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Up & Atom

On November 19, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioners approved the Staff’s proposed rulemaking plan for expanding physical security licensing options for advanced reactors.

As we previously reported, the NRC Staff sent a report to the Commission on August 1, 2018, that evaluated four options for revising regulations and guidance on physical security for advanced reactors. The report recommended revising applicable regulations and guidance and attached a proposed rulemaking plan. The report noted that the rulemaking would retain the current framework for security requirements in 10 CFR Part 73, but would provide alternatives for the physical security of advanced reactors. According to the report, changes to physical security for advanced reactors would

  • eliminate the need for future applicants to propose alternatives or request exemptions from physical security requirements;
  • recognize technology advancements and design features associated with the NRC-recommended attributes of advanced reactors; and
  • replace prescriptive regulations with risk-informed, performance-based requirements, among other benefits.

Read the NRC Staff’s evaluation and recommendation.

On November 19, the Commissioners approved the Staff’s recommended rulemaking and proposed rulemaking plan, with the following modifications. The Commissioners

  • shortened the estimated time required to assess potential revisions to the regulations to best reflect the physical security needs at advanced reactor sites (i.e., the regulatory basis) from 18 months to 12 months;
  • directed the Staff to evaluate the requirement in 10 CFR § 73.55 to maintain an onsite secondary alarm station; and
  • authorized the Staff to consult with the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards on matters other than those associated with the progression and potential consequences of postulated terrorist actions and the assessment of related mitigation strategies.

The Commission estimates that the NRC will issue an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in the near future in order to seek stakeholder input for developing the regulatory basis by December 2019. The NRC would again seek stakeholder input on the regulatory basis, develop and submit a proposed rule to the Commission, and resolve any Commission comments. The Commission expects that the NRC will publish a proposed rule in January 2021, seek further stakeholder input thereon, and issue the final rule in February 2022. Potentially recognizing the importance of the rulemaking to stakeholders in the advanced reactor community, the Commission urged the Staff “to employ the use of exemptions, as needed, provided the regulatory basis is issued, until the final rule is implemented.”

Read the Staff’s requirements memorandum approving the proposed limited-scope rulemaking, and the voting record and comments of each commissioner. We will continue to monitor any developments.