WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, today sent a letter querying the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) about weaknesses in the Commission’s “commitments” policy, as revealed by recent inspections of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station and Monticello Nuclear Generating Stations and echoed in a recent NRC Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report. “Commitments” – statements describing a specific action that an NRC licensee has agreed or volunteered to take but are not legally binding nor obligatory for licensees – are an important part of the regulatory and license renewal process and help ensure aging issues will be managed throughout extended operation of a nuclear facility.  At least three commitments involving safety functions were found incomplete at Vermont Yankee despite NRC approval of its relicensing agreement in March 2011. A special inspection of Monticello occurred because the facility did not satisfy a license renewal commitment involving their fire water system. A September 2011 OIG report found significant problems involving NRC’s management of licensee agreements, including lack of systematic tracking and oversight of commitments, inadequate training for NRC staff around definition and use of commitments, and ineffective audits of licensee commitments due to incomplete or imprecise NRC guidance.
“With NRC’s licensees failing to keep their commitments and the NRC unwilling to call for them, this is a regulatory relationship that’s bound to fail,” said Rep. Markey. “We need to reform the license renewal commitment system to help ensure that nuclear power plants can manage any safety issues that arise as a result of extended operation periods. NRC needs to take immediate steps to respond to the outstanding safety issues at Vermont Yankee and Monticello as well as implement each of the recommendations to reform the commitment process outlined by its own Inspector General.”
Rep. Markey asks the NRC to response to questions, including:

  • How and when will the NRC re-evaluate Entergy’s actions toward meeting the three incomplete commitments for the Vermont Yankee power plant?
  • How and when will the NRC re-evaluate Xcel’s actions toward meeting its commitment at the Monticello Nuclear Generating Station?
  • What actions is the NRC taking to implement the recommendations identified in the OIG’s audit report? What is the timeline for implementing those actions?

A copy of the letter to the NRC can be found HERE.