Public Meetings Scheduled re Proposed Holtec Consolidated Interim Spent Fuel Facility in New Mexico

On April 9, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency is seeking public comment on the scope of its environmental review of Holtec International’s application for a license to construct and operate a consolidated interim spent fuel storage facility in Lea County, New Mexico.  NRC staff will hold a series of public meetings in late April and early May to describe the review process and take public comments.

Overview

According to the license application, Holtec is seeking to store up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium in commercial spent fuel in the Holtec International Storage Module Underground “MAXimum” Capacity (HI-STORM UMAX) Storage System for a 40-year license term.  The subterranean used nuclear fuel storage system has a maximum storage capacity of 10,000 canisters.  The initial license application is for 500 storage cavities.  The NRC previously certified HI-STORM UMAX in Docket number 72-1040.

“Engineered over a decade ago and licensed by the NRC in 2015, HI-STORM UMAX is physically sized to store all of the used nuclear fuel produced in the U.S. and all canisters currently licensed in dry storage in the country making it a truly universal used fuel storage facility,” states Holtec.  “Already deployed at multiple nuclear power plants around the U.S. …, the HI-STORM UMAX stores the stainless steel canister containing the spent fuel or high-level waste entirely below-ground to serve as a ‘security-friendly’ storage facility, providing a clear, unobstructed view of the entire CISF from any location.  HI-STORE CIS is envisioned to unify the storage of all different storage canisters (both vertically and horizontally stored) in one standardized HI-STORM UMAX cavity system simplifying operations and aging management activities.”

“Storing the Nation’s used nuclear fuel in the HI-STORM UMAX system is a temporary measure, as the stainless-steel canisters are easily retrievable and ready for transport pending the determination of a safe permanent solution for managing used nuclear materials.,” continues Holtec.  “The canisters are designed, qualified, and tested to survive and prevent the release of radioactive material under the most adverse accident scenarios postulated by NRC regulations for both storage and transportation.”

Holtec is using its own funds to support the licensing action.  According to Holtec, the project has “the enthusiastic support of nuclear-savvy communities in southeastern New Mexico incorporated as the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), LLC.”  If the initial application is approved, Holtec plans to make supplemental submittals to incorporate the various canister types being used in the industry.

The Holtec application and other documents related to the NRC’s review are available on the NRC website at www.nrc.gov.

Public Comment

On April 25, 2018, NRC will hold the first “scoping” meeting at the agency’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.  The meeting is scheduled from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET.  There will also be a webinar so people unable to attend in person may follow the meeting.  Interested stakeholders may participate in the meeting via webinar at

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7824864004787186434.

NRC staff will also hold three meetings in New Mexico as follows:

  • April 30, 2018 from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. MT at the Eastern New Mexico University- Roswell, Campus Union Building, Multi-Purpose Room 110, which is located at 48 University Boulevard in Roswell;
  • May 1, 2018 from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. MT at the
Lea County Event Center, which is located at 5101 N. Lovingston Highway in Hobbs; and,
  • May 3, 2018 from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. MT at the Eddy County Fire Service, which is located at 1400 Commerce Drive in Carlsbad.

The first meeting will be an open house and poster session.  The other two meetings will be full scoping meetings.  NRC staff members will hold an open house one hour before each of the Hobbs and Carlsbad meetings to meet informally with members of the public.  A court reporter will be available to record comments at all locations.  Spanish-speaking staff will be available at the New Mexico meetings to assist with translation.

Background

Holtec submitted its application on March 30, 2017.  The NRC formally docketed the application on February 28, 2018.  On March 30, 2018, NRC published a Federal Register notice requesting public comments on the scope of its environmental review.  (See 83 Federal Register 13,802 dated March 30, 2018.)  Comments will be accepted through May 29, 2018.  On April 6, 2018, NRC published a separate notice about the public meetings.  (See 83 Federal Register 14,897 dated April 6, 2018.)

