The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued an order, with the four-member Commission acting in its appellate capacity, holding that power reactor licensees applying for Subsequent License Renewal (SLR), and the NRC Staff reviewing such applications, may rely on the environmental impact analyses and conclusions in the NRC’s Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for License Renewal of Nuclear Plants. Environmental activists had challenged the applicability of these conclusions in the SLR context. The Commission’s ruling is a positive development for the nuclear power industry, particularly for current and future SLR applicants.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Staff issued SECY-20-0034 on April 22, informing the NRC Commissioners of the Staff’s plan to exercise enforcement discretion for licensee noncompliance with regulatory requirements resulting from illnesses or other factors caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE). The Staff’s approach applies to all classes of licensees and provides long-awaited guidance on the subject of enforcement discretion.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently released a draft report from the agency’s Working Group on Reactor Decommissioning Financial Assurance (DFA). Comments on the draft report are due by April 21, 2020.

The agency assembled the working group in 2019 to examine the implications of an increasing trend in the use of third-party business models for decommissioning nuclear power plants. The working group, composed of NRC personnel from the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, Nuclear Reactor Regulation, Regional Offices, and the Office of the General Counsel, undertook a comprehensive review of current DFA requirements to identify potential regulatory gaps or policy issues and recommend potential program enhancements.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently approved a 90-day deferral of all annual fee invoices that would have been issued to NRC licensees (including holders of reactor, fuel cycle facility, and materials licenses; certificates of compliance; sealed source and device registrations; and quality assurance program approvals) in the third quarter (April–June) of fiscal year (FY) 2020.

Over the past few days, several civic and environmental organizations have requested that federal departments and agencies pause rulemaking activities in response to the worsening coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Our energy lawyers have prepared a LawFlash addressing the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), “Update to the Regulations Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act,” published today in the Federal Register by the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The proposed rule has four major elements: (1) to modernize, simplify, and accelerate the NEPA process; (2) clarify terms, application, and scope of NEPA review; (3) enhance coordination with states, tribes, and localities; and (4) reduce unnecessary burdens and delays.

To date, the commercial nuclear power industry has expressed strong support for the types of rule changes proposed by the CEQ in its NPRM, as they are intended to streamline and expedite the federal agency NEPA review process. Those in the industry that depend on federal agency action when advancing projects and securing permits should actively participate in the proposed rulemaking and help the CEQ build a sufficient agency record to defend against any later litigation challenges to new regulations.

Read the full LawFlash.

The NRC Staff held a public meeting on December 12 at its headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, to discuss subsequent license renewal (SLR) lessons learned. This was the second such meeting this year, with a third planned for early 2020.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss comprehensive lessons learned regarding key technical issues common to the first three SLR applications submitted to the agency for review and approval. Ultimately, the objective is to update and clarify NRC’s SLR regulatory guidance documents, capturing key lessons learned and further ensuring a review process that is both effective and efficient for future applicants. At the outset of the meeting, the NRC Staff made clear that the next planned meeting will focus on process-related improvements and lessons learned.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and its Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) have been busy in recent weeks assessing issues related to the licensing of non-light water reactors (non-LWRs).

First, the NRC’s Division of Advanced Reactors transmitted a draft white paper titled “Non-Light Water Review Strategy” on September 30, 2019. As the title suggests, the white paper will “support the [NRC’s] review of applications for non-LWR designs submitted prior to the development of the technology-inclusive, risk-informed and performance-based regulatory framework . . . in 2027.” In so doing, the white paper describes both the contents of such applications and “an approach NRC staff may use to review the license basis information.”

NRC Staff has made publicly available copies of Draft Regulatory Guide 1341, Standard Format and Content for Applications to Renew Nuclear Power Plant Operating Licenses, and a supporting Regulatory Analysis. Draft Regulatory Guide 1341 is intended to revise Regulatory Guide 1.188 (as Revision 2 thereto) to update references to other NRC license renewal guidance documents, and to expressly extend the guidance to applications for subsequent license renewal (SLR), i.e., the renewal of a reactor operating license for a second 20-year period, from 60 years to 80 years. The revised guidance document would provide applicants with a method to demonstrate compliance with the 10 CFR Part 54 requirements for both initial license renewal and SLR applications. Three SLR applications currently are under review by the NRC Staff, and others are expected to be submitted in the future.

In a June 25, 2019, letter to the Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Senators John Barrasso and Mike Braun requested that the agency develop a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for the construction and operation of advanced reactors. The letter asserts that a GEIS “will be a critical step to facilitate the deployment of new nuclear technologies” and “will focus NRC’s licensing efforts on the most important safety issues, reduce NRC staff resources dedicated to environmental permitting, and align with Congressional and Executive Branch efforts to conduct environmental permitting reviews more efficiently.”