Kinzinger aims for nuclear regulation relief

Marney Simon
Staff writer

U.S. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, R-16, is taking advantage of the August recess to tour the district and get the word out about initiatives he hopes to head up when Congress returns to session in the fall.

On Aug. 9, Kinzinger made a stop at Exelon’s Braidwood Station, to announce plans he’s working on regarding HR 1320, also known as the Nuclear Utilization of Keynote Energy (NUKE) Act.

According to Kinzinger, the legislation creates a framework for Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) fees to increase transparency and provide long-term certainty for nuclear plants.

“Unfortunately, the fate of our nuclear plants, including the plants that represent Byron, Braidwood, Dresden and LaSalle, are at risk due to economic factors, like federal subsidies and cheap natural gas,” Kinzinger said. “Nuclear power was invented here in Illinois, and I believe we must protect our leadership and support good jobs and strong communities and continue to set an international agenda on safety and non-proliferation, and to produce reliable carbon-free electric power to our homes and to our businesses.”

Kinzinger said HR 1320 is a bi-partisan bill to reduce the regulatory burden on nuclear plants while maintaining the “gold standard” of safety.

“Plants like Braidwood pay to be regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. My bill will make the fee structure more transparent and, importantly, it will cap annual fees for all existing plants at 2015 levels,” Kinzinger said. “So, even if plants in other parts of the country retire, the remaining plants like Braidwood won’t have to pay more each year for the same services.”

Kinzinger said HR 1320 was passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee before the August recess, and he plans to work to bring it to the House floor this fall.

“These reforms will create more certainty regarding fees and regulations which will not only support existing nuclear plants, but also encourage investment in the next generation of nuclear power,” Kinzinger said.

The congressman noted that reducing regulations on nuclear power plants is not about rolling back safety measures, but rather, the NUKE bill specifically aims to reduce the financial burden that all power plants pay when it comes to the NRC. Kinzinger points to inefficiency and uncertainties in the regulatory process that can become burdensome to existing and proposed plants.

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission operates based on fees it pulls from the 99 existing nuclear plants,” Kinzinger said. “So, one of the issues is, there’s not transparency in that. There’s money that goes to overhead. And what we’ve done [with the bill] is limit the money to overhead, but also say, if plants close in the future, which some are planning to, it doesn’t then take those fees and distribute them among even less nuclear power plants, skyrocketing their fee costs. So, it caps the fees at 2015 levels, and that’s one thing we can do at the federal level to say, how are we being burdensome to nuclear energy, and how can we reduce that burden.”

Kinzinger added that nuclear energy is a key contributor to the American economy.

“This has been carbon-free in terms of energy production for high base load, so it’s good for the environment, it’s great for the economy, and it’s great for national security,” Kinzinger said.

The bill also requires the NRC to begin a rulemaking process on decommissioning power plants, giving the public a voice in the process.

HR 1320 is co-sponsored by Kinzinger and Congressman Mike Doyle, D-PA.

Illinois’ nuclear industry employs more than 3,500 people, with more than 800 of those employees at Braidwood Station.

Braidwood Station’s operating license runs through 2046 for Unit 1, and 2047 for Unit 2.