For additional information, please contact , please contact Erika Grandrimo of Holtec at (856) 797-0090 ext. 3920 or at e.grandrimo@holtec.com or David McIntyre of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

NRC Issues Annual Assessments for Nation’s Nuclear Plants

On March 5, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency has issued annual letters to the nation’s 99 commercial nuclear power plants operating in 2017 regarding their operational performance throughout the year.  All but three plants were in the two highest performance categories.

Overview

Of the 96 highest-performing reactors, 83 met all safety and security performance objectives and were inspected by the NRC using the standard “baseline” inspection program.

The NRC determined that 13 reactors needed resolution of 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: Browns Ferry 1, 2 and 3 (Alabama); Catawba 2 (South Carolina); Clinton (Illinois); Columbia (Washington); Diablo Canyon 2 (California); Fermi 2 (Michigan); Grand Gulf (Mississippi); Perry (Ohio); Sequoyah 1 and 2 (Tennessee); and, Wolf Creek (Kansas).  Diablo Canyon 2 and Fermi 2 have resolved their findings 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. The NRC noted that there were three reactors in the fourth performance category.  Arkansas Nuclear One 1 and 2 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.  Additional inspections will be conducted to confirm that the performance issues are being addressed.

Next Steps

Later this spring and summer, the NRC will host a public meeting or other event near each plant to discuss the details of the annual assessments.  A separate announcement will be issued for each public assessment meeting.  In addition to the annual assessment letters, plants also receive an NRC inspection plan for the coming year.

Background

Information on the NRC’s oversight of commercial nuclear power plants is available through the NRC’s webpage on the Reactor Oversight Process.  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.  To see the 2017 assessment letters, click on “2017q4” for each plant.  Annual construction oversight assessments for new reactors at the Vogtle Unit 3 and 4 sites are also on the NRC website.

For additional information, please contact the NRC’s Office of Public Affairs at (301) 415-8200.

NRC to Host Public Meeting re VLLW Scoping Study and Disposal of GTCC and Transuranic Waste

On February 22, 2018, the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will host a public meeting to discuss the Very Low-Level Radioactive Waste (VLLW) Scoping Study and concerns associated with the disposal of Greater-than-Class C (GTCC) waste.

The public meeting will be held in the auditorium at the agency’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.  It is scheduled from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on February 22, 2018.

Interested stakeholders may participate via webinar or teleconference using the following information:

Webinar

Interested stakeholders may participate in the public meeting via webinar using the following link:

Teleconference

Interested stakeholders may participate in the public meeting via teleconference using the following information:

  • Teleconference Number: (800) 857-9840
  • Teleconference Password: 4975456

This meeting will be transcribed and will have a facilitated bridgeline.

For additional information on the NRC public meeting, please contact Cardelia Maupin at (301) 415-2312 or Maurice Heath at (301) 415-3137.

NRC Seeks Public Comment re Development of Regulatory Basis for Alternative Means of Disposal of GTCC and Transuranic Waste

On February 14, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a Federal Register notice announcing that the agency is seeking stakeholder participation and involvement in identifying the various technical issues that should be considered in the development of a regulatory basis for the disposal of Greater-than-Class C (GTCC) and transuranic radioactive waste through means other than a deep geologic disposal, including near surface disposal.  (See 83 Federal Register 6,475 dated February 14, 2018.)

As part of the process, the NRC is requesting that interested stakeholders respond to specific questions contained in the Federal Register notice.  Comments are due by April 16, 2018.  Comments considered after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is only able to ensure consideration of comments received on or before the deadline.

