The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a new approach to licensing non-light water reactor technologies. The new guidance is expected to significantly reduce the regulatory uncertainty challenging the industry, while streamlining the advanced reactor design and licensing processes that have been slowed down for years due to longstanding and unresolved regulatory policies.
The new process is the direct result of a 4-year Licensing Modernization Project (LMP) supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. The project was coordinated through the Nuclear Energy Institute and led by Southern Company and industry experts with assistance from Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The goal was to offer developers clear guidance on an acceptable approach for licensing specific advanced reactor technologies (i.e. molten salt, high-temperature gas, fast reactors, etc.)
The finalized approach focuses on a risk-informed, performance-based review process that takes into account more realistic scenarios that are unique to each advanced reactor design, allowing for a clear and consistent review of its safety case. The guidance focuses on identifying licensing basis events; categorizing and establishing performance criteria for structures, systems, and components; and, evaluating the safety margins of advanced reactor designs.
This was a 2-year review process by the NRC as was mandated by the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, which calls for a licensing framework and a more transparent funding structure for advanced reactors. “NRC approval of the LMP approach marks the completion of this industry-led and DOE-supported effort, and removes a key regulatory hurdle on the path to the near-term deployment of advanced reactor technologies,” said INL Regulatory Affairs Director Jim Kinsey.
Read more at the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy “NRC Approves New Approach to Streamline Advanced Reactor Licensing Process,” published July 9, 2020.