State takes some nuke duties from NRC

By Rory
Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 1, 2008 

Almost three decades ago, Pennsylvania’s capital region gained international attention as the site of what remains the nation’s worst nuclear incident when a reactor at Three Mile Island near Middletown partially melted down.

Nuclear issues are back on the radar in Harrisburg now that the Commonwealth has taken nuclear regulation into its own hands.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection announced Monday that more than two decades after state legislation directed it, Pennsylvania has become the 35th “agreement state.”

That means the NRC and the state have signed an agreement that Pennsylvania will assume regulatory authority over almost 700 radioactive-material licensees, most of them in medical or industrial uses and including licenses for academic study.

The agreement doesn’t include the state’s nine commercial nuclear plants and single research reactor, which remain under NRC jurisdiction.

DEP’s Bureau of Radiation Protection, which is tasked with oversight of the licenses, was part of a satisfactory NRC review of the state’s radiation control plan.

Gov. Ed Rendell said in a news release that the agreement status will reduce licensing fees and further streamline the regulatory process, as about 200 facilities were licensed by the state and the NRC. The licensing will produce about $2 million annually, which is expected to cover the administration costs of that licensing.

Discounting the duplicate licenses that will be consolidated, the state now manages 911 licenses.

“As long as the program is adequately funded, this protocol allows for greater state control and better local coordination,” said Eric Epstein, who heads the Harrisburg-based nuclear-watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert. “However, periodic audits will be necessary to assure adequate funding and safeguards are in place.”

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.

Source: The Times Leader