Shutdown leaves public safety regulators badly short-handed
Aljazeera America 10/8/13 – As the partial government shutdown drags into a second week, the furlough of public employees deemed “nonessential” is leaving agencies that monitor nuclear, food and workplace safety badly short-handed.
On Thursday the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will run out of funds, putting thousands of NRC employees out of work, The Hill reported. Of the agency’s 3,900 employees, only 300 will be on the job.
At a panel discussion held by environmental activists in New York City on Tuesday, former NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko assured the audience that emergency response personnel will still be available.
“There will be a number of people who will be there to provide emergency response functions in the event that there would be an accident or something like that,” Jaczko said.
However, he added that the NRC would likely furlough some policymaking staff. “Certainly no new regulations will be worked on, things like that,” he said.
Consumer safety activist and former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who also spoke at the conference, told Al Jazeera that the NRC’s oversight abilities would likely continue to weaken.
“It depends on how long the shutdown goes on,” he said. “After two weeks, they’ll stop doing inspections.”
Michel Lee, a nuclear industry watchdog who attended the event, said even a lack of policy regulation can lead to problems.
“The key risk is the possibility that papers are going to get backlogged,” Lee told Al Jazeera.
“People, when they’re busy, they’re overstressed. They’re not going to read long memos, and things are going to fall through the cracks,” she said.