NRC shutting down, but will retain inspectors at Vogtle, MOX

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission ordered its workers furloughed Wednesday afternoon, but pledged to keep its resident safety inspectors on duty at sites including Plant Vogtle south of Augusta and the MOX construction project in nearby in South Carolina.

“By using ‘carryover’ funds, we’ve been able to stay open, but those funds have now been depleted,” NRC chairwoman Allison Macfarlane wrote in a blog shared with all employees. “Wednesday is the last full day that the NRC will be operating normally until we receive an appropriation.”

Activities to be halted, effective Thursday, include non-emergency reactor licensing, reactor license renewal amendments, emergency preparedness exercises, reviews of design certifications and regulatory guidance.

Resident inspectors who play a safety role at commercial nuclear facilities, however, will remain at work, she said.

Five of those inspectors are assigned to Plant Vogtle in Burke County, Ga., and all will remain at work.

Two resident inspectors are assigned to the site’s existing units 1 and 2, while three others help oversee the construction of Vogtle’s two new Westinghouse AP-1000 reactors, scheduled to go online in 2017 and 2018.

One additional resident inspector is assigned to the mixed oxide fuel facility, or MOX plant, at Savannah River Site, an NRC spokesman said.

The MOX project, which will dispose of plutonium from surplus warheads by blending it into commercial reactor fuel, is the only nuclear facility at SRS that falls under the NRC’s regulatory jurisdiction.

Macfarlane wrote that workers can be recalled rapidly, if the need arises.

“We can — and will without hesitation — bring employees out of furlough to respond to an emergency,” she wrote. “We must, in this regard, err on the side of safety and security.”

 

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