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U.S. nuclear agency to shut; reactor report not available

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will shut down on Thursday because the agency has depleted its carryover funds, the chairman said in a blog.

Resident inspectors at the nation's 100 nuclear reactors in 31 states will remain in place to address immediate safety and security issues, but the agency's daily reactor status report will not be available, said NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane.

The shutdown of the U.S. government has entered a second week as Congress and the Obama administration appear no closer to finding a resolution.

"Despite our best hopes, the NRC on Thursday will be joining the rest of the federal government in shutting down due to a lapse in appropriations," Macfarlane said.

The NRC website will not be updated until the full staff returns to work, she said, meaning that the agency's daily reactor status and event report will not be available.

The NRC plant status report is widely followed by power and natural gas traders as lost nuclear output is often replaced by gas-fired generation. Nuclear plants produce about 20 percent of the nation's electricity.

Macfarlane said the NRC staff deserved credit for continuing to work since October 1 "under very challenging circumstances."

The agency will suspend activity related to non-emergency reactor licensing, reactor license renewal amendments, emergency exercises and design certification reviews.

Also suspended will be routine licensing and inspection of nuclear materials and waste licensees and rule making involving waste confidence.

The agency has canceled more than two dozen meetings it had scheduled this month on a variety of topics due to the shutdown.

The NRC inspector general's office will operate during the shutdown.

"We are mindful of the impact the shutdown will have on the public, our licensees, our staff and contractors and others who count on us," Macfarlane said. "We hope this interruption is as brief as possible and we look forward to being back at our desks, hard at work, doing what we do best here at the NRC in service to the nation."

Exelon Corp, Entergy Corp and Duke Energy are the nation's largest operators of nuclear reactors.

Meanwhile, Southern Co is working to build two new reactors in Georgia; and Scana Corp is building two new reactors in South Carolina.

(Reporting by Eileen O'Grady in Houston; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Ken Wills)

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