Post-Fukushima safety enhancements

April 2, 2021, 2:47PMNuclear NewsLeah Parks, Carl Mazzola, Jim Xu, and Brent Gutierrez
A map of Japan highlighting the Fukushima prefecture.

March 11 will mark the 10-­year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi event, when a 45-­foot tsunami, caused by the 9.0-­magnitude Great Tohoku Earthquake, significantly damaged the reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In response to this event, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission took actions to evaluate and mitigate beyond-­design-­basis events, including a new requirement for the staging of so-­called Flex equipment, as well as changes to containment venting and improvements to emergency preparedness. The U.S. Department of Energy also addressed beyond-­design-­basis events in its documented safety analyses.

The Economist: Independent regulators needed for strong nuclear power

March 8, 2021, 9:28AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Nuclear power is an important component in the fight against climate change, but independent regulation is needed to gain the public’s---and governments'---trust, according to a March 6 article in The Economist, “Nuclear power must be well regulated, not ditched.”

The article reviews the negative effect that the Fukushima Daiichi accident had on the worldwide nuclear industry following the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Japan’s direct economic cost, estimated at more than $200 billion, was larger than that of any other natural disaster the world has seen, according to the article.

Wanted: A regulatory framework for commercial fusion energy

February 5, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear NewsJeffrey Merrifiel, Peter Lyons

Fusion devices have yet to sustain a burning plasma and produce usable energy, so it should come as no surprise that there is not yet a framework for regulating commercial fusion energy.

Fusion and fission are two very different ways to release nuclear energy. But how different could their regulation be? There are many possible answers to two central questions: Who will regulate commercial fusion (in the United States, that authority could reside with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or an Agreement State operating under NRC oversight), and what aspects of a fusion plant will they regulate?

NRC withdraws LLW rule interpretation

December 21, 2020, 10:20AMRadwaste Solutions

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has withdrawn a proposed interpretation of its low-level radioactive waste regulations that would have permitted licensees to dispose of waste by transferring it to persons who hold specific NRC exemptions. “The proposal is being withdrawn based on the NRC staff’s assessment that the proposed changes may not benefit the regulatory framework for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste,” the NRC said in a December 17 Federal Register notice.

After releasing the proposed rule for public comment on March 6, 2020, the NRC received about 200 individual comment submissions and approximately 15,000 form letter submissions, the vast majority of which were in opposition to the proposed rule.

“We have strongly disputed the argument by various groups who misrepresented the proposal as deregulation of radioactive waste disposal,” NRC spokesperson David McIntyre told the Courthouse News Service. “This would not have changed anything, just made an existing case-by-case approval process more efficient.”

Palo Verde settles with NRC over apparent spent fuel storage violations

November 23, 2020, 6:58AMRadwaste Solutions

The Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona.

A confirmatory order issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Arizona Public Service Company documents the commitments the company has made as part of a settlement agreement with the agency. The settlement agreement stems from two apparent violations of NRC regulations involving spent nuclear fuel at APS’s Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Tonopah, Ariz.

The apparent violations involved APS’s failure to (1) perform a written evaluation for a change to the NAC MAGNASTOR dry cask storage system for spent fuel and obtain a license amendment for a change in methodology for performing tip-over calculations and (2) adequately analyze the consequences of a hypothetical MAGNASTOR CC5 spent fuel cask tip-over accident on the plant’s independent spent fuel storage installation pad.

The confirmatory order was issued on November 17. The apparent violations are described in a July 6 NRC inspection report.

NRC declines call to suspend public proceedings

May 8, 2020, 12:20PMNuclear News

A request to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it suspend all rulemakings and other activities involving public comment or participation has failed to receive the petitioners’ desired response from the agency.

In a letter dated April 8, representatives of 82 largely antinuclear organizations—including Beyond Nuclear, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club—argue that the public’s role in NRC rulemaking and licensing decisions is not being properly protected during the coronavirus pandemic.

NRC extends comment period for LLW rule

April 21, 2020, 8:46AMRadwaste Solutions

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 issues regulatory guidance to licensees

April 17, 2020, 8:25AMNuclear News

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 proposes new LLW rule interpretation

March 9, 2020, 9:48AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is issuing a proposed interpretation of its low-­level radioactive waste disposal regulations that would permit licensees to dispose of waste by transfer to persons who hold specific disposal exemptions. The NRC said that it will consider approval of requests for specific exemptions only if they are for the disposal of very low-­level radioactive waste by land burial. Notice of the proposed interpretive rule was published in the March 6 Federal Register.