At the end of January, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a complete rewrite of Inspection Manual Chapter (IMC) 1240 on unescorted access authorization for NRC employees and contractors. The most major change from the prior version is that the NRC will no longer issue letters to licensees requesting unescorted access for NRC employees. Instead, the NRC will implement and maintain a Site Access List that identifies NRC employees and contractors whom the NRC has certified for unauthorized access. Consistent with this change, the revised inspection manual chapter provides information on how the NRC will determine the suitability of its employees and contractors for unescorted access. The revisions also change how behavioral observation and fitness for duty programs apply to NRC employees and contractors and how they should be reported.

In January, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) staff hosted a public meeting with industry representatives to discuss the staff’s progress in reviewing recommendations for the NRC’s Reactor Oversight Process (ROP) framework enhancement initiative. The objectives of the ROP enhancement initiative are to evaluate whether the baseline inspection program remains relevant for the current environment, eliminate redundant or unnecessary inspection areas, maximize efficient and effective use of resources, and incorporate flexibility in program implementation, where appropriate.

In 2018, the NRC solicited ideas for enhancing the ROP, which resulted in an industry proposal based on four points: US fleet maturity, improved safety margins, improved risk assessments, and greater use of risk-informed decisionmaking. Part of this proposal includes redefining labels for findings and combining Columns 1 and 2 of the Action Matrix. If the industry proposal prevails, it would mark a paradigm shift, considering Columns 1 and 2 have been in existence since the pilot program for ROP enhancement was introduced in 1999. As was stated at the public meeting, combining Columns 1 and 2 would be a long-term change. A proposal to remove Section 71152 of the Inspection Procedure, for problem identification and resolution, was also raised at the meeting but was generally dismissed.

This blog post is the first in a series that will track further progress on the ROP enhancement initiative.

On January 31, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published a proposed rule to revise the professional hourly rate and flat licensing fees charged to licensees and applicants under 10 CFR Parts 170 and 171. Congress requires the NRC to recover 90% of its operating budget from fees, but certain new activities this year are excluded from that fee recovery requirement. For example, fees for advanced reactors will be carved out from the 90% fee recovery. Despite the carve-outs, NRC fees for each operating reactor will increase by approximately $330,000 (or 7.3%) from FY 2018.

A divided Commission at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on January 24 approved the Mitigation of Beyond-Design-Basis Events rulemaking (Final Rule). The NRC began the rulemaking in December 2016 as part of its efforts to evaluate and implement, if necessary, regulatory changes in response to the Fukushima Daichi event in March 2011. In somewhat of a surprise, the majority of Commissioners last week rejected large portions of the proposed rule submitted by the NRC staff over two years ago. The rationale for changing the Final Rule demonstrates a renewed emphasis on applying backfit analyses.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a revised version of Inspection Manual Chapter (IMC) 0620 (Inspection Documents and Records) on January 28. These revisions add clarifying guidance on marking, handling, and transmitting—internally and externally—inspection documents and records to ensure that all such materials are appropriately controlled and handled by NRC inspectors. These revisions could affect how the NRC Staff maintains and shares NRC inspection documents and records.

It is a fairly common misperception that operating nuclear power plants in the United States depress local property values. This assumption was refuted in recent regulatory proceedings in the Northeast, where detailed studies of local real estate records confirmed earlier studies finding no adverse impact on the property value of homes in proximity to a nuclear power facility or its associated spent fuel. Specifically, perceptions of risk and stigma associated with operating nuclear facilities do not appear to translate into market behavior in the form of a reduction of home sale prices in the vicinity of such facilities. In fact, those studies suggest there may be a positive impact on surrounding communities in the form of reduced residential property taxes for a given level of public expenditures. In practice, it seems that home buyers and sellers are far more pragmatic in their decisions.

With many companies focused on analyzing transactions for applicability of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’ pilot program mandatory declaration requirements, transacting parties should not lose sight of the need to continue to analyze deals under traditional CFIUS standards.

Read the full LawFlash.

Say hello to CUI and get ready to say goodbye to SUNSI. The commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have directed the staff to proceed with a rulemaking to implement the governmentwide Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) program. One impact of this rulemaking will be to eliminate one of our favorite acronyms: Sensitive Unclassified Non-Safeguards Information (SUNSI). But we are still at least a year away from an official change because the staff doesn’t plan to issue a final rule until 2021.

By way of background, the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) published the governmentwide CUI rule on September 14, 2016 (81 Fed. Reg. 63,324), seeking to standardize the current patchwork of more than 100 agency-specific policies for handling sensitive unclassified information requiring safeguarding or dissemination controls. That rule (32 CFR Part 2002) establishes specific handling, incident management, inspection, and oversight requirements for covered information. The NRC CUI program will eventually replace the agency’s current SUNSI program, and will retain safeguards information (SGI).

President Donald Trump on January 14 signed into law the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA), Pub. L. 115-86, after it was passed by Congress in late December 2018. NEIMA covers a wide variety of issues, but two main topics should be particularly welcomed by the nuclear industry: relief from US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) fee collection and the clear direction to speed the rollout of an NRC licensing framework for advanced nuclear reactors.

Staff members from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response and Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation held a kickoff meeting on January 10 to discuss the planned assessment of the NRC’s Power Reactor Cyber Security Program. Based on the Nuclear Energy Institute’s PRM-73-18, “Petition to Amend 10 CFR 73.54, ‘Protection of Digital Computer and Communication Systems and Networks,’” as well as NRC guidance, this assessment marks 10 years since the publication of 10 CFR 73.54. The goals of the assessment are to ensure that all licensees have implemented and are complying with 10 CFR 73.54, but to also ascertain licensees’ processes for identifying critical digital assets (CDAs).