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 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

To view the agenda for the meeting, go to

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

NRC Issues Annual Assessments for Nation’s Nuclear Plants

On March 4, 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency has issued letters to the nation’s 99 commercial operating nuclear plants about their performance in 2015.  All but three plants were in the two highest performance categories.

“These assessment letters are the result of a holistic review of operating performance at each domestic power reactor facility,” said Bill Dean, Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.  “In addition to ensuring that the nation’s nuclear power plants are safe by inspecting them, the NRC continuously assesses performance.  The purpose of these assessment letters is to ensure that all of our stakeholders clearly understand the basis for our assessments of plant performance and the actions we are taking to address any identified performance deficiencies.”

Later this year, the NRC will host a public meeting or other event in the vicinity of each plant to discuss the details of the annual assessment results.  A separate announcement will be issued for each meeting.


Of the 96 highest-performing reactors, 85 fully met all safety and security performance objectives.  The NRC used the normal “baseline” inspection program to inspect these reactors.

Eleven reactors need to resolve one or two items of low safety significance.  For this performance level, regulatory oversight includes additional inspections and follow-up of corrective actions.  Plants in this level include:

  •   Clinton (Illinois);
  •   Davis Besse (Ohio);
  •   Dresden 2 (Illinois);
  •   Duane Arnold (Iowa);
  •   Indian Point 3 (New York);
  •   Millstone 3 (Connecticut);
  •   Prairie Island 2 (Minnesota);
  •   River Bend (Louisiana);
  •   Sequoyah 1 (Tennessee); and,
  •   Susquehanna 1 and 2 (Pennsylvania).

NRC reports that Duane Arnold, Millstone 3, and Susquehanna 1 and 2 have resolved their issues since the reporting period ended and have transitioned to the highest performing level.

There were no reactors in the third performance category with a degraded level of performance.

There were three reactors in the fourth performance category.  Arkansas Nuclear One 1 and 2 (Arkansas) require increased oversight because of two safety findings of substantial significance.  Pilgrim (Massachusetts) is in the fourth performance category because of long-standing issues of low- to-moderate safety significance.  NRC states that reactors in this category receive additional inspections and increased agency management attention to confirm performance issues are being addressed.


The NRC routinely updates information on each plant’s current performance and posts the latest information as it becomes available to the action matrix summary. The annual assessment letters sent to each operating reactor are also available through the NRC’s webpage on the Reactor Oversight Process.

Annual construction oversight assessments for new reactors at the Vogtle and Summer sites are available on the NRC website.  The assessment letter for Watts Bar 2, which received its operating license in October 2015, is also available.

Every six months each plant receives either a mid-cycle or annual assessment letter along with an NRC inspection plan.

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

NRC Conducts Special Inspection at Perry Nuclear Plant

On February 29, 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency launched a Special Inspection into two recent events at the Perry nuclear power plant. According to NRC, neither event affected public health or safety at the plant.

The Perry nuclear power plant is operated by FirstEnergy Operating Co. and is located in Perry, Ohio—approximately 35 miles northeast of Cleveland.


On February 8, 2016, operators at the Perry nuclear power plant manually shut down the reactor when they observed an increase of the temperature in the suppression pool.  The suppression pool is designed to condense steam and is also a water source for emergency cooling systems.

On February 11, 2016, while the reactor was shutdown, there was a temporary loss of power to certain plant cooling equipment.  Operators were able to use a redundant system and restore power to the cooling systems.


“Even though the two events are not related, we have questions related to the response of the equipment and operator actions,” said NRC Region III Administrator Cynthia Pederson.  “Our team of specialists in reactor operations and electrical equipment will review the technical details to better understand what happened.”

On February 29, 2016, the four-member inspection team began work and will spend time both on and off site conducting their reviews.  After the inspection, a report documenting the team’s findings will be made publicly available.

For additional information, please contact Viktoria Mitlyng at (630) 829-9662 or Prema Chandrathil at (630) 829-9663.

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.”

Web Page Created on Increased Oversight of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant

In mid-February 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission established a web page on the agency’s website containing information about the agency’s increased oversight of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant. Among the items on the web page are background information, schedules, and NRC correspondence related to the increased oversight, inspection reports and other key documents. As the oversight process moves forward, newly released documents will be added to the page.