Specific Request for Comment

The NRC is seeking stakeholder participation and involvement in identifying the various technical issues that should be considered in the development of a draft regulatory basis for the disposal of GTCC and transuranic radioactive waste through means other than a deep geologic disposal, including near surface disposal.  To assist in this process, the NRC staff is requesting that interested stakeholders respond to the questions below.  In addition, the NRC staff has conducted some initial technical analyses to assist its understanding of potential hazards with near surface disposal of GTCC and transuranic wastes, which are contained in draft “NRC Staff Analyses Identifying Potential Issues Associated with the Disposal of Greater-Than-Class C Low- Level Radioactive Waste.”  The draft analyses should assist in providing responses to the following questions:

  1. What are the important radionuclides that need to be considered for the disposal of the GTCC and transuranic wastes?

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has described three broad categories of GTCC wastes, including a range of transuranic radionuclides, in its “Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Disposal of Greater-than-Class C (GTCC) Low-Level Radioactive Waste and GTCC-Like Waste.”  (See LLW Notes, November/December 2017, pp. 1, 23-28.)  The three categories are entitled activated metals, sealed sources and other wastes.  The attributes (i.e., radionuclide concentrations, heat generation, and waste form) vary significantly between the three categories.  Certain waste streams represent a very specific waste form (i.e., stainless steel for most activated metals; very concentrated amounts in sealed sources) that may require specific treatment to mitigate potential safety, security and criticality concerns.  Some waste streams may contain sufficient quantities of specific radionuclides that will present a significant thermal output and/or gas generation through radiolysis.  Still other waste streams may contain a significant quantity of fissile radionuclides (i.e., some isotopes of uranium and plutonium).  The NRC is interested in identifying those radionuclides that could be important for evaluating the safety and security of storage associated with the operational period at a disposal facility and the post-closure period (including inadvertent intruder protection).  Additionally, the NRC is interested in obtaining available data and information to support the characteristics of GTCC and transuranic wastes.

  1. How might GTCC and transuranic wastes affect the safety and security of a disposal facility during operations (i.e., pre-closure period)?

The presence of sufficient quantities of high activity radionuclides and/or fissile radionuclides in GTCC and transuranic wastes may impact the design and operational activities associated with a disposal facility prior to disposal.  The NRC is interested in identifying those design and operational activities at a disposal facility that may be impacted by GTCC and transuranic wastes.  For example, the requirements in 10 CFR Part 73 would require licensees to develop safeguards systems to protect against acts of radiological sabotage and to prevent the theft or diversion of Special Nuclear Material (i.e., transuranic waste such as plutonium, uranium-233 or uranium enriched in the isotopes uranium-233 or uranium-235) if a sufficient amount of Special Nuclear Material were present above ground at the disposal facility. 

  1. How might GTCC and transuranic wastes affect disposal facility design for post-closure safety including protection of an inadvertent intruder?

The NRC is considering disposal units (i.e., a single trench, borehole, and vault) that would contain a single category of waste (i.e., sealed sources) as well as disposal units that contain a mixture of all three waste types.  However, the NRC believes the best approach for understanding the issues would be to assume that waste within a disposal unit would be separated by the waste category and not be co-mingled.  Such an approach could provide a clear understanding of the issues associated with how a specific waste category might affect disposal facility design.  Certain waste streams associated with GTCC and transuranic wastes have larger inventories and concentrations of radionuclides than was typically considered at low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities.  For example, certain GTCC and transuranic wastes in sufficient quantities have the potential for significant thermal output that could affect degradation processes within a disposal unit and hydrogen gas generation through radiolysis that could also affect degradation processes of the waste package and waste form.  Additionally, waste streams associated with GTCC and transuranic wastes may have fissile materials that require facilities to be designed to limit the potential for a criticality event or limit the amount of fissile material that can be disposed.  There is a potential balance between security/safety and economic feasibility of design, construction and operation.  The NRC would like to hear from the stakeholders on these aspects as well.  The information provided on economic feasibility would be in concert with the NRC’s strategies on examining the cumulative effects of potential regulatory actions.  The NRC is interested in identifying the various scenarios that should be considered in evaluating the post-closure safety for the disposal of GTCC and transuranic waste—especially scenarios associated with specific issues and concerns that may not have been previously considered for commercial disposal facilities (i.e., synergistic effects of the thermal output on geochemical processes affecting release of radionuclides).

