NRC finalizes new rule on reactor license renewals

May 20, 2024, 7:01AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is issuing a final rule and corresponding update to the generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) the agency uses when considering applications to renew the operating licenses of nuclear power reactors. All four current NRC commissioners voted to approve the rule on May 16.

The rule revises the NRC’s regulations under the Code of Federal Regulations Title 10, Part 51, “Environmental Protection Regulations for Domestic Licensing and Related Regulatory Functions,” to update the potential environmental impact issues that must be evaluated during the environmental review process. The NRC said its changes are based on experience gained from license renewal reviews the agency performed since the last update to its license renewal GEIS in 2013.

The rule, to be issued once agency staff incorporates changes directed by the NRC commissioners, will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The impact statement: The NRC’s GEIS covers environmental topics relevant to all nuclear power plant licensees seeking renewed licenses. The revised document accounts for new or revised environmental impacts, reflects changes in regulations or guidance, and applies what the agency has learned during previous license renewals.

Third renewals: Based on the NRC’s schedule, this latest GEIS would be due for review again in 2031. Recognizing that licensees could submit applications for a third 20-year license renewal (extending a plant’s operational life to as much as 100 years) before the 2031 GEIS review is complete, the NRC commissioners directed agency staff to “engage regularly with industry stakeholders to determine interest in a third term of license renewal and the timing of these potential license renewal applications.”

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