NRC issues draft guidance on early disposal of reactor components

June 26, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is issuing for public comment draft guidance on the use of decommissioning trust funds for the disposal of major radioactive components from nuclear power plants that are still in operation.

The interim staff guidance, “Use of the Decommissioning Trust Fund During Operations for Major Radioactive Component Disposal,” is meant to provide licensees of nuclear power reactors with the NRC’s regulatory position regarding the use of decommissioning trust funds. The guidance also may be used in connection with requests for exemptions from NRC regulations for the use of such funds.

Notice of the guidance was published in the June 21 Federal Register with a deadline for comments of August 21. Comments can be made through the federal rulemaking website using Docket ID NRC–2023–0111.

Background: The new guidance stems from a 2019 rulemaking petition to the NRC, which argued that allowing such use of decommissioning funds would remove an unnecessary burden from plant licensees that store major radioactive components on their sites during operations. In 2021, the NRC denied the petition, responding that withdrawals from decommissioning trust funds prior to plant closure should only be allowed under “extraordinary circumstances.”

The NRC also maintains that, under current rules, there are other avenues for plant licensees to access decommissioning trust funds prior to closing, such as through the establishment of subaccounts within the trust, which are not regulated by the NRC, and through site-specific exemptions.

The draft guidance discusses different ways licensees could use decommissioning trust funds to cover the cost of disposing of major radioactive components during operations, including what information would assist the NRC staff in assessing a licensee’s request for regulatory exemptions related to such disposal.

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