NRC denies petition to revise decommissioning rules

February 9, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has denied a petition for rulemaking, filed in February 2019 by Gerard P. Van Noordennen on behalf of EnergySolutions, requesting that the agency revise its regulations to allow licensees access to a nuclear power plant’s decommissioning trust fund to pay for the disposal of major radioactive components before the plant permanently ceases operations and begins decommissioning.

“Major radioactive components” refers to the reactor vessel and internals, steam generators, pressurizers, large bore reactor coolant system piping, and other large components.

The argument: The petition argued that the revisions would relieve licensees of the burden of having to store major radioactive components on-site during plant operations because they have limited operating funds and cannot use decommissioning funds for the disposal of these components. According to the petition, the changes would also improve licensees’ environmental stewardship, reduce worker exposure to radiation, and lower decommissioning costs by avoiding potential future increases in disposal costs.

EnergySolutions submitted a similar petition to the NRC in 2007 that was also denied. In this latest petition, however, the company argued that “compelling changes” in the nuclear power industry warrant another review by the NRC. Among those changes, according to the petition, is the increasing number of power plants entering decommissioning.

“Maximizing environmental stewardship through efficient and timely removal of major components and avoiding higher disposal costs during peak demand periods associated with increased decommissioning in the future are worthwhile industry and regulatory objectives,” the petition states.

The denial: The NRC said it is denying the petition because it does not raise a significant safety or security concern, and existing regulations already allow licensees access to excess decommissioning funds through the NRC’s exemption process. “The NRC’s current regulations and oversight activities continue to provide for the reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety,” the NRC said in its petition denial, published in the February 4 Federal Register.

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