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The NRC held a public meeting on November 17 to review regulatory relief currently available to medical and other materials licensees, and to identify potential additional relief that the Staff is currently considering.

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.

Under the assumption that the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE) will continue into 2021, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Staff hosted a public meeting via teleconference on October 15 to discuss future requests for relief from regulatory requirements. The meeting focused generally on exemption requests the NRC received in 2020 and, more specifically, the information licensees should provide when submitting future requests for relief.

The commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved almost all of the staff’s proposed approach for adding a new part to its regulations, 10 CFR Part 53, to govern licensing of advanced nuclear reactors. The commissioners directed the staff to expedite finalizing the rule by October 2024—three years earlier than the staff had proposed—and to report back with any “key uncertainties” that would affect finalizing the rule by that date. The commissioners also asked the staff to report back with options regulating fusion (vs. fission) reactor designs.

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.

The NRC also issued the RIS “to communicate to stakeholders the agency’s process for scheduling its reviews.” The onus is now on applicants that expect to need NRC licensing support to proactively engage with the regulator. Companies that intend to engage with the NRC sooner than FY 2023 should consider using methods other than responding to the RIS to communicate those plans to the NRC.

The NRC Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) recently issued Revision 4 to Office Instruction LIC-203, “Procedural Guidance for Categorical Exclusions, Environmental Assessments, and Considering Environmental Issues.” The update reflects recent NRC organizational changes and internal procedures related to the agency’s environmental review activities. These changes do not impose any new obligations on NRC applicants. However, a proper understanding of the agency’s internal processes can be helpful in developing successful licensing strategies. The key changes are summarized below.

The NRC recently issued its report to Congress on the best practices for the establishment and operation of local community advisory boards (CABs) associated with decommissioning nuclear power plants. This report was required by Section 108 of the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA), which was signed into law on January 14, 2019. To date, CABs have been put in place for some, but not all, decommissioning nuclear power plants and there is no formal protocol for their makeup or charter.

The comment period for the NRC’s draft Regulatory Issue Summary (RIS) on true identity verification requirements closed on June 15, 2020. The industry had asked for and received a 45-day extension from the original April 30 deadline to provide comments. As we previously reported, the draft RIS purports to “clarify” licensees’ requirements pursuant to 10 CFR § 73.56(d)(3) to verify the “true identity” of nonimmigrant foreign nationals who are granted unescorted access to nuclear power plants. Comments from the nuclear industry on the draft RIS strongly disagreed with the guidance and emphasized that the guidance “would substantially expand the existing requirement to verify the true identity of non-immigrant foreign nationals.” The industry suggests that the guidance should not be finalized because the draft RIS’s interpretation is unsupported by the language of the regulation and because the NRC did not conduct a backfit analysis under 10 CFR § 50.109. It remains to be seen, however, whether the NRC will be persuaded by the industry’s comments.

The NRC’s Office of Enforcement (OE) recently issued Attachment 2 to Enforcement Guidance Memorandum (EGM) 20-002, providing guidance to NRC inspection staff for exercising enforcement discretion for certain byproduct material licensees that suspended their use of licensed material and are maintaining the licensed material in safe storage because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE). Table 1 of Attachment 2 lists the specific regulatory requirements of 10 CFR Parts 30-36 and 39 that qualify for enforcement discretion if licensees meet all five conditions discussed below.

The NRC Staff released specific guidance to operating and decommissioning reactor licensees on requesting exemptions from fire protection requirements during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE) on May 14. The guidance supplements the NRC’s April 29 teleconference, during which it contemplated such regulatory relief pathways. Morgan Lewis reported on the teleconference earlier this month.