Breakthrough Institute/ANS letter to the NRC

June 16, 2022, 2:49PMNuclear NewsSteven P. Nesbit

June 15, 2022

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555

Subject: Joint NGO Concerns Regarding the NRC’s Regulatory Engagement in Developing a “Risk- Informed, Technology-Inclusive Regulatory Framework for Advanced Reactors” [Regulation Identifier Number RIN-3150-AK31; Docket ID NRC-2019-0062]

Dear Chairman Hanson and Commissioners Baran and Wright,

The vision for 10 CFR Part 53 began in 1999 after the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) established foundational policy for developing risk-informed, performance-based regulations.1 Twenty years later, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) of 2019 mandated these early aspirations be codified into a rule “to allow innovation and the commercialization of advanced nuclear reactors”2 as defined in the Act.3

We write in the interest of ensuring that Part 53 provides an efficient and effective regulatory framework for licensing safe, advanced reactors. Specifically, we urgently request the Commission to direct the NRC staff to engage stakeholders in an open and collaborative approach to developing a riskinformed, technology-inclusive framework for advanced reactors4 (the Part 53 rule) by sponsoring a multi-day workshop or series of workshops, beginning as soon as practicable. This urgency of an open, collaborative development process is growing as a window of opportunity to shape Framework B into a useful pathway for new and advanced reactor licensing will close in September 2022.

We note that the NRC staff requested (and the Commission approved) a nine-month extension “to address… significant areas of disagreement… identified by… stakeholders who are investing time and money to develop new reactor designs.”5 The NRC staff proposed a “novel, iterative process” to resolve those disagreements.6 The Congress supported this extension to achieve alignment, writing “We agree that reaching alignment with external stakeholders on the scope and details of the proposed rule is essential to ensure a better product.”7 However, a recent survey of industry stakeholders revealed a perception of limited utility of the NRC staff’s initial proposal for 10 CFR Part 53 (now Framework A).8 We believe a different, more collaborative approach is needed for Framework B.

The NRC staff is currently developing Framework B in a similar manner to Framework A. It appears to offer only an opportunity for stakeholders to comment, and not to participate substantively in comment resolution. We are concerned that simply commenting on iterative NRC staff proposals will not afford sufficient opportunity to “meaningfully engage with stakeholders [and] achieve the shared goal to establish a useable rule” or allow “industry stakeholders [to] constructively contribute to the process”9 of implementing NEIMA.

Stakeholders and the NRC staff have several months to work together on a regulation that offers a viable pathway for licensing diverse reactor technologies. A substantive workshop or workshops on Framework B can be accommodated during this time if the Commission acts swiftly to make room at the table for all stakeholders to explore and formulate approaches in a collectively informed fashion with the goal of enabling deployment of safe advanced nuclear reactors in this decade. Successful workshops will require appropriate preparatory work and a willingness among all parties to consider and discuss alternative approaches and proposals. We note that industry and the NRC held three workshops during the month of May 2021 on the Technology Inclusive Content of Application Project, and those workshops were successful in developing mutual understanding in areas of disagreement and achieving alignment on many of them.

We greatly appreciate your consideration of this earnest request for collaborative participation in the development of Framework B through NRC-sponsored workshops. This level of involvement at the front end of the rule development process is vital to establishing clear licensing pathways for new reactor developers as envisioned by Congress in enacting NEIMA. We look forward to working together with the NRC staff, the nuclear industry, and other stakeholders to achieve NEIMA’s important goals.


Rani L. Franovich
Senior Policy Advisor, Nuclear Energy Innovation
The Breakthrough Institute

Steven P. Nesbit
President, 2021-2022
American Nuclear Society


What is a nuclear professional?

June 10, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit

Years ago, my then boss was trying to convince me to accept an undesirable (to me) assignment, and he asked me, “Aren’t you a professional?” I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. By the textbook definition, a nuclear professional is someone who gets paid to do a job in the nuclear field. True as far as it goes, but the term means much more to me.

Addressing the economics of clean energy

May 10, 2022, 12:01PMANS NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit

I often say that nuclear energy will play a key role in our clean energy future, and I believe that is true. However, it won’t happen automatically. There is no “divine right” behind nuclear energy. We like to admire the fascinating aspects of nuclear technology, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the money, and that’s where we stubbed our toe badly over the past two decades.

The “Nuclear Renaissance” foundered when advanced light water reactors turned out to be much more expensive than their marketing claimed, while alternatives—primarily natural gas—plummeted in price. We tend to point to impediments to nuclear technology, such as overly restrictive licensing requirements and adverse public opinion, but these matter only to the extent of their impact on the bottom line. Again, it comes down to the money.

Universities—Providing more than just education

April 18, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit

The April issue of Nuclear News focuses on university programs and the key roles they play in the nuclear technology field. The topic led me to do some reminiscing.