In mid-October 2015, Entergy Corporation announced plans to shut down Pilgrim by June 1, 2019. Entergy Corporation, which is one of the largest energy companies in the United States, cited economic factors in making the decision to close the plant.

In September 2015, the NRC announced that Pilgrim had moved to Column 4 of the Action Matrix used to determine the level and types of inspections to be performed at any given plant. Pilgrim—which is located in Plymouth, Massachusetts—made that transition after an inspection finding designated as “White,” or of low to moderate safety significance, was finalized for the facility.

The finding overlapped with two earlier findings that were also of low to moderate safety significance, resulting in an NRC determination that the plant should be in Column 4, also known as the Multiple/Repetitive Degraded Cornerstone Column, and therefore subject to additional oversight.

The web page can be found at For additional information, please contact Diane Screnci at (610) 337-5330 or Neil Sheehan at (610) 337-5331.

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 A limited number of hard copies of the report will be available from

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

Registration Opens for NRC’s 2016 Regulatory Information Conference

Registration is now open for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) 28th annual Regulatory Information Conference (RIC). The conference is being held from March 8-10, 2016 at the Bethesda North Marriott located at 5701 Marinelli Road in Bethesda, Maryland. The NRC’s offices of Nuclear Reactor Regulation and Nuclear Regulatory Research jointly host the RIC. The conference is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Approximately 3,000 people are expected to attend the RIC including industry executives, representatives from state governments, non-governmental organizations, individual community members, and representatives from dozens of foreign countries. The conference is an opportunity for attendees to discuss issues related to the safety and security of commercial nuclear facilities and current regulatory activities.

The program features NRC Chair Stephen Burns as the keynote speaker. Additional program highlights include plenary sessions with Commissioners Kristine Svinicki, William Ostendorff and Jeff Baran. NRC’s Executive Director for Operations, Victor McCree, will give remarks. Bill Dean, Director of NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, will give welcome and introductory remarks.

Highlights of this year’s RIC include two sessions titled, “25 Years of NRC’s Principles of Good Regulation” and “Project Aim: Accomplishments and Next Steps.” Other technical sessions will address significant domestic and international issues such as cyber-security, subsequent license renewal, advanced and small modular reactors, spent fuel research activities and the reactor oversight process.

The conference agenda and online registration links are now available on the NRC web site at The deadline for online registration is February 23, 2016. Early registration is encouraged; however, onsite registration will also be available during the conference.

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

NRC Issues RIS re Decommissioning Timeliness Rule Implementation and Associated Regulatory Relief

On December 21, 2015, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued Regulatory Issue Summary (RIS) 2015-19 titled, “Decommissioning Timeliness Rule Implementation and Associated Regulatory Relief.”

RIS 2015-19 was distributed to all holders of and applicants for NRC licenses under Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) Part 30, “Rules of General Applicability to Domestic Licensing of Byproduct Material;” 10 CFR Part 40, “Domestic Licensing of Source Material;” 10 CFR Part 70, “Domestic Licensing of Special Nuclear Material;” and,

10 CFR Part 72, “Licensing Requirements for the Independent Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel, High-Level Radioactive Waste, and Reactor- Related Greater than Class C Waste.” The notice was also distributed to Agreement State Radiation Control Program Directors and State Liaison Officers.

According to the document, NRC issued RIS 2015-19 in order to:

  1. provide clarity on the Decommissioning Timeliness Rule’s (DTR’s) requirements to notify the NRC to begin and complete decommissioning after certain criteria are met;
  1. highlight opportunities for licensees to request alternatives to the DTR’s requirements;
  1. remind licensees that there are situations where they can request an alternative to the DTR’s timeliness requirements for both beginning and completing decommissioning if adequately justified;
  1. clarify when the DTR applies to licensees whose only location of use are temporary jobsites; and,
  1. clarify when the NRC considers that the licensee has transitioned from an “operational” to a “decommissioning” status.

RIS 2015-19 requires no action or written response beyond that already required by regulations. The NRC provided RIS 2015-19 to the Agreement States for their information and for distribution to their licensees, as appropriate. However, a notice of opportunity for public comment on RIS 2015-19 was not published in the Federal Register because the RIS is intended to be informational and is not intended to represent a departure from current regulatory requirements.

NRC generic communications may be found on the NRC public Web site at by going to “NRC Library” and then to “Document Collections.” For additional information, please contact Greg Chapman of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) at (301) 415-8718 or at