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.

Uranium recovery facility opens at Framatome’s Richland site

Framatome’s new uranium recovery facility in Richland, Wash. Photo: Framatome

Framatome recently announced the opening of a $20-million scrap uranium recovery facility at its fuel manufacturing site in Richland, Wash., one of the French firm’s 14 North American locations. Construction on the approximately 11,000-square-foot building, which replaces a 35-year-old solvent extraction facility, began in July 2017, and it was declared fully operational on September 21, 2020.

According to Framatome’s October 6 announcement, the facility houses new and upgraded equipment for utilizing the solvent extraction process to separate uranium from feed streams containing non-uranium contaminants such as gadolinium. (Non-uranium contaminants, the company noted, include powders, pellets, and liquids that contain non-uranium impurities, making them unsuitable for other forms of recovery.) The recovered uranium is fed through the ammonium diuranate process to extract uranium dioxide. The extracted UO2 is then processed to make nuclear fuel pellets for fuel rods.