Group calls for NRC licensing fee reform to spur advanced nuclear

May 20, 2021, 2:59PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) yesterday released a report, Unlocking Advanced Nuclear Innovation: The Role of Fee Reform and Public Investment, arguing that a reform of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s user-fee model for new license applicants, combined with more funding for advanced reactor licensing and regulatory infrastructure, will unlock innovation and support U.S. leadership in advanced nuclear energy.

The 38-page report asserts that as currently structured, the NRC’s fee model inhibits carbon-free advanced nuclear innovation in two primary ways: First, it limits the agency’s resources, flexibility, and efficiency; and second, the open-ended costs associated with paying fees impose barriers to new entrants.

Given the importance of developing advanced reactors for decarbonization, Congress should reevaluate the licensing fee recovery system, according to the report. “User fees can be effective models to internalize regulatory costs of regulated industries, but they can also discourage innovation and limit agency capabilities and flexibility,” it states.

The report was written by NIA project manager Alex Gilbert, with contributions from NIA executive director Judi Greenwald and NIA analyst Victor Ibarra Jr.

Driving home the point: Also yesterday, the NIA presented a webinar on its report. Moderated by former NRC commissioner Stephen Burns, now a senior fellow at Third Way, the webinar panelists included Gilbert, Oklo cofounder Caroline Cochran, and Peter Hastings, vice president of regulatory affairs and quality at Kairos Power.

In addition, a joint op-ed in support of the report’s recommendations, coauthored by Greenwald, Burns, and former NRC commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield, was published yesterday by Morning Consult.

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