Submitting Comments

Interested stakeholders may submit comments by any of the following methods:

  •   Email Comments to:  Email comments to Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov.  If you do not receive an automatic email reply confirming receipt, then contact the NRC at (301) 415-1677.
  •   Fax comments to:  Fax comments to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, at (301) 415-1101.
  •   Mail comments to:  Mail comments to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555– 0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff.
  •   Hand deliver comments to:  Comments may be hand delivered to the NRC at 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852 between 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Interested stakeholders are reminded to please include Docket ID NRC 2017-0081 in the subject line of any comment submission.

Background

 

The NRC’s “Licensing Requirements for Land Disposal of Radioactive Waste” are provided in 10 CFR Part 61.  Section 10 CFR 61.2, “Definitions,” provides that waste as used in Part 61 means those low-level radioactive wastes containing source, special nuclear or byproduct material that are acceptable for disposal in a land disposal facility.  The definition also indicates that low- level radioactive waste means radioactive waste not classified as high-level radioactive waste, transuranic waste, spent nuclear fuel or byproduct material as defined in paragraphs (2), (3), and (4) of the definition of byproduct material in § 20.1003.

The Statements of Consideration (SOC) for the 10 CFR Part 61 proposed rule explained that not all waste may be suitable for disposal in the near surface.  Specifically, Section IV, “Purpose and Scope,” of the SOC indicates that, while 10 CFR Part 61 was intended to deal with the disposal of most low-level radioactive waste defined by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act, the 10 CFR Part 61 waste classification system identified some low-level radioactive wastes that are not suitable for disposal under its regulatory framework, and alternative methods would have to be used.

In § 61.55, “Waste classification,” the NRC developed a classification system for waste for near surface disposal, which categorizes waste as Class A, B or C.  This provision also describes waste that is not generally acceptable for near-surface disposal, whose disposal methods must be more stringent than those specified for Class C waste.  This waste is referred to as GTCC waste.

Nuclear power reactors, facilities supporting the nuclear fuel cycle and other facilities and licensees outside of the nuclear fuel cycle generate the GTCC waste.  This class of wastes include:

  • plutonium- contaminated nuclear fuel cycle wastes;
  • activated metals;
  • sealed sources; and,
  • radioisotope product manufacturing wastes – i.e., wastes “occasionally generated as part of manufacture of sealed sources, radiopharmaceutical products and other materials used for industrial, education, and medical applications.”

Transuranic waste is not included in the § 61.2 definition of low-level radioactive waste.  In a 1988 amendment to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, a definition for transuranic was added.  Transuranic waste is defined as “material contaminated with elements that have an atomic number greater than 92, including neptunium, plutonium, americium, and curium, and that are in concentrations greater than 10 nanocuries per gram [(nCi/g)], or in such other concentrations as the [U.S.] Nuclear Regulatory Commission may prescribe to protect the public health and safety.”  Transuranic waste is a byproduct of nuclear research and power production and is primarily produced from spent fuel recycling, medical isotope production or nuclear weapons fabrication.  The waste may consist of rags, tools and laboratory equipment contaminated with organic and inorganic residues.

The identification and evaluation of regulatory concerns associated with land disposal of GTCC and transuranic waste will largely depend on the characteristics of the wastes – i.e., isotopes; concentrations and volumes of waste; and, physical and chemical properties.  The variable characteristics of the waste can influence the decision regarding the appropriate regulatory approach to use for management and disposal of these wastes.  Overly conservative assumptions for the inventory and characteristics could significantly limit disposal options, whereas, overly optimistic assumptions with respect to characteristics could lead to a disposal facility that may not provide adequate protection of public health and safety and security.

For additional information, please contact Cardelia Maupin of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) at (301) 415–4127 or at Cardelia.Maupin@nrc.gov.

