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).
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has announced that it intends to issue, by the end of 2023, the final rule and associated regulatory guide that sets emergency preparedness requirements for new reactors. The rulemaking will allow small modular reactor (SMR) and advanced reactor license applicants to develop performance-based emergency preparedness programs as an alternative to the current offsite radiological emergency planning requirements. This rulemaking is a significant development toward providing flexibility in meeting the NRC’s emergency preparedness requirements.

In this Law360 article, Ryan Lighty discusses the US Congress’s efforts to incentivize coal-to-nuclear transitions. With the recently passed Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act, Congress authorized a new program to foster the deployment of next-generation nuclear facilities at depowered coal sites.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently issued SRM-SECY-21-0107, in which it approved the NRC Staff’s recommendation to delegate authority to the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) Panel—the independent trial-level adjudicatory body of the NRC—to conduct “mandatory” hearings for certain types of construction permit applications. However, the Commission also noted its intent to conduct such hearings itself in certain first-of-a-kind proceedings.
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 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 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.