (non-furloughed) or non-excepted (furloughed). Most of the excepted employees are the resident inspectors and the Headquarters Operations Officers. Individuals assigned as excepted employees will perform the excepted functions listed in Management Directive and Handbook 4.5 if the agency shuts down.

Meetings scheduled for next week are in the process of being cancelled or postponed. We apologize for the inconvenience we know this is causing. For the most up-to-date details, please see our Public Meetings page.

It is possible that circumstances will require additional NRC employees to perform excepted functions, for example, in an emergency event requiring NRC response. If that situation arises, additional NRC employees who are required to perform excepted functions will be contacted, designated as excepted and removed from furlough status.

It is illegal for employees who are furloughed to perform agency work. So once the NRC begins furloughs, most employees will not be coming to the office, taking work phone calls, or reading or responding to email messages. The Office of Public Affairs and the Office of Congressional Affairs will have skeleton staffs on hand to respond as appropriate to inquiries. A limited Allegations staff will also be on hand to evaluate allegations and address those with immediate safety or security ramifications. As Presidential appointees, Chairman Macfarlane and the four Commissioners will not be furloughed and will continue to perform their responsibilities.

The NRC is also reviewing its contractors to determine which ones will receive “stop work orders” during a furlough.

While the NRC website will remain up, it may not be updated once a furlough has started. We will use the blog to provide up-to-date information about NRC actions.

We sincerely regret these actions are necessary and are eager to resume our important mission as soon as possible.