How much money does the NRC spend each year? Where does it get that money? You might be surprised . . . .
Altogether for the 2014 fiscal year, the NRC expected to employ 3,919 full-time employees. The budget that supports this complex of bureaucratic machinery is paid in part by licensing fees and in part by contributions from the general fund as allotted by Congress — that’s plain ol’ tax money to you and me. Federal law requires that 90% of the NRC’s budget be generated (“recovered”) by licensing and other fees.
The annual licensing fee for a power reactor is $4,390,000 (take a look at 10 CFR 171.15 for the latest value). With around 104 domestic power reactors, that’s an annual license income of approximately $450 million.
The annual licensing fee for a research and test reactor is $81,600 [10 CFR 171.15(e)]. There are approximately 31 research and test reactors which generate approximately $2.5 million in fees. There are several other categories of fees based on the size of the business and types of work they are engaged in, as well as whether they hold material licenses (for using uranium to manufacture fuel, for example). Altogether, in the 2014 fiscal year the NRC expected to collect approximately $555.5 million from these “Part 171 fees.”
The NRC projected that it would generate $375 million in “Part 170” fees, such as those collected from resident inspectors and other licensing review and inspections activities. Their time is billed at the hourly rate specified in 10 CFR 170.20. As of June 30, 2014, that rate is $279 per hour.
This is up from $272 per hour, the rate established the prior year beginning on July 1, 2013. That’s a one-year increase of 2.6%. Median CPI rose by 2.2% over the same period, and the standard CPI rose by 2%. So, overall, the NRC’s rates are staying ahead of inflation. For monthly updates on these inflation statistics, see the Cleveland Fed’s website:
Combined, the 2014 fees were expected to total $930.5 million, which represents around 89% of its projected $1.055 billion budget. The NRC requested $124.3 million from Congress to cover the difference.
Each year, these numbers grow. The budgets get bigger. The number of staff increases. There are some years in which this might not be true, but the general trend is up. New emergencies, like Three-Mile Island and Fukushima, increase the demand for more regulation to make the industry safer. So does new plant construction.