US NRC streamlines licensing for advanced reactors

2 June 2020

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) voted 4-0 to approve the implementation of a more streamlined and predictable licensing pathway for advanced non-light water reactors, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) announced.

This approach is consistent with the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernisation Act (NEIMA) legislation passed in 2019 by the US Congress calling for the development of a risk-informed, performance-based and technology inclusive licensing process for advanced reactor developers.

NEI Chief Nuclear Officer Doug True said: “A modernised regulatory framework is a key enabler of next-generation nuclear technologies that can help us meet our energy needs while protecting the climate. The Commission’s unanimous approval of a risk-informed and performance-based licensing framework paves the way for regulatory reviews to be aligned with the inherent safety characteristics, smaller reactor cores and simplified designs of advanced reactors.”

Over the last several years the industry’s Licensing Modernisation Project, sponsored by US Department of Energy, led by Southern Nuclear, and supported by NEI’s Advanced Reactor Regulatory Task Force, developed the guidance for this new framework. This approach will inform the development of a new rule for licensing advanced reactors, which NEIMA requires.

“A well-defined licensing path will benefit the next generation of nuclear plants, which could meet a wide range of applications beyond generating electricity such as producing heat for industry, desalinating water, and making hydrogen – all without carbon emissions,” True noted.

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