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NRC Plans to Issue Proposed Rule for Licensing Advanced Nuclear Reactors

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently announced plans to issue a proposed rule for licensing advanced nuclear reactors.

The NRC has directed its staff to publish a proposed rule and draft guidance “to establish a licensing process for commercial nuclear power plants that is risk informed, performance-based, and technology-inclusive,” it said.

The proposed rule, which will be published in the Federal Register in six months and will be open for public comment, will create an alternative licensing option for advanced reactors compared to standard licensing processes for existing reactor types.

According to the NRC, the rule will “give plant designers and plant operators flexibility in determining how their nuclear power plant will meet safety criteria. The rule sets out criteria in areas including reactor siting requirements; analyzing potential accidents; defining safety functions; categorizing structures, systems, and components; addressing construction and manufacturing requirements; providing defense in depth; and protecting the public and plant workers during normal operations.”

The NRC is required by law to finalize a rule for the licensing of advanced reactors by 2027.

Legislative Action

The House on Feb. 28 passed bipartisan legislation that would require changes at the NRC designed to streamline and speed up the regulation of nuclear power, including the licensing and regulation of advanced nuclear reactors.

The bill, H.R. 6544, the Atomic Energy Advancement Act, is sponsored by Representatives Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and Diana DeGette (D-CO), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy, Climate, & Grid Security.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed similar NRC reform legislation last spring, S. 1111 the Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy or the ADVANCE Act, to resolve differences between the two bills and develop a compromise package in the coming months.

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