In a letter sent Tuesday to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the West Virginia Republican argues that in-person work collaboration would help the agency streamline regulatory decisions and better engage with private stakeholders.

“It is imperative that the NRC staff is taking all steps to facilitate a successful review and approval process, both with the NRC staff review team as well as with applicants," Capito wrote. "Face-to-face meetings are necessary to achieve that goal.”

If the agency does not reduce telework options, Capito suggested that the Senate could exert greater oversight over potential misuse of empty NRC office space that ratepayers fund. The NRC relies on fees paid by utilities with nuclear reactors for a bulk of its funding.

House Republicans are signaling that reforms centered on the NRC may be a focus of their energy legislation this year (E&E Daily, Jan. 24). The NRC has come under frequent Republican criticism for being too slow to certify innovative nuclear technology.

The most recently available telework policy from the NRC, from 2017, says it is the practice of the agency to "implement a telework program, whereby approved participants are allowed to work at home or at other approved offsite locations, that is consistent with applicable laws and regulations and that strikes an appropriate balance between agency and employee needs and interests."

An NRC spokesperson said an agency response, to be sent directly to the senator and later posted online, is forthcoming.