Like many Nuclear News readers, I studied nuclear engineering in college, departing the University of Virginia in 1982 with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field. Most of us have fond memories of our college years, for reasons that may or may not relate to academic pursuits. I left the school with many such memories, but also with respect for the knowledge and accomplishments of my professors and an appreciation of the research they conducted. Also, UVA had two reactors, including a 2-megawatt pool reactor that was in use around the clock, five days a week. I had the opportunity to obtain a reactor operating license and work shifts as an operator, which was quite rewarding monetarily and provided practical, hands-on experience with nuclear technology.

What did I do wrong? Or, “What did we do wrong?”

March 9, 2022, 3:01PMANS NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit

Have you ever been punished for something you didn’t do? It happens to most of us on occasion while growing up, especially if we have siblings. It’s not the end of the world, and it teaches a valuable lesson: Life is not fair. Nevertheless, when it happens, it really rankles you.

The “issue” of nuclear waste provides me with instant recall of those unpleasant childhood memories. Commercial nuclear power plants have been managing low-level waste and used nuclear fuel safely and efficiently since the beginning of the nuclear enterprise. Industry is adept at minimizing, packaging, transporting, and disposing of LLW. Used fuel is stored safely and securely at reactor sites, awaiting disposal.

Forty years ago, nuclear power plant operators entered into contracts with the federal government. The deal was simple. The operators would pay the U.S. government a lot of money, and the government would pick up the relatively small amount of used fuel and dispose of it in a geologic repository, beginning in 1998. The money changed hands, but the used fuel never did.

Nuclear fuel: The foundation of nuclear power

February 22, 2022, 3:04PMNuclear NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Stephen P. Nesbit

Commercial nuclear power plant fuel is amazing stuff. Light water reactor fuel assemblies operate in an unforgiving environment—high pressure, high temperature, high neutron flux, steep temperature gradients, challenging chemistry, and hydraulic loads and flow anomalies, among other things. They do it for 18 or 24 months at a time, and by the end of their useful life, most of the original uranium-­235 has been used up through violent (on a microscopic scale) fissions, releasing emissions-­free energy to power homes, businesses, and factories.

Even after a fuel assembly’s energy production days are over, we expect it to maintain its integrity for decades, or even centuries, during storage, transportation, and, ultimately, disposal. To borrow from the old Timex watch slogan, nuclear fuel takes a licking and keeps on ticking, and that fact makes today’s nuclear power plants feasible.

Laws and sausages*—10 CFR Part 53

January 17, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit

Interested parties are watching the real-­time development of 10 CFR Part 53—a new Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulation for constructing and operating advanced nuclear power reactors in the United States. In January 2019, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) required, among other things, that for commercial advanced nuclear reactors, the NRC must increase the use of risk-­informed, performance-­based licensing evaluation techniques and establish by the end of 2027 a technology-­inclusive regulatory framework that encourages greater technological innovation.

* “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.” – Otto von Bismarck.

The big nuclear world

November 3, 2021, 7:01AMANS NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit

As I write this column, it’s late September, and I’m sitting in Dulles Airport waiting for my connecting flight back to Charlotte from Vienna, Austria, where I attended the 65th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency. It was quite an experience, and I want to share a few observations with you. But first, let me provide some background on the IAEA, which is perhaps not as well-­known to Americans as to those in other countries.

The IAEA was established in 1957 within the United Nations family and as an outgrowth of President Dwight Eisenhower’s famous 1953 “Atoms for Peace” speech. It is the world’s central intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical cooperation in the nuclear field. The objectives of the IAEA’s dual mission—to promote and control the use of the atom—are defined in Article II of the IAEA Statute.

Lessons from medicine

September 15, 2021, 7:02AMANS NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit

I stand in awe of the pharmaceutical professionals who developed effective vaccines for COVID-19 and obtained emergency approval for their widespread use in the space of less than a year. Normally, vaccines take 10 to 15 years to develop; the previous best was four years for the mumps vaccine. The accomplishment is a testament to the ability of science and technology to work to the betterment of the human race. Does that sound familiar? The American Nuclear Society’s vision statement is “Nuclear technology is embraced for its vital contributions to improving peoples’ lives and preserving our planet.”

A tale of three states

August 11, 2021, 2:57PMANS NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit

Stories are unfolding (or have unfolded) in three of our key states that illustrate the challenges facing the backbone of our country’s clean, reliable electricity generation infrastructure. I write, of course, about existing nuclear power plants. On the East Coast, New York is a done deal. Indian Point-3 shut down on April 30. The state authorities are banking on offshore wind to pick up the slack. They shrug off the cost and intermittency challenges associated with deploying wind power. We’ll see.

Another year, another ANS president

July 12, 2021, 3:08PMANS NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit

It’s like clockwork. In June of every year, the American Nuclear Society brings in a new elected leader for the next 12 months. I’m Steve Nesbit, the latest in a line of distinguished (and maybe a few not so distinguished) nuclear professionals who have had the honor and privilege of serving as ANS president.

This is your lucky day. Everything you ever wanted to know about me, but were afraid to ask, is in an article in the July issue of Nuclear News (page 28). Instead of plowing that ground again here, I’ll take advantage of my monthly column to cover a few other topics that are hopefully of value.