The nuclear industry has asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a “limited revision” of its regulations governing the decommissioning of nuclear power reactors, saying some changes are needed to make the process more efficient.
According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, plants are spending more than $1 million each month to comply with rules which should no longer be on the books, generally resulting in a process requiring more work than necessary.
The NRC’s decommissioning regulations are generally proven and effective; 10 commercial power reactors have safely completed decommissioning and 18 more are successfully undergoing the process. However, the industry’s recent experience, including the closure of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant in Florida, San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California and the Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin has revealed shortcomings in the regulatory process of transitioning a plant to decommissioned status.
NEI said a limited-scope rulemaking should focus on reducing the number of licensing actions needed during decommissioning. This focus “would be consistent with NRC rulemaking requirements regarding cumulative effects,” NEI Senior Director of Used Fuel and Decommissioning programs Rodney McCullum said. “By targeting the rulemaking in this manner, the goal of reducing the burden of unnecessary licensing actions can be accomplished in a more timely manner.”
McCullum said the exemptions and license amendments that the agency uses already establish the regulatory basis under which the rulemaking can be made. A full regulatory analysis would therefore be unnecessary, allowing a final rule to be promulgated in time to benefit plants that already have announced plans to shut down by 2020 (FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in New York, Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey and Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts).
The full agenda of the March 15 NRC commission briefing, along with an archived webcast and a complete set of slide presentations is available on the NRC website.