NRC Issues New Reactor License for North Anna Site

On May 31, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency had authorized the issuance of a Combined License for Dominion Virginia Power’s North Anna site in Virginia.  The license grants Dominion permission to build and operate an Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBW) design at the site, which is located near Mineral, Virginia.

Overview  The Commission authorized the agency’s Office of New Reactors to issue the license following a hearing on March 23, 2017.  In so doing, the Commission found the staff’s review of Dominion’s application to be adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings.  NRC issued the license in early June 2017.

The license contains certain specified conditions including:

  • specific actions associated with the agency’s post-Fukushima requirements for Mitigation Strategies and Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation; and,
  • a pre-startup schedule for post-Fukushima aspects of the new reactor’s emergency 
preparedness plans and procedures.

Background  On November 26, 2007, Dominion submitted the North Anna application to NRC for an ESBWR adjacent to the company’s two existing reactors.  The NRC certified the 1,600-megawatt ESBWR design following a Commission vote in September 2014.

The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) independently reviewed aspects of the application that concern safety, as well as the staff’s final safety evaluation report.  On November 15, 2016, the committee provided the results of its review to the Commission.  In February 2010, the NRC completed its environmental review and published the final impact statement for the proposed reactor.

For additional information, please contact of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.  Additional information on the ESBWR certification process is available on the NRC website at www.nrc.gov

Seventh U.S. National Report Issued for Convention on Nuclear Safety

On October 27, 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency has published its Seventh National Report for the Convention on Nuclear Safety.  The report describes the U.S. government’s actions under the convention to achieve and maintain a high level of safety for its nuclear power plants.

The Convention on Nuclear Safety entered into force in 1996 and was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1999.  It establishes legally binding obligations for signatory states regarding national regulation and safety at commercial nuclear power facilities.

The Seventh National Report for the Convention on Nuclear Safety addresses issues identified through the peer review conducted during the sixth review meeting in 2014, as well as challenges and issues that have arisen since that time.  The sixth review meeting identified the following six U.S. challenges:

  • Fukushima-related activities;
  • transition to risk-informed fire protection regulations;
  • ensuring continuity during the oversight transition from plant construction to operation;
  • nuclear industry strategy;
  • report on status of periodic safety reviews pilot program; and,
  • status of NRC’s work on subsequent license renewal for plant operation beyond 60 years.

Countries that are parties to the convention meet every three years to discuss their reports.  The NRC has submitted the Seventh National Report for the Convention on Nuclear Safety for peer review by other countries.

NRC officials will discuss the report and respond to peer review questions at the seventh review meeting of the Convention on Nuclear Safety at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, in March 2017.

The Seventh National Report for the Convention on Nuclear Safety demonstrates how the United States implements a high level of nuclear safety by enhancing national measures and international cooperation, and by meeting the obligations of all the articles established by the convention.

Some of the additional challenges discussed in the new report include:

  • digital instrumentation and control systems;
  • open-phase conditions in electric power systems;
  • spent fuel pool neutron-absorbing materials; and,
  • plant transition from operation to decommissioning status.

The report includes a section developed by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) describing the U.S. industry’s work to ensure safety.  INPO officials will also be part of the U.S. delegation to the convention review meeting.

For additional information, please contact David McIntyre of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

NRC Hosts Public Meeting re Post-Fukushima Screening of “Other External Hazards” at U.S. Nuclear Power Plants

On April 5, 2016, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff met with the public to discuss and solicit comments regarding the results of the staff’s preliminary screening of natural events other than earthquakes and flooding (ADAMS Accession No. ML16039A054).  This screening is part of the agency’s efforts to learn from the issues raised by the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.

During the meeting, NRC staff described the process used to screen natural events other than seismic and flooding events.  The results of that screening will identify which hazards (e.g., extreme drought, heavy snow loads, tornadoes and hurricanes) should be evaluated further to determine if additional regulatory action is needed.

Comments on the assessment can be e-mailed to JLD_Public.Resource@nrc.gov by April 12, 2016.  NRC staff will consider, to the extent possible, comments received after that date.

The final results of the staff’s screening will be provided to the NRC Commission by the end of May 2016.  The staff’s final assessment (including a determination of whether additional regulatory action is needed) will be provided by the end of the year.

NRC’s White Paper titled, “NRC Staff Assessment of Fukushima Tier 2 Recommendations Related to Evaluation of Natural Hazards Other Than Seismic and Flooding,” can be found at http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ml1603/ML16039A054.pdf.

To view the agenda for the meeting, go to http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ml1608/ML16084A538.pdf.

