Since 2016, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has been developing a strategy to review future non-light water reactor (non-LWR) technologies.  That year, the NRC published the NRC Vision and Strategy: Safely Achieving Effective and Efficient Non-Light Water Reactor Mission Readiness, which laid out objectives to achieve review and regulation of non-LWRs.  Afterward, in 2017, the NRC developed implementation action plans (IAP) to map out specific short– and long-term goals to achieve those objectives.

On February 14, 2020, the NRC released its Advanced Reactors Program Status paper, aimed toward informing the public of its progress on each IAP and providing an overview of factors hindering the licensing and deployment of advanced reactors.  The paper discusses the progress made in six strategic areas: (1) staff development and knowledge management, (2) analytical tools, (3) regulatory framework, (4) consensus codes and standards, (5) resolution of policy issues, and (6) communications.

According to the paper, NRC staff has made considerable progress in these areas and is prepared to continue to advance its efforts for the future.  Broadly, in 2020, there will be a focus on achieving compliance with Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) requirements, working toward resolving certain policy issues, and optimizing communication with prospective applicants.

Some of the 2019 accomplishments include:

  • Publication of the regulatory guide, “Guidance for a Technology-Inclusive, Risk-Informed, and Performance-Based Methodology to Inform the Licensing Basis and Content of Applications for Licenses, Certifications, and Approvals for Non-Light Water Reactors.”
  • Development of training courses for staff on fast reactors and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors.
  • Participation in various public meetings for stakeholder feedback as well as subcommittee and full committee briefings of the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards.

Some highlights for the coming years include:

  • Development of different approaches to conducting technical and safety reviews. Unlike the preapplication review process that staff, which staff will continue using, technical and safety reviews will utilize a “multi-tiered project team” for a holistic evaluation process.
  • By 2021, pursuant to the NEIMA, NRC staff will “develop and implement . . . strategies [for certain] . . . licensing evaluation techniques”
  • By 2027, staff plans on completing the NEIMA Section 103 requirement of establishing a “technology-inclusive regulatory framework” for new applicants.

For more information on NEIMA, please visit our previous blog post.

In addition, the NRC on February 20, 2020, held an advanced reactors stakeholder meeting, which provided a more detailed update on many of the NRC’s advanced reactor regulatory reform initiatives.  The slides for the meeting can be found here.

Contact the blog authors for any additional questions.