The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will continue work on a new rule on security requirements for independent spent fuel storage installations (ISFSIs), with two of the agency’s three commissioners voting to disapprove a request by NRC staff to discontinue the proposed rulemaking. The commissioners’ votes on the request were recorded on August 4, 2021, but were not made public until January 24.
The commissioners also voted to disapprove NRC staff’s recommendation to deny an associated petition for rulemaking filed by the C-10 Research and Education Foundation. That petition, filed in 2008, asked that the NRC require hardened on-site storage at all nuclear power plants, as well at as dry cask spent fuel storage sites away from operating reactors.
Background: The NRC, in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, issued security orders to ISFSI licensees, and in 2007, the commission approved a staff recommendation to develop a rulemaking to “establish a risk-informed and performance-based approach to ISFSI security using scenarios and dose calculations that considered site-specific information.”
After suspending work on the rulemaking for a time, the commission directed the staff in 2018 to proceed with the rulemaking “with the exclusive scope of codifying the requirements of the post-9/11 security orders into the NRC’s regulations.”
While developing a revised regulatory basis for the rulemaking, NRC staff conducted a preliminary cost and benefit analysis of continuing work on the rule. The staff found that the proposed rule “would not further improve the public health and safety or the common defense and security and would not be cost-justified.” In 2019, the staff requested commissioner approval to discontinue the rulemaking and deny the C-10 petition.
The vote and next steps: NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson and Commissioner Jeff Baran voted to disapprove the staff’s request to discontinue the rulemaking and deny the petition, while Commissioner David Wright voted to approve.
In voting to disapprove the request, Baran said that the commission’s 2018 direction to limit the scope of the rulemaking “has created a false choice between not doing a rulemaking or doing a rulemaking that does nothing new.” Baran said there are other options for rulemaking development and that the staff should provide a list of those options for consideration.
“Before deciding whether and how to proceed with this rulemaking, the commission would benefit from a staff analysis of more options for the scope of the rule and the potential regulatory, resource, and timing impacts of those options,” Baran wrote in his comments on his vote. “Rather than choosing from an arbitrarily narrow set of options, I support directing the staff to provide a notation vote paper with a full range of options for this rule. This will allow the commission to make a well-informeddecision about how to proceed.”
In voting to approve the staff’s request, Wright said, “I agree with the staff that pursuing rulemaking is not necessary for adequate protection or common defense and security, would not be cost-justified, and would create a patchwork of requirements that would not increase transparency. Licensees have already implemented the post-9/11 security orders, which provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety and promote the common defense and security.”