Petition window opened for Oklo’s microreactor license application

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has announced a notice of opportunity to intervene in an adjudicatory hearing on Oklo Power’s combined license application (COLA) for construction of a microreactor at Idaho National Laboratory. The notice, dated June 24, was published in the Federal Register on June 30, opening a 60-day window for petitions.

Feature Article

Risk-informed, performance-based safety: Past, present, and future

Since the 1980s, the nuclear power industry in the United States has worked to enhance the regulatory framework for nuclear facilities by making it more risk-informed and performance-based (RIPB). This has had some success in improving safety and reducing regulatory burden by focusing resources on the most risk--significant areas and allowing greater flexibility in choosing ways to achieve desired safety outcomes. However, there are further opportunities for the use of RIPB approaches in addressing current regulations and applying implementation tools, and in developing new RIPB regulations and advanced tools to further sharpen the focus on risk and performance outcomes.

NRC extends comment period again for Holtec storage site due to COVID-19

For the second time, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the deadline for submitting comments on the draft environmental impact statement for Holtec International’s application to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and greater-than-Class C waste in southeastern New Mexico. As published in the June 24 Federal Register, the new deadline for comments is September 22.

Aurora’s docketing marks dawn for advanced reactor licensing

Artist’s conception of Oklo’s Aurora. (Image: Gensler)

Oklo's 1.5-MWe fast spectrum design known as Aurora is the first advanced non–light-water reactor to be accepted for a licensing review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Both the reactor’s design and the anticipated licensing process mark a major departure from large light-water reactor design and licensing.

NRC to host webinar on Holtec’s storage site application

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a webinar on June 23 to discuss Holtec International’s license application to build and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and greater-than-Class C waste in southeastern New Mexico.

Christopher Hanson sworn in as fifth commissioner

Hanson

The vacant seat on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was filled on June 8, when Christopher T. Hanson was sworn in as the agency’s fifth commissioner. The vacancy was created in April 2019 with the resignation of Stephen Burns. Hanson will serve the remainder of Burns’s term, which expires on June 30, 2024.

Beyond Nuclear appeals NRC decision on CISF

The antinuclear organization Beyond Nuclear has filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit requesting a review of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision to deny its petition against Holtec International’s application to build and operate a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for spent nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico.

ANS backs NRC rulemaking on spent fuel reprocessing

Piercy

Nesbit

ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy sent a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on May 28 urging the agency to resume work on a proposed rulemaking to allow spent fuel reprocessing in the United States. As the letter explains, “the lack of an efficient, technically robust, and technology-inclusive regulatory foundation for reprocessing and recycling is a barrier to innovation.”

Steve Nesbit, who was recently elected ANS’s next vice president/president-elect, chairs the ANS Nuclear Waste Policy Task Force and helped develop the letter. ANS News staff talked with Nesbit about the development and goals of ANS’s participation in the NRC’s rulemaking process.

Comments requested on proposed EP rule

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is taking comments on its “Proposed Rule for Emergency Preparedness for Small Modular Reactors and Other New Technologies,” published in the Federal Register on May 12. The proposed rule and associated draft regulatory guide apply to non–light-water reactors and certain nonpower facilities.

NRC expected to issue Mo-99 facility license for Shine in 2021

Shine Medical Technologies, which is building a medical isotope production facility in Janesville, Wis., said on May 11 that it expects to have an operating license issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by October 2021. Shine’s application seeking approval to operate the facility, which will produce isotopes including molybdenum-99, was accepted and docketed by the NRC last October. Mo-99, the precursor to technetium-99m, is used in more than 40 million medical patient procedures every year.

Southern gives nod to NRC on violation at Vogtle

Southern Nuclear has accepted a “white” finding (one of low to moderate safety significance) and an associated violation notice from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a problem at the company’s Vogtle nuclear plant, near Waynesboro, Ga. Earlier this year, Southern had contested the severity of the finding, arguing to no avail that the finding be more appropriately characterized as “green” (very low safety significance).

NRC launches webpage for COVID-19 exemptions

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation has created a web portal for nuclear reactor licensees to submit regulatory exemption requests related to the coronavirus pandemic. At this writing, the COVID-19 Regulatory Activities for Nuclear Reactors webpage is offering online submissions for 10 CFR Part 26 work-hour exemption requests.

NRC extends comment period for LLW rule

Recognizing the impacts of the current COVID–19 pandemic, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has decided to extend the public comment period on a proposed interpretation of its low-level radioactive waste disposal regulations. The new deadline for comments is July 20. The proposed LLW interpretive rule, announced on March 6, would permit licensees to dispose of waste by transfer to persons who hold specific exemptions for the purpose of disposal (NN, Apr. 2020, p. 47).

NRC agrees to postpone licensee fee collection

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will defer collecting fees and charges from its licensees due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a letter from NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki to a bipartisan group of lawmakers. The letter states, “The commission has approved a 90-day deferral of all annual fee (10 CFR Part 171) invoices that would have been issued in the third quarter of fiscal year 2020. The NRC is taking this action to temporarily mitigate the financial impacts and economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new billing date for annual fees that were scheduled to be billed in the third quarter (April, May, and June) will be July 22, 2020.”

NRC issues regulatory guidance to licensees

Recognizing the challenges that nuclear materials licensees may face in meeting certain regulatory requirements, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has developed options for licensees that may need regulatory relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. The options for providing regulatory relief were outlined in an April 7 letter from the NRC to licensees authorized to possess by-product, source, and special nuclear materials, including licensed nuclear materials users, uranium recovery, decommissioning (both materials and users), fuel facilities, and spent nuclear fuel storage facilities.

NRC likely to grant second license renewals

Surry Power Station. Photo: Dominion Energy.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued its final supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) on April 6 for Dominion Energy’s subsequent license renewal (SLR) application for Surry-1 and -2, concluding that the potential environmental impacts from continued operation of the units are not substantial enough to prevent the agency from considering issuance of the SLRs. The NRC had issued its final safety evaluation report on the Surry SLR application on March 9, with a similarly positive conclusion.