The House Appropriations Committee added its voice to the nuclear power debate yesterday, directing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to put 100 more employes to work processing licenses for new plants.
In approving a $10.6 billion energy and water development appropriation bill, the committee used strong language in ordering NRC not to allow an interruption in licensing procedures.
Earlier, the Interior Committee had approved and the Commerce Committee had rejected, a six-month moratorium on issuance of new construction permits for nuclear generating units.
A spirited argument over the moratorium is expected in the House, but the Appropriations Committee directive will be open to debate sooner - probably reaching the floor next Wednesday.
The Appropriations Committee action came after the NRC diverted about 100 technicians from regular licensing work to other duties connected with the investigation of the Three Mile Island accident in March.
Although NRC had asked permission to hire 85 new regulatory workers during fiscal 1980, the committee agreed yesterday that licensing procedures could not wait.
"We don't know how many licenses are pending - but we think they would deal with some 50 during the next two or three years," committee aide Mel Greer said. "The impact of delay could be a very large increase in power costs."
Since the Three Mile Island accident, the House Appropriations Committee and its Senate counterpart have been under pressure from electric utilities complaining that licensing activity at the NRC had ground to an expensive halt.
Earlier this eek, the House passed a supplemental appropriation bill that directed the NRC to use existing funds to transfer technicians from other work to licensing.
The fiscal 1980 bill the committee adopted yesterday provides the funds for 100 additional positions with the stipulation that they work solely on plant construction licenses.
"We're not telling NRC to approve or reject anything. The issue is to keep the work going," Greer said.
The committee report contended that delays in nuclear power plant construction "can cost up to $1 million a day in added costs to consumers."