As industry steps up its efforts to design, develop, and deploy advanced reactors, codes and standards must be developed to support these technologies. Toward that end, ANS and the Nuclear Energy Institute collaborated to host a virtual workshop on June 23 for industry partners to discuss the development of advanced reactor codes and standards.
NEI’s senior director of new reactors, Marc Nichol, welcomed more than 400 attendees to the online meeting, and ANS’s director of government relations, John Starkey, outlined the meeting logistics.
The SCARP report: Steven Arndt, immediate past chair of the ANS Standards Board, introduced the workshop’s topic by providing an overview of Setting the Right Bar: How Consensus Standards Help Advanced Reactor Development, a special report by the ANS Special Committee on Advanced Reactor Policy (SCARP). Arndt was one of the authors of the report.
Shortly after the release of the ANS special report, NEI issued a report titled Advanced Reactor Codes and Standards Needs Assessment (NEI 19-03), which includes specific recommendations for near-term priorities for codes and standards development. Michael Tschiltz, an NEI consultant and project lead, summarized NEI 19-03 for workshop attendees.
As noted in the ANS SCARP report, “Consensus standards are a vital, albeit sometimes underappreciated, aspect of nuclear energy system design, operation, and regulation. They allow commercial suppliers and regulators to leverage the collective wisdom of the entire scientific and engineering community to ensure the appropriate margin of safety in the design and construction of nuclear systems, and they provide a technically robust basis for decision-makers. Bringing new nuclear energy systems to market requires serious commitment on the part of industry, government, and standards development organizations (SDOs).”
Dirk Cairns-Gallimore, of the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, offered an update on the advanced reactor landscape. More than 60 companies and research institutions are working on a wide array of capabilities to meet the energy needs of the future. Standards, Cairns-Gallimore said, are recognized as the basis for efficiency, improved trade and commerce, and reduced vulnerability to a wide range of hazards.
Panel talk: The workshop proceeded with three panel discussions. The first, “Matching of Advanced Reactor Developer Needs and SDO Capabilities,” included Lauren Latham (Southern, chair of the Molten Salt Reactor Technology Working Group), Michael Cohen (TerraPower), Jordan Hagaman (Kairos Power), Alex Harkness (Westinghouse ), and Jacob DeWitte (Oklo, chair of the Fast Reactor Technology Working Group Chair).
Advanced reactor developers are involved in standards projects that they consider urgent but recognize that consensus codes and standards take time to develop and gain approval. The panelists identified a few standards currently under development as not necessary and suggested that they not be pursued, expecting near-term, design-specific demonstrations to lay the foundation for long-term codes and standards.
Priorities identified include preapplication interaction with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on new codes, standards, and methodologies to help identify issues as early as possible to prevent later delays; areas related to safety analysis and safety-related equipment; the potential need for changes to the supply chain for long lead items; materials not included in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC); and the integration of risk-informed information.
Another panel: “Other Codes and Standards Organizations Perspectives” allowed SDOs to address key issues that impede progress and to discuss potential solutions. The panelists included Robert Keating (ASME BPVC, Sec. III), Rick Swayne and Thomas Roberts (ASME BPVC, Sec. XI), Rick Grantom (ASME/ANS Joint Committee on Nuclear Risk Management), Javeed Munshi (Joint American Concrete Institute/ASME Committee 359), Daryl Harmon (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Nuclear Power Engineering Committee), and Martin White (American Society for Testing and Materials, Additive Manufacturing Programs). A number of other SDO representatives also participated in the panel discussion.
The challenges described by the panelists had many similarities. SDOs are working to continuously improve standards to meet stakeholder needs by incorporating new methods, industry data, and advancements in materials and new designs. The significant amount of time it takes to develop a standard is related to the development process, which relies on volunteer efforts. Sufficient experience with advanced reactors to achieve a consensus for standard practice is lacking, and a sufficient number of subject matter experts for standards development is also lacking. The panel identified several items considered to be part of the solution to improve standards development, including additional representatives from advanced reactor design organizations to support standards development, better collaboration between SDOs and reactor design organizations, and funding to aid the volunteer effort.
Addressing barriers: George Flanagan (ANS), Garrett Smith (DOE), Chip Lagdon (Bechtel), Kent Welter (NuScale Power), and Michael Arcaro ( GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy) participated in the next panel, “Addressing the Barriers to Standards Creation.” The sentiment that the process to develop codes and standards needs to be expedited was shared by all. Panelists pointed to the lack of employer-supported volunteers as the greatest factor that delays the timeline for developing codes and standards. Without company backing, standards development is not part of an expert’s everyday activities. Advanced reactor developers need to understand and recognize the importance of standards over the long term and encourage their staffs and the DOE to develop such standards. Other challenges include addressing the needs of a number of different advanced reactor technologies, acquiring earlier DOE work from national laboratories, attracting and retaining the next generation of engineers and scientists for standards development, continuity of knowledge among standards writers and advanced reactor developers, and lack of funding for basic research and sharing of results.
The NRC's take: Following the panel discussions, the NRC’s standards executive, Louise Lund, presented “NRC Perspective and Roles in Advanced Reactor Codes and Standards.” The NRC is actively participating in the development and use of consensus codes and standards across multiple SDOs. The NRC recognizes that codes and standards improve the effectiveness and efficiency of regulatory oversight. Staff participation helps facilitate the NRC endorsement process, and SDOs are encouraged to notify the NRC of new and revised standards to aid in the regulatory process. In the absence of codes and standards, developers can proceed with adequate basis supporting their designs. Lund announced that the NRC will hold the next NRC Standards Forum on September 15, 2020, to continue workshop discussions on advanced reactor codes and standards.
Some recap: As the workshop drew to a close, Nichol, Arndt, and Tschiltz recapped the workshop takeaways:
There is a need to identify and align priorities and fund those deemed to be high priority.
Technology readiness levels could be utilized in the prioritization of codes and standards development.
The best way to influence SDO activities is to be involved.
Advanced reactor developers emphasized the importance of advanced reactor materials research and standards development, as opposed to the development of process standards.
A myriad of advanced reactor designs makes standards development more challenging.
The lack of “state of practice” experience limits interest and inhibits progress in this area.
DOE demonstration projects that accelerate advanced reactor development and deployment need to support and fund codes and standards development activities to promote accelerated timelines.
Trial use and pilot application standards should be considered when the state of practice has not been fully developed.
Communication among advanced reactor developers and SDOs needs improvement.
Consideration should be given to codes and standards development infrastructure to adapt and better support advanced reactor development.
Conducting codes and standards development based on volunteer efforts will likely not support the accelerated development needed for advanced reactors.
Key standards for which information is available should receive additional resources.
Standards that require additional research (such as materials standards) should get the resources needed to gather the data.
In closing: Steps to achieve the goal of developing a path forward and setting priorities for the development of codes and standards were identified for industry partners. They include the following:
NEI to take the role of bridging the gap between industry and SDOs.
Advanced reactor technology working groups to develop priorities for codes and standards.
SDOs to work with industry to understand capabilities.
The DOE and the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear to clarify and establish funding opportunities.
Advanced reactor developers and SDOs to partner on proposals for funding specific codes and standards development.
NEI and industry partners to work on processes for accelerating the acceptance of codes and standards and on a process for licensing where no codes and standards exist.
The NRC to participate in codes and standards development and to prepare for acceptance.