For additional information, please contact Scott Burnell of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

NRC Commissioner Ostendorff Will Not Seek Another Term

On February 17, 2016, William Ostendorff announced that he would not seek another term at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) after his term expires on June 30, 2016. Commissioner Ostendorff, who will have served for six years in the five-member body that oversees the safety of the country’s nuclear power plants, will instead return to the United States Naval Academy to teach, according to an agency spokesman.

The departure of Commissioner Ostendorff, a former naval officer who commanded an attack submarine and later taught and led the Math and Science Division at the Naval Academy, will leave the NRC with three members—two short of its intended staffing.

Ostendorff, a Republican, was originally appointed to the Commission by President Obama in 2010 to finish the term of retiring Commissioner Dale Klein. He was sworn in to a second term on July 7, 2011. He has served at the NRC through numerous challenges including, among other things, the agency’s response to the Fukushima D’aiichi nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011. “We made a conscious decision by a unanimous commission vote, five to zero, to not require any U.S. nuclear power plant to shut down because of safety concerns,” Ostendorff told Senators last year about the Fukushima response. “We did not have those safety concerns.”

At a recent conference on nuclear energy, Ostendoff was quoted as saying, “I feel very comfortable leaving the Commission at the end of June with where we are on Fukushima.”  In a statement, NRC Chair Stephen Burns said that Commissioner Ostendorff “brought a wealth of experience to the Commission and helped guide the agency through the challenges of Fukushima, a changing industry environment and many other challenging issues.”

NRC Proposes FY 2017 Budget to Congress

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has proposed a $970.2 million Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget to the U.S. Congress to regulate the nation’s nuclear power plants and radioactive materials users. The proposed budget for the Office of the Inspector General is an additional $12.1 million.

As proposed, the FY 2017 budget represents a decrease of nearly $20 million from FY 2016’s spending levels. The decreased budget proposal continues a steady decline in both spending and staffing. The agency’s budget is down eight percent since 2014.

The FY 2017 budget breakout includes $757.4 million for nuclear reactor safety and
$212.8 million for nuclear materials and waste safety and will allow the agency to continue to uphold its important safety and security mission. The budget also includes resources to continue implementation of lessons-learned from the Fukushima nuclear accident, the review of applications for medical isotope productions facilities, and the oversight of four new reactors that are under construction.

Project Aim, the NRC’s transformation effort, will ensure the agency has the right resource levels and workforce staffing to conduct its future work. The goal is to improve the NRC’s effectiveness, efficiency and agility. The FY 2017 budget incorporates some Project Aim recommendations and the Commission is considering a variety of other further potential efficiencies from the effort.

The amount requested for the Inspector General totals $12.1 million. That independent office conducts audits and investigations to ensure the efficiency and integrity of NRC programs, and promote cost-effective management. The OIG’s budget also includes funding to provide auditing and investigation services for the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

The budget briefing slides and the Congressional Budget Justification are available on the NRC web site at www.nrc.gov. A limited number of hard copies of the report will be available from opa.resource@nrc.gov.

For additional information, please contact Eric Stahl of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

New Reactor Licenses to be Issued for South Texas Project

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has cleared the way for the agency’s Office of New Reactors to issue two Combined Licenses (COL) for Nuclear Innovation North America’s (NINA) South Texas Project site in Texas. Based on the mandatory hearing on NINA’s application, the Commission found the staff’s review adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings.

Following the Commissioners’ direction, the NRC staff will work to issue the COLs promptly. The licenses will authorize NINA to build and operate two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR) at the site near Bay City, Texas. The South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company already operates two reactors at the site.

The staff will impose several conditions on the license, including:

  •  specific actions associated with the agency’s post-Fukushima requirements for Mitigation Strategies and Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation;
  • requiring monitoring and analysis of the reactors’ steam dryers during initial plant startup, in line with current procedures for existing boiling-water reactors approved to operate at increased power levels; and,
  • setting a pre-startup schedule for post-Fukushima aspects of the new reactor’s emergency preparedness plans and procedures. 


NINA submitted its application for the licenses on September 20, 2007. The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) independently reviewed aspects of the application that concern safety, as well as the staff’s Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER). The ACRS, a group of experienced technical experts, advises the Commission—independently from the NRC staff—on safety issues related to the licensing and operation of nuclear power plants, as well as on issues of health physics and radiation protection.

  • The ACRS provided the results of its review to the Commission on February 19, 2015. The NRC completed its environmental review and issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the proposed South Texas Project reactors in February 2011. The NRC completed and issued the FSER on September 29, 2015. The NRC certified the 1,300-megawatt ABWR design in 1997.

Additional information on the certification process is available on the NRC web site at nrc.gov. For additional information, please contact Scott Burnell of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.