Choose Site

In a recent Memorandum and Order (Order), an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (Board) unanimously granted summary disposition to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), dismissing three alleged violations and partially dismissing a fourth issued by the NRC. The violations arose from an investigation conducted by the NRC’s Office of Investigations (OI) into allegations of retaliation against a former TVA employee and former contractor. In its Order, the Board clarified the scope of Section 211 of the Energy Reorganization Act (ERA) (42 USC 5851) and the NRC’s implementing regulation in 10 CFR 50.7 (Section 50.7). The Order is favorable to employers covered by Sections 211 and 50.7. 

NRC Commissioners Christopher Hanson, David Wright, and Jeff Baran recently voted 2-1 (Commissioner Baran dissenting) to implement SECY-21-0029, “Rulemaking Plan on Revision of Inservice Testing and Inservice Inspection Program Update Frequencies Required in 10 CFR 50.55a.” SECY-21-0029 will initiate a rulemaking to extend the required Inservice Inspection (ISI) Program and Inservice Testing (IST) Program Code of Record update frequency from 120 months to 240 months.
The NRC held a public meeting on October 21 to discuss the status of its evaluation of environmental justice (EJ) in its programs, policies, and activities.
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.
An NRC working group released a report on July 23 after conducting a “fundamental” review of 10 CFR Part 110 (Part 110) and the NRC’s readiness to license exports of advanced reactors and their associated nuclear material. The NRC concluded that it “is generally ready to license the export of advanced reactors and their associated materials and components,” but Part 110 could “benefit” from some clarifications because it generally is focused on light-water reactor (LWR) technology. The NRC’s proactive review is welcome news, demonstrating the agency’s commitment to becoming ready to license the next generation of nuclear reactor designs.
The NRC’s Commissioners approved an NRC Staff request on August 5 to withdraw two SECY memoranda related to improvements of the effectiveness and efficiency of the Reactor Oversight Process (ROP). These SECY papers were initially issued in 2018 (SECY-18-113) and 2019 (SECY-19-067), and sought Commission approval for what the NRC Staff recommended would be potential improvements to the ROP as a whole. In withdrawing these two SECY papers, the Commission’s brief Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM) provided little explanation as to why the Staff requested withdrawal of the two SECY papers.

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:

Commissioner Annie Caputo has announced her plans to leave the NRC when her term expires next week, on June 30, 2021. This will leave the Commission with the bare minimum number of commissioners needed to conduct business.
The NRC Office of Enforcement (OE) recently published its Enforcement Program Annual Report for calendar year 2020. The report shows that the number of escalated enforcement actions increased 7% over 2019, but remained below the five-year average from 2016 to 2020. That said, 2018 was the nadir of this five-year period with 45 escalated enforcement actions. So while the number of escalated enforcement actions have not returned to levels seen in 2016 and 2017 (each with more than 80), instances of escalated enforcement remain above longer-term historic trends, notwithstanding maturation of the industry. Whether this trend continues is to be seen. In April 2021, the NRC named Mark Lombard as the new director of the Office of Enforcement.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently issued its Report to Congress on Abnormal Occurrences for fiscal year 2020. The report documents key aspects of those events that the NRC considers “Abnormal Occurrences” (AOs) and allows the regulated community to review the operating experience of reactor, medical, and industrial users of radioactive materials. AOs are unscheduled events that the NRC determines to be significant from the standpoint of public health or safety.