March 04, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Kristine Svinicki announced that the NRC would redo faulty risk analysis for a gas pipeline near the Indian Point nuclear plant following questioning by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Gillibrand pressed Chairman Svinicki on the risk analysis after a recently released IG report found that the agency failed to properly study safety risks.
*Watch EPW Committee Hearing Video HERE*
SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: In 2006, I along with Senator Schumer called for an independent review which was unheeded by the NRC. Those of us who raised concerns at the time were told that the NRC’s analysis was conservative and there was no need for any additional review.
The NRC now has a real credibility problem with the community around Indian Point and this is an abject failure of your agency’s responsibility to ensure that proper analysis was done to evaluate the potential risk posed by the pipeline, regardless of whether there was a direct or immediate impact to plant safety or not.
I am most interested now in what the NRC is going to do to restore its credibility and ensure that this doesn’t happen again. I have a number of questions to understand how the NRC intends to address the facts laid out in the Inspector General’s report. First, can you please explain the steps that the NRC will take to evaluate the safety analysis for the aim pipeline and modify agency practices or procedures?
NRC CHAIRMAN SVINICKI: Thank you, Senator Gillibrand. Again, I want to just note for you and commit that to a person this commission takes this matter — The things identified by the inspector general identified are real, they are significant and very very important that we address quickly. Upon receipt of the Inspector General report, on behalf of the commission, I directed the agency’s Senior career civil servant, the executive director of operations to do two things immediately. The first was to assess whether or not the issues identified in the inspectors report should result in immediate regulatory reaction at Indian Point. That needed to be done very very promptly. The second item directed at that time was that no longer than 45 days, the executive director of operations needed to task and have a team that looked at exactly the question you posed. What contributed to these gaps and deficiencies and agencies processes? What is the extent even beyond Indian Point? If the processes were flawed, are there other impacted safety issues that we need to re-look at?
Your question about the scope of the reanalysis is something that is actively being worked right now but I think I can confidently state today that the NRC expert team acknowledges that there will be reanalysis that will be required and they will also not be doing this — the folks involved in looking at this now did not participate in the agency work prior. Their independence within the agency is very very important to the credibility question you asked and also they have been directed that they will reach outside for expertise, academic or otherwise, perhaps other government agencies that might know about the code and the modelling and its appropriate use.
So, I assure you this has a very very high priority. I directed that they report in 45 days, the executive director for operations who is here with me today was not content with that. She wants preliminary conclusions in 20 days. We pledge to keep you and others informed.
GILLIBRAND: Will there be any peer-review of the review? Meaning, any outside, independent review of what you are doing now?
SVINICKI: I can’t answer that today given the formative stage of the team coming together and figuring out the composition of the team and they’re prioritizing the early priority areas to look at. But, I think we will know that soon and if I could get back to you for the record or in writing on that.
GILLIBRAND: And just for the record, does any other Commissioner disagree with what the Chairman has said?
NRC COMMISSIONER BARAN: I don’t disagree, but I will say this. I think after the NRC’s flawed safety analysis, you’re right that many people have lost confidence in NRC. We’ll do this the right way. For a task force to be credible, I think it’s important that it be independent, and that means having several task force members from outside the agency – from academia, from other federal agencies. In my view, those outside experts should make up a majority of that task force. And I think we should consult with the state of New York and ask them who would they recommend for us to have on this panel? Because right now, we have a lot of stakeholders and we don’t have a lot of credibility on this. I think bringing in folks from outside the agency is really going to help with that.
Senator Gillibrand also pressed Chairman Svinicki on the importance of public hearings for the proposed license transfer of Indian Point from Entergy to Holtec during the decommissioning process. Senator Gillibrand and her New York colleagues have been persistent advocates for strong Congressional oversight over the shutdown and decommissioning of Indian Point to make sure that local concerns are addressed upfront. This includes ensuring that state and local officials, and the public, have the opportunity to have their voices heard every step of the way.