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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) wants your input on its advanced reactor rulemaking activities on a rolling basis, so it announced that it will periodically place “preliminary proposed rule language” on the federal rulemaking website under Docket ID NRC-2019-0062.

The NRC will not be publishing Federal Register notices each time it posts new language, so you need to act in order to receive future updates. You need to sign up for email alerts. To subscribe: (1) Navigate to the “docket folder” (NRC–2019–0062); (2) click the ‘‘Sign up for Email Alerts’’ link on the right-hand side of the screen under “Take a Tour”; and (3) enter your email address and select how frequently you would like to receive emails (daily, weekly, or monthly). The rulemakings website also contains helpful background documents.

This recent announcement is part of the NRC outlining its approach to develop new requirements for licensing and regulating advanced reactors under a new 10 CFR Part 53, ‘‘Licensing and Regulation of Advanced Nuclear Reactors.’’ The new Part 53 requirements will “adopt technology-inclusive approaches and include the appropriate use of risk-informed and performance-based techniques, to provide the necessary flexibility for licensing and regulating a variety of advanced nuclear reactor technologies and designs.” The NRC will periodically publish preliminary proposed rule language to the federal rulemakings website. The NRC will also hold public meetings every four to six weeks over the coming year to solicit feedback from stakeholders.

By way of background, the current licensing schemes under 10 CFR Parts 50 and 52—which apply to light water reactors and non-power reactors—do not encompass the variety of advanced reactor designs currently being developed in the commercial sector. As a result, companies that would begin the licensing process for their advanced reactors in the coming years would need to “make extensive use” of the exemption process for those licensing requirements that do not apply to advanced reactor designs. To avoid overuse of the exemption process, among other reasons, Congress directed the NRC to develop licensing infrastructure specifically for advanced reactors by enacting the 2019 Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA).

The proposed Part 53 would do the following:

  1. Continue to provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety and the common defense and security,
  2. Promote regulatory stability, predictability, and clarity,
  3. Reduce requests for exemptions from the current requirements in 10 CFR parts 50 and 52,
  4. Establish new requirements to address non-light-water reactor technologies,
  5. Recognize technological advancements in reactor design, and
  6. Credit the response of advanced nuclear reactors to postulated accidents, including slower transient response times and relatively small and slow release of fission products.

Authors Alex Polonsky and Jane Accomando are members of the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Part 53 Task Force, and Morgan Lewis closely follows the NRC’s developing plans to license advanced reactor designs.