1998 Congressional Hearings
Special Weapons
Nuclear, Chemical, Biological and Missile


Statement for the Record

Peter N. Brush

Acting Assistant Secretary

Environment, Safety and Health

for the

Subcommittee on Strategic Forces

Committee on Armed Services

United States Senate

March 12, 1998

I am pleased to update the Subcommittee on the status of the Department's initiatives regarding external regulation of Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear facilities. In June of 1997, Secretary of Energy Peña and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Jackson agreed to pursue external regulation of nuclear facility safety. They also agreed that, given the many uncertainties and complexities involved, the best path forward would be to proceed through a pilot program.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between NRC and the Department establishing the framework for the pilot program was executed on November 21, 1997. The overall objective of the pilot program is to gather detailed cost and other information from real-life applications to support a decision whether to seek legislation to authorize NRC regulation of DOE nuclear facilities. Specifically, the MOU calls for NRC to simulate regulation and test regulatory approaches on approximately six to ten DOE facilities or sites over a period of two years.

DOE and NRC selected the initial two pilots to be conducted during Fiscal Year 1998. They are the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Radiochemical Engineering Development Center at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The Receiving Basin for Offsite Fuels at the Savannah River site is proposed to be a third pilot. The remaining pilots will be named in the near future based on the following criteria, among others: 1) geographic diversity, 2) program office diversity, 3) new or existing facility, 4) age/condition/status diversity, 5) hazard diversity, 6) NRC familiarity diversity, 7) schedule/timeline, 8) availability of standards, and 9) representation of facilities/materials to be regulated.

The Lawrence Berkeley pilot is under way. On-site reviews of the facility by NRC have been completed. Under this pilot, NRC reviewed Berkeley's procedures, practices and activities against NRC requirements. A report documenting the results of this pilot is expected to be completed in the spring. The pilot to be conducted at the Radiochemical Engineering and Development Center has just begun.

At the end of this two year pilot program, NRC and DOE staff will provide a joint report to Secretary Peña and the Commission with a recommendation as to our next steps, such as whether NRC should be given regulatory authority for some or all DOE nuclear facilities. When the Secretary and the Commission agree on future steps, if appropriate we will submit a legislative proposal to Congress.

We appreciate the Subcommittee's interest in this important matter. We expect that the pilot program that is under way will provide the agencies and the Congress valuable facts and experiences upon which decisions can be made.