Up & Atom


The NRC is taking an important step toward an inclusive licensing regime for a new generation of reactors. On January 3, the NRC staff submitted for commission approval a recommended final rule on “Emergency Preparedness for Small Modular Reactors and Other New Technologies.”

The existing emergency-preparedness (EP) regulations in 10 CFR Part 50 are primarily tailored for large light-water reactors and non-power reactors and contain deterministic requirements. The draft final rule, on the other hand, is intended to be consequence-oriented, risk-informed, performance-based, and technology-inclusive. More specifically, pursuant to the draft final rule as proposed by the NRC staff in SECY-22-0001, license applicants for small modular reactors (SMRs), advanced reactors, medical radioisotope facilities, and non-power reactors, plus certain existing non-power reactor licensees, would have the option to develop a performance-based EP program.

This rulemaking may also affect the 2020 Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program winners, potentially facilitating a shortened licensing and deployment timeline. The NRC estimates that the final rule and associated guidance will result in net averted costs to the industry and the NRC from approximately $8 million to $14.9 million.

The draft final rule includes four major changes:

  • A new alternative performance-based EP framework for SMRs and other new technologies (ONTs).
  • A requirement for a hazard analysis of any facility located contiguous to or near an SMR or ONT that considers any hazard that would adversely impact the implementation of emergency plans developed under the new rule.
  • A new, scalable approach for determining the size of the plume exposure pathway for the emergency planning zone.
  • A requirement to include ingestion response planning in the emergency plan.

Concurrently, the staff plans to issue a new final Regulatory Guide 1.242, “Performance-Based Emergency Preparedness for Small Modular Reactors, Non-Light-Water Reactors, and Non-Power Production or Utilization Facilities,” to support the implementation of the rule.

The NRC’s current rulemaking schedule indicates that staff expects to publish the final rule in July. However, that timeline could slip depending on how long the commission takes to review and approve the draft language. Morgan Lewis will continue to track significant NRC rulemaking developments related to advanced reactors.