KEY TRENDS IN LAW AND POLICY REGARDING
NUCLEAR ENERGY AND MATERIALS
In a 2-1 vote, NRC Commissioners have approved a new approach for evaluating where reactors can be sited in the United States, opening the door to siting advanced reactors in more densely populated areas than has been allowed for large, light-water reactors.
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.”
On December 17, the NRC published a report to Congress on the continuing need for and any potential modifications to the Price-Anderson Act (PAA). The NRC was required to submit the report, “Public Liability Insurance and Indemnity Requirements for an Evolving Commercial Nuclear Industry,” by the end of 2021.
The NRC recently published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) seeking public comments on possible amendments to its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations on categorical exclusions. Comments are due by July 21, 2021.
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 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.
In a recently issued NRC adjudicatory decision, the Commission reaffirmed its regulatory interpretation allowing power reactor licensees applying for subsequent license renewal (SLR), and the NRC Staff reviewing these applications, to rely on the NRC’s Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for License Renewal of Nuclear Plants (GEIS). Two of the five Commissioners dissented, however, arguing this interpretation violates the NRC’s obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
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 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.