NRC to Conduct Very Low-Level Radioactive Waste Scoping Study

On February 14, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a Federal Register notice announcing the agency’s plans to conduct a very low-level radioactive waste (VLLW) scoping study to identify possible options to improve and strengthen the NRC’s regulatory framework for the disposal of the anticipated large volumes of VLLW associated with the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and material sites, as well as waste that might be generated by alternative waste streams that may be created by operating reprocessing facilities or a radiological event.  (See 83 Federal Register 6,619 dated February 14, 2018.)

As part of the process, the NRC is seeking stakeholder input and perspectives.  Respondents are asked to consider specific questions posed by the NRC staff and other federal agencies in the Federal Register notice.  Comments are due by May 15, 2018.  Comments considered after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is only able to ensure consideration of comments received on or before the deadline.

Specific Request for Comment

The NRC is interested in receiving comments from a broad range of stakeholders including professional organizations, licensees, Agreement States and members of the public.  Likewise, interested stakeholders with insight into relevant international initiatives are invited to provide their perspectives regarding international best practices related to VLLW disposal or other experiences that the NRC staff should consider.  All comments will be considered and the results of the scoping study will be documented in a publicly available report, which will inform the Commission of the staff’s recommendation for addressing VLLW disposal.

All comments that are to receive consideration in the VLLW Scoping Study must be submitted electronically or in writing.  Respondents are asked to consider the background material (see below) when preparing their comments.  In responding, commenters are encouraged to provide specific suggestions and the basis for suggestions offered.  Specifically, the NRC staff requests comment on the following questions:

  1. The United States does not have a formal regulatory definition of VLLW. What should the NRC consider in developing its own regulatory definition for VLLW?  Is there another definition of VLLW that should be considered?  Provide a basis for your response.
  1. The existing regulatory framework within 10 CFR 61.55 divides low-level radioactive waste into four categories: Class A, Class B, Class C, and GTCC. Should the NRC revise the waste classification system to establish a new category for VLLW?  What criteria should NRC consider in establishing the boundary between Class A and VLLW categories?
  1. The NRC’s alternative disposal request guidance entitled, ‘‘Review, Approval, and Documentation of Low- Activity Waste Disposals in Accordance with 10 CFR 20.2002 and 10 CFR 40.13(a),’’ which is undergoing a revision, allows for alternative disposal methods that are different from those already defined in the regulations and is most often used for burial of waste in hazardous or solid waste landfills permitted under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Should the NRC expand the existing guidance to include VLLW disposal or consider the development of a new guidance for VLLW disposal?  Why or why not?
  1. If the NRC were to create a new waste category for VLLW in 10 CFR Part 61, what potential compatibility issues related to the approval of VLLW disposal by NRC Agreement States need to be considered and addressed? How might defining VLLW affect NRC Agreement State regulatory programs in terms of additional responsibilities or resources?
  1. Following the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985, states formed regional compacts for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste. If the NRC were to create a new waste category for VLLW, does it fall within regional compact authority to control VLLW management and disposal?  How might defining VLLW affect regional compacts in terms of additional responsibilities or resources?
  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-imposed waste analysis requirements for facilities that generate, treat, store and dispose of hazardous wastes are defined in 40 CFR Parts 264 through 270. How would NRC incorporate and apply waste analysis requirements for VLLW at RCRA Subtitle C and D facilities?  Should the NRC impose concentration limits and/or treatment standards for VLLW disposal?
  1. Are there any unintended consequences associated with developing a VLLW waste category?
  1. What analytical methods/tools should be used to assess the risk of disposing of VLLW at licensed low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities or RCRA Subtitle C and D facilities — i.e., generic or site- specific?
  1. How should economic factors be considered in the VLLW scoping study?

Submitting Comments

Interested stakeholders may submit comments by any of the following methods:

  •   Mail comments to:  May Ma, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: OWFN–2– A13, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555– 0001.

Background

In 2007, following developments in the national program for low-level radioactive waste disposal, as well as changes in the regulatory environment, the NRC conducted a strategic assessment of its regulatory program for low-level radioactive waste.  The results of this assessment were published in late 2007 in SECY–07–0180, “Strategic Assessment of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Regulatory Program.”  The strategic assessment identified the need to coordinate with other agencies on consistency in regulating low activity waste (LAW) disposal and to develop guidance that summarizes disposition options for low-end materials and waste.

In 2016, the NRC staff conducted a programmatic assessment of the low-level radioactive waste program to identify and prioritize tasks that the NRC could undertake to ensure a stable, reliable and adaptable regulatory framework for effective low-level radioactive waste management.  The results of this assessment were published in October 2016 in SECY–16–0118, “Programmatic Assessment of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Regulatory Program.”  The programmatic assessment identified the need to perform a LAW scoping study as a medium priority.

In International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safety Guide No. GSG– 1, “Classification of Radioactive Waste,” the IAEA defines VLLW as waste that does not meet the criteria of exempt waste, but does not need a high level of containment and isolation and is therefore suitable for disposal in a near surface landfill type facility with limited regulatory control.  The NRC currently does not have a formal regulatory definition for VLLW, nor has it adopted the IAEA definition.  However, the NRC uses the term VLLW consistent with the international regulatory structure.  In general, the NRC considers VLLW as material containing some residual radioactivity, including naturally occurring radionuclides that may be safely disposed of in hazardous or municipal solid waste landfills.

The LAW scoping study, which was later renamed the VLLW scoping study, will combine several tasks initially defined in the 2007 strategic assessment into one. These tasks include:

  • coordinating with other agencies on consistency in regulating LAW;
  • developing guidance that summarizes disposition options for low-end materials and waste; and,
  • promulgating a rule for disposal of LAW.

As part of the scoping study, the NRC will also evaluate regulatory options that would define the conditions under which LAW, including mixed waste, could be disposed of in Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C hazardous waste facilities.

Consistent with SECY–16–0118, the NRC is conducting this VLLW Scoping Study, which will consider disposal of waste as defined by 10 CFR Part 61 as the isolation, by emplacement in a land disposal facility, of radioactive wastes from the biosphere that is inhabited by man and that contains his food chains.  As such, the scoping study will not address non-disposal related disposition pathways including unrestricted release, clearance, reuse or recycle of materials.

The purpose of the VLLW scoping study is to identify possible options to improve and strengthen the NRC’s regulatory framework for the disposal of the anticipated large volumes of VLLW associated with the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and waste that might be generated by alternative waste streams that may be created by fuel reprocessing or a radiological event.  Additionally, the NRC plans to evaluate regulatory options that could define the conditions under which VLLW, including mixed waste, could be disposed of in RCRA hazardous waste facilities.

For additional information, please contact Maurice Heath of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) at (301) 415–3137 or at Maurice.Heath@nrc.gov.

NRC Issues Regulatory Basis for New Decommissioning Regulations

On November 27, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published in the Federal Register the regulatory basis for proposed new regulations on the decommissioning of commercial nuclear power reactors.  (See 82 Federal Register 55, 954 dated November 27, 2017.)

The regulatory basis supports a proposed rule, which the agency expects to publish for public comment next year.

The regulatory basis titled, “Regulatory Improvements for Power Reactors Transitioning to Decommissioning,” has been assigned NRC Docket ID 2015-0070 and can be found at https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1721/ML17215AO1O.pdf.

Overview

In the regulatory basis, the NRC staff concludes that there is sufficient justification to proceed with new regulations in the following areas:

  • emergency preparedness;
  • physical security;
  • cyber security;
  • drug and alcohol testing;
  • training requirements for certified fuel handlers;
  • decommissioning trust funds;
  • financial protection requirements and indemnity agreements; and,
  • application of the backfit rule.

In many cases, these new regulations would formalize steps to transition power reactors from operating status to decommissioning, without the use of exemptions and license amendments.  The NRC staff also recommends clarifying requirements regarding topics such as spent fuel management and environmental reporting requirements.

The NRC staff recommends addressing some topics via updated guidance or inspection procedures in lieu of rulemaking.  These topics include:

  • the role of state and local governments in the decommissioning process;
  • certain staffing requirements; and,
  • aging management of certain plant systems, structures and components.

In addition to the regulatory basis, NRC staff plans to publish a revised preliminary draft of the regulatory analysis, which will update and refine the analysis of costs and benefits.

Background 

The NRC published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on the draft regulatory basis for a future power reactor decommission rule in November 2015, seeking public comment on a number of areas to be considered during the rulemaking process.  (See LLW Notes, November/December 2017, pp. 37-38.)  In March 2017, the agency issued a draft regulatory basis in the Federal Register.  (See LLW Notes, March/April 2107, pp. 23-24.)  The NRC staff considered public comments received during both stages in preparing this regulatory basis.

The NRC began a similar rulemaking process in 2000-2001, but stopped after a stronger focus on security was prompted by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  However, five reactors have permanently shut down since the beginning of 2013, and three more are expected to cease operations by 2019.

The five reactors now undergoing decommissioning required several exemptions from NRC’s regulations for operating reactors to reflect their decommissioning status.  By incorporating changes into regulation, the NRC believes the transition from operation to decommissioning can become more efficient and effective for the agency and the licensee, as well as more open and transparent for the public.

The regulatory basis is publicly available in the NRC’s ADAMS online document database at accession number ML17215A010.  For additional information, please contact David McIntyre of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

NRC Extends Comment Period re Part 61 Draft Regulatory Analysis

On November 24, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published a Federal Register notice reopening and extending the public comment period on the draft regulatory analysis, “Draft Regulatory Analysis for Final Rule: Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal.”  Among other things, the draft regulatory analysis seeks specific cost and benefit information to better inform the updated draft regulatory analysis.  (See 82 Federal Register 48,283 dated October 17, 2017.)

The comment period originally closed on November 16, 2017.  In order to allow more time for members of the public to develop and submit their comments, however, the NRC decided to reopen and extend the public comment period until December 18, 2017.

The Part 61 Working Group (P61WG) of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Forum (LLW Forum), the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC) and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (Utah DEQ DWMRC) previously submitted comments on the draft regulatory analysis.

The Federal Register notice requesting public comment on the draft regulatory analysis is available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/10/17/2017-22459/low-level-radioactive-waste-disposal. 

Comment letters from the P61WG, South Carolina and Utah regarding the draft regulatory analysis are available on the Resources Page of the Part 61 Working Group (P61WG) website at http://part-61.org/resources/. 

For additional information, please contact Gregory Trussell, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, at (301) 415-6445 or at Gregory.Trussell@nrc.gov.

Comment Period Opens re Guidance Document for Alternative Disposal Requests

On October 19, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published a notice in the Federal Register requesting comment on the draft revision to its guidance document for alternative disposal requests entitled, “Guidance for the Reviews of Proposed Disposal Procedures and Transfers of Radioactive Material Under 10 CFR 20.2002 and 10 CFR 40.13(a).”  (See 82 Federal Register 48,727 dated October 19, 2017.)

The Federal Register notice regarding the draft revision to the NRC guidance document for alternative disposal requests is available at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-10-19/pdf/2017-22694.pdf.

Purpose  The purpose of the referenced document and associated procedure is to provide guidance for NRC staff and describe the process for documenting, reviewing, and approving (on a case-by- case basis) requests received from licensees, license applicants and other entities for alternative disposal of licensed material.  The staff may authorize these requests under the provisions of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) 20.2002 and 10 CFR 40.13(a).

Scope  The procedure covers the steps that NRC staff need to take in order to review, document, and approve a request for alternative disposal of licensed material, including:

  •   entering documents into the NRC public document system, which is known as the Agency-Wide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS);
  •   establishing an Enterprise Project Identifier (EPID) and/or Cost Activity Code (CAC) for 
monitoring time charged to the project;
  •   conducting a technical review of the disposal request, including performing dose 
assessments;
  •   preparing a Safety Evaluation Report (SER) or Technical Evaluation Report (TER);
  •   preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA);
  •   coordinating with state regulatory agencies and disposal site operators;
  •   implementing a Communications Plan, where applicable, including conducting public 
meetings; and,
  •   implementing the approaches included within the All Agreement States Letter.

Although § 20.2002 and § 40.13(a) reviews are similar in most respects, there are a few differences that are described in the document.  Where there are differences between the procedures for handling the different types of requests, a sub-section for each type of request is 
provided.  Otherwise, they will be referred to collectively as ADRs.

The procedure does not cover all releases of solid materials from a licensee’s control, only those that are submitted for NRC approval under 10 CFR 20.2002 and 10 CFR 40.13(a).  The NRC’s procedures for release of solid materials are described in NUREG-1757, Volume 1, Rev. 2, Section 15.11.

Submitting Comments  Comments are due by December 18, 2017.  Comments received after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is able to assure consideration only for comments received on or before this date.

Interested stakeholders may submit comments by any of the following methods:

  •   Federal Rulemaking Web Site:  Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2017-0198.
  •   Mail comments to:  May Ma, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: OWFN-2-A13, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.

Docket ID NRC-2017-0198 should be referenced when submitting comments.

For additional information, please contact Robert Lee Gladney, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, at (301) 415-1022 or Robert.Gladney@nrc.gov.

NRC Seeks Public re Draft Regulatory Analysis for Final Part 61 Rule

Specific Cost and Benefit Information Requested

On October 17, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published a Federal Register notice requesting comment on the draft regulatory analysis, “Draft Regulatory Analysis for Final Rule: Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal,” and seeking specific cost and benefit information to better inform the updated draft regulatory analysis.  (See 82 Federal Register 48,283 dated October 17, 2017.)

The Federal Register notice regarding the draft regulatory analysis for the final Part 61 rule is available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/10/17/2017-22459/low-level-radioactive-waste-disposal.

Discussion  In addition to specified rule language changes, the Commission, in SRM-SECY-16-0106, also directed the NRC staff to “be informed by broader and more fully integrated, but reasonably foreseeable costs and benefits to the U.S. waste disposal system resulting from the proposed rule changes, including pass -through costs to waste generators and processors.”  To support development of the new supplemental proposed rule as directed by the Commission in SRM-SECY-16-0106, the NRC staff is seeking comment on how to improve the approach/methodology and actual cost data currently used in the draft final rule regulatory analysis to provide more accurate cost and benefit data in the final regulatory analysis.  In particular, the NRC is seeking information on any cost changes that should be incorporated into the regulatory analysis in light of the Commission’s changes to the draft final rule.

Requested Information and Comments  NRC is providing the below specific questions associated with the draft regulatory analysis (ADAMS Accession No. ML16189A050).  The questions will also be discussed at the public meeting.  The NRC staff will consider the responses to the questions as it revises the regulatory analysis.

  •   Is the NRC considering appropriate alternatives for the regulatory action described in the draft regulatory analysis?
  •   Are there additional factors that the NRC should consider in the regulatory action?  What are these factors?
  •   Is there additional information concerning regulatory impacts that the NRC should include in its regulatory analysis for this rulemaking?
  •   Are all costs and benefits properly addressed to determine the economic impact of the rulemaking alternatives?  What cost differences would be expected from moving from the discussed 1,000 year and 10,000 year compliance periods to a single 1,000 year compliance period? Are there any unintended consequences of making this revision?
