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The NRC released a draft white paper discussing options to streamline its regulatory licensing process for microreactors. Specifically, the NRC Staff is “considering strategies to streamline the license review process by maximizing standardization and finality through the use of design certification, standard design approval, and topical report approvals” under 10 CFR Part 52, and is focusing on the following areas.

The NRC’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently released a report (OIG-21-A-13) discussing the results of its audit of the NRC’s pandemic oversight of nuclear power plants. The purpose of the audit was to “assess the NRC’s policies and procedures for conducting reactor inspections during the COVID-19 public health emergency and to identify best practices that could be applied during future pandemics or other public health emergencies.” In short, the OIG found that:

As is clear from recent news reports, cybersecurity hacks and breaches have been trending upward for some time, and there has been a noticeable uptick over the last several months—including in the energy industry. As a result, President Joseph Biden has committed his administration, in large part through the American Jobs Plan and his executive order of May 12, to strengthen cybersecurity across the nation.
As artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools become more widely adopted in various products and industries, the NRC has begun studying what roles these technologies can play in commercial nuclear power operations. On April 21, as part of its study, the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research requested public comments on the role of these technologies “in the various phases of nuclear power generation operational experience and plant management.”
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hosted a public meeting on April 13 to discuss and solicit stakeholder feedback on the cumulative effects of regulation regarding final changes made to the fitness-for-duty (FFD) drug testing requirements in 10 CFR Part 26 (Part 26). The NRC published the proposed rule in the Federal Register on September 16, 2019, to align Part 26 with certain drug testing provisions in the 2008 Health and Human Services Guidelines.
The NRC recently held a meeting to discuss the path forward on its plans to address inconsistencies between the two primary licensing paths for new reactors. The agency estimates that its streamlining effort will result in net averted costs to industry and the NRC of tens of millions of dollars. Comments on the first phase of this undertaking are due in April, and interested stakeholders should consider taking advantage of this opportunity to influence agency policy.
The NRC held a public meeting on January 26 to discuss potential options for licensing fusion energy systems. This meeting is part of the NRC’s work to develop regulations to license and regulate advanced nuclear reactors as directed by the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA).
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Staff has sought the Commission’s approval to initiate a rulemaking to update the agency’s environmental protection regulations for licensing activities.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, signed into law on December 27, includes the Energy Act of 2020 (Energy Act) and the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 (Taxpayer Act), which contains tax provisions important to the energy sector.
Is it science fiction to consider living on the moon or traveling to Mars in only a few months? Maybe not. The US government is promoting technologies to place nuclear reactors in space to power human existence on the moon and to propel spacecraft to Mars.