Up & Atom


A partial government shutdown currently looms on the horizon. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), however, has a budget funded through FY 2019, so it would not be impacted if the government shuts down.

The NRC did experience the effects of a federal government shutdown in 2013. Then, the NRC furloughed 3,600 of 3,900 staff members. The 300 essential personnel who stayed on included about 150 resident inspectors. All public meetings were suspended, and Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearings were postponed. However, the Inspector General’s Office, as well as the NRC’s hotline for safety and security concerns, continued to function.

If a shutdown were to impact the NRC in the coming years, there is a 2017 NRC Management Directive (MD) in place. MD 4.5 “Contingency Plan for Periods of Lapsed Appropriations” (ML 17219A029), which establishes a strategy to orderly suspend activities and identify excepted functions to continue in the case of congressional failure to enact appropriations for the US Department of Energy, under which the NRC budget fails. Like the policy in effect in 2013, MD 4.5 identifies resident inspectors as essential personnel, along with NRC’s Commissioners and the Inspector General. Other offices, such as Human Resources and Administrative Support, would be maintained at limited levels, and only to facilitate the orderly shutdown of agency operations and to support excepted functions. At all times, NRC would maintain readiness to accept notification calls regarding emergencies related to nuclear reactors; incident response teams would be included in excepted function if they were to be called in for an emergency response.