Public input requested on proposed revisions to NRC fees

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking public comment on a proposed rule that would amend the licensing, inspection, special projects, and annual fees charged to the agency’s applicants and licensees for fiscal year 2021.

Published in the February 22 Federal Register, the proposed fee rule reflects a total NRC budget authority of $844.4 million, a drop of $11.2 million from FY 2020.

The amendments are mandated by the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA), the nuclear industry–backed legislation signed into law by President Trump in January 2019 (NN, Feb. 2019, p. 17). NEIMA requires the NRC to recover approximately 100 percent of its total budget authority in FY 2021, except for specific excluded activities. (Previously, the requirement was approximately 90 percent.) In addition, NEIMA established a new cap for annual fees for operating reactors and included requirements to improve the accuracy of invoice for service fees.

Trump leaves space nuclear policy executive order for Biden team

A hot fire test of the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi was not completed as planned. The SLS is the vehicle meant to propel a crewed mission to the moon in 2024. Source: NASA Television

Among the executive orders President Trump issued during his last weeks in office was “Promoting Small Modular Reactors for National Defense and Space Exploration,” which builds on the Space Policy Directives published during his term. The order, issued on January 12, calls for actions within the next six months by NASA and the Department of Defense (DOD), together with the Department of Energy and other federal entities. Whether the Biden administration will retain some, all, or none of the specific goals of the Trump administration’s space nuclear policy remains to be seen, but one thing is very clear: If deep space exploration remains a priority, nuclear-powered and -propelled spacecraft will be needed.

The prospects for near-term deployment of nuclear propulsion and power systems in space improved during Trump’s presidency. However, Trump left office days after a hot fire test of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket did not go as planned. The SLS rocket is meant to propel crewed missions to the moon in 2024 and to enable a series of long-duration lunar missions that could be powered by small lunar reactor installations. The test on January 16 of four engines that were supposed to fire for over eight minutes was automatically aborted after one minute, casting some doubt that a planned November 2021 Artemis I mission can go ahead on schedule.