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The NRC staff published Regulatory Issue Summary (RIS) 2020-02 on August 31 requesting potential advanced reactor applicants to provide information on their plans for engaging with the agency during fiscal years (FYs) 2023 through 2025. The NRC’s stated goal in the RIS is to “promote early communication between the NRC and potential applicants” that will assist the NRC in planning for “focus area reviews, acceptance reviews, licensing reviews, and inspection support” for new advanced reactors.

The NRC also issued the RIS “to communicate to stakeholders the agency’s process for scheduling its reviews.” The onus is now on applicants that expect to need NRC licensing support to proactively engage with the regulator. Companies that intend to engage with the NRC sooner than FY 2023 should consider using methods other than responding to the RIS to communicate those plans to the NRC.

As the United States continues shifting to advanced reactor designs, the NRC is beginning to develop a process for licensing these reactors. The plan builds on the regulatory framework currently found in 10 CFR Part 50, setting forth the two-part construction permit and operating license framework for new reactor construction, and 10 CFR Part 52, which allows for early site permits, combined licenses, design certifications, and similar approvals. Applicants submitting an application or other licensing action under the current framework will often leverage meetings with the NRC to obtain feedback on their planned designs before officially submitting applications or other licensing requests. These “pre-application” meetings can be valuable tools for companies to receive feedback on their proposed approach and designs, while allowing the NRC staff to become familiar with those proposed designs.

The NRC emphasized in the RIS that it will give priority of review to companies that declare, in writing, their anticipated application submission date no later than 90 days in advance of the arrival of the submission. The NRC expects that such advance notice “will facilitate the likelihood of an acceptance review requiring no more than 60 calendar days,” although the NRC provides no assurance that acceptance reviews will be completed in that timeframe. The NRC also says that declarations of “desired pre-application interaction timeframe, as well as issues to be addressed during pre-application, would also be helpful” when the declaration is submitted. The NRC further promises to work with applicants to accommodate emergent notices of submittals or schedule changes.

The NRC requested responses to specific questions listed in the RIS by October 15 (45 days after publication of the RIS). The NRC plans to use this information to make plans for resource allocations within the agency for FYs 2023 through 2025.

The NRC also notes in the RIS that it may share submitted information with other federal agencies to support efforts to license new plants, but can protect proprietary information from public disclosure under the process laid out in 10 CFR § 2.390.

Morgan Lewis will continue to follow the NRC’s developing plans to license advanced reactor designs.