The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a proposed rule to amend the licensing, inspection, special project, and annual fees charged to applicants and licensees. The proposed amendments are necessary under the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) to ensure the NRC recovers approximately its full annual budget, except funds for specific excluded activities. Among other changes, the NRC proposes decreasing the annual fee for the operating power reactors fee class by $4,000—approximately 0.07%—from $5.492 million in fiscal year 2023 to $5.488 million.
Up & Atom
KEY TRENDS IN LAW AND POLICY REGARDING
NUCLEAR ENERGY AND MATERIALS
NUCLEAR ENERGY AND MATERIALS
The Commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) conducted a biennial joint meeting on January 25, 2024. The biennial meetings allow the Commissioners to hear presentations from industry experts, learn about the challenges facing the energy industry, and determine how the commissions can assist each other based on their respective regulatory authorities.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently published its annual vendor newsletter, The Vendor Times, documenting findings of NRC vendor inspection staff and lessons learned related to the vendor inspection program. The newsletter follows the NRC’s November 20 vendor inspection program self-assessment for fiscal year 2023. Through these two issuances, the NRC noted an increase in enforcement findings and indicated that it will focus on 10 CFR Part 21 and supplier oversight compliance during future inspections.
The Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) recently endorsed the NRC Staff’s proposed alternative option for licensing microreactors in a letter submitted to NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson. In brief, the licensing option endorsed by ACRS would allow a factory-fabricated microreactor to be loaded with fuel having features to preclude criticality and undergo operational testing at the factory before being transported to an installation site. If approved by the Commission, such an approach would create a lower regulatory burden commensurate with the anticipated decreased potential safety hazards posed by microreactors.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a final rule and associated regulatory guide providing an alternative avenue for small modular reactors (SMRs) and advanced reactors to satisfy emergency preparedness requirements. The long-anticipated rulemaking allows SMRs and advanced reactor license applicants to develop performance-based emergency preparedness programs instead of using the current prescriptive offsite radiological emergency planning requirements originally designed for large light-water reactors (LWRs).
In a final rule published in the Federal Register on October 19, 2023, the NRC amended its regulations at 10 CFR 140.11 to increase the amount of third-party liability coverage required under the Price-Anderson Act, Section 170 of the Atomic Energy Act (42 USC 2210) (Price-Anderson) for large reactor licensees (i.e., reactors with a rated capacity of ≥100 MWe) from $450 million to $500 million per incident.
Over the course of 2023, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has started to develop a regulatory framework for fusion energy systems. Significantly, and as we previously reported, NRC decided to modify the existing process for licensing the use of byproduct materials contained in 10 CFR Part 30 to regulate nuclear fusion. NRC has now issued preliminary proposed rule language for the licensing and oversight of a broad array of fusion systems currently under development.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently published a memorandum from the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) documenting planned changes to the NRR’s Safety Culture Inspection Program. The NRC expects to implement these changes by the end of 2023.
As fiscal year 2024 approaches, a partial government shutdown looms on the horizon once more. This would be the first partial government shutdown since the 36-day shutdown that began in late December 2018 and ended on January 25, 2019. While the NRC was unaffected by that shutdown because its FY 2019 budget had been enacted, at this time Congress has not passed any of the annual appropriation bills for FY 2024, including that for the NRC.
In a Federal Register Notice published September 5, 2023, the NRC amended its regulations to be effective October 5, 2023, to adjust for inflation the maximum total and annual deferred premium amounts for the “secondary layer” of offsite liability coverage, as required by the Price-Anderson Act, as amended, Section 170 of the Atomic Energy Act (42 USC 2210) (Price-Anderson).