NRC releases proposed decommissioning rule for public comment

March 4, 2022, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission published its proposed decommissioning rule in the March 3 Federal Register, opening a 75-day public comment period. Approved by the NRC in November 2021, the proposed rule would incorporate lessons learned from plants that have recently transitioned to decontamination and decommissioning and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the regulatory framework.

The rulemaking is intended to take into account the reduced radiological risks associated with power reactors that have been permanently shut down and defueled. Current regulations make little distinction between an operating reactor and one that has been shut down and defueled, requiring licensees to seek exemptions and license amendments on a case-by-case basis as they transition to decommissioning. According to the NRC, the proposed rule would implement specific regulatory requirements for different phases of the decommissioning process, consistent with the reduced risk.

Cost analysis: A draft regulatory analysis conducted by the NRC to determine the expected quantitative costs and benefits of the proposed rule found that it would have a net benefit of nearly $18 million to the nuclear industry, the government, and society.

The NRC analysis combines the costs and benefits from the decommissioning areas of emergency preparedness, physical and cyber security, drug and alcohol testing, certified fuel handler training, decommissioning funding assurance, off-site and on-site financial protection requirements and indemnity agreements, environmental considerations, records retention, low-level waste transportation, spent fuel management planning, application of the NRC’s backfit rule, foreign ownership or control, and clarification of the scope of a license termination plan.

Submitting comments: Comments on the proposed rule are being accepted through May 17 and can be submitted through the federal government’s rulemaking website using Docket ID NRC-2015-0070; by email to; or by mail to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, Attn.: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff.

The proposed rule and related documents are available on the NRC website, along with information about upcoming public meetings to present the proposed rule and receive comments. Online public meetings will be held on March 21 at 1 p.m. EDT and on March 31 at 4 p.m. EDT. The NRC said that additional public meetings may be added during the comment period.

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