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The FreedomWorks Foundation's Regulatory Action Center (RAC) submitted formal comments to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in support of reforms to nuclear licensing fees. A reform to the structure of licensing fees would make it less expensive to operate a nuclear power plant and would ensure operators were not being charged by the government before they even begin service. This could lower energy costs for Americans.
For the past three decades, few new nuclear reactors have been built. Despite the decline in costs over the past few years, a significant part of the reasoning is the high costs associated with building and bringing a plant online. Annual licensing fees are approximately $4.3 million for one plant. These fees are also assessed before the plants begin commercial operation. Imagine any business being assessed such exorbitant fees before even getting up and running. It is no wonder why we have seen such a deterring effect in recent decades and a testament to nuclear’s efficiency that it still remains one of the nation’s more cost-effective energy sources.
The current petition before the Commission asks that the Commission consider it practical to realign the assessment of these annual license fees to correspond to the commencement of commercial operations. Currently, the fees align with the time when NRC finds the plant to be in compliance with existing regulations. This means that, on average, a plant could save $350 thousand per month between the time it receives approval and begins operation. This is just a drop in the bucket of the overall costs associated with getting a plant online, but is a great first step in removing government from the equation and letting costs be determined by market forces.