U. S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
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March 29, 1999
NRC SEEKS COMMENT ON PROPOSAL TO AMEND LICENSING, INSPECTION AND ANNUAL FEES
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking comment on several major changes it is considering for the fees it charges to licensees for the 1999 fiscal year.
The agency is legally required to collect nearly all of its operating budget through two types of fees. One type is an annual fee paid by all licensees, which recovers general regulatory expenses and other costs not recovered through fees for service. The other is for services such as licensing and inspection activities. For fiscal year 1999, the Commission must recover $449.6 million in fees.
As part of the new options under consideration, the NRC is proposing that one of two methods be used for establishing annual fees: rebaselining, or rebaselining with a 50 percent cap on any fee increase over fiscal year 1998 amounts.
Also being proposed this year, are: a new annual fee category for spent fuel storage/decommissioning; expansion of cost recovery for certain reviews and inspections; and elimination of "flat" license amendment fees for small materials licensees.
Under the rebaselining method, the agency determines the approximate costs attributable to each type of licensee such as power reactors or fuel facilities. These costs, less the estimated amounts to be recovered through fees for licensing and inspection services, comprise the annual fee.
The NRC last applied the rebaselining method four years ago, in an effort to simplify and stabilize its fee program. The agency decided to rebaseline again this year, because of the proposed addition of a new fee class and other recent events, such as strategic planning efforts, downsizing, and the reorganization of resources.
Rebaselining this year would decrease annual fees for power reactors and some materials licensees, but increase them for other materials licensees such as solution-injection uranium mines, uranium mills, fuel facilities and transportation casks.
The other option -- to rebaseline with a cap -- would ensure that no licensee's fiscal year 1999 annual fee increases more than 50 percent over fiscal year 1998 amounts.
The new fee class introduced provides that a spent fuel storage/decommissioning annual fee be assessed to all power reactors regardless of their operating status. Currently, annual fees are assessed for power reactors with facilities being decommissioned and with spent fuel stored in a dry cask facility. But no such fees are currently charged to licensees being decommissioned that store fuel in a pool.
Also under the new proposal, fees would be assessed for document reviews, certain project manager activities, and all inspections, including licensee-specific performance reviews, evaluations, and incident investigations.
For small materials licensees, "flat" fees are now assessed based on the average time it takes to complete license amendment reviews. Under the proposed fee rule, "flat" amendment fees would be eliminated to increase efficiency, and instead the cost would be included in these licensees' annual fees.
Also in the 1999 proposed fee amendments is an increase in hourly rates for inspection and other professional staff services.
The $449.6 million to be recovered from fees this year does not include $17 million appropriated from the Nuclear Waste Fund for high-level waste activities. Neither does it include $3.2 million appropriated for NRC's activities related to reviews for the Department of Energy. Funding for these activities is excluded from license fee revenues by law. The total amount to be recovered in fees is about $5.2 million less than that recovered the previous fiscal year.
Written comments on the proposed amendments to Parts 170 and 171 of the Commission's regulations should be received 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. They should be addressed to the Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C., 20555-0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications staff. Comments may also be submitted via the NRC's electronic rulemaking website at http://www.nrc.gov. Select "rulemaking" from the tool bar and then "rulemaking forum."
Because the agency is soliciting comments on two potential fee schedules for FY 1999, for this year only, the final rule will be mailed to all licensees. The final rule will also be published in the Federal Register and will be available on the internet, at http://ruleforum.llnl.gov/.