NextEra Energy will be allowed to revise the emergency preparedness plan for its Duane Arnold nuclear power plant to reflect the plant’s decommissioning status, having been granted exemptions from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s emergency preparedness and planning requirements, the agency announced on February 17. A single-unit boiling water reactor plant located in Palo, Iowa, approximately eight miles northwest of Cedar Rapids, Duane Arnold was shut down in August 2020 after a derecho damaged the plant’s cooling towers.
The NRC regularly issues exemptions from its licensing requirements to nuclear power plants that are transitioning to decommissioning, where the risk of an off-site radiological release is significantly lower, and the types of possible accidents significantly fewer, than at an operating reactor.
Once NextEra implements the exemptions, state and local governments can rely on comprehensive emergency management (“all hazard”) planning for off-site emergency response should an event occur at Duane Arnold. As a result, there will not be a 10-mile emergency planning zone as currently identified in Duane Arnold’s license. The plant will maintain an on-site emergency plan and response capabilities, including the continued notification of state government officials in the event of an emergency declaration.
NRC review: NextEra’s exemption request included analyses showing that the exemptions are warranted, given the defueled status of the reactor. The NRC said that its staff evaluated and confirmed the company’s analyses and considered comments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Based on the NRC staff’s evaluation and recommendation, the commission approved the exemptions on February 11.
The exemptions, a safety evaluation, and associated license amendments reflecting the changes are to be issued in the next few weeks, according to the NRC. Under the exemptions, NextEra may not implement the changes to its emergency preparedness plans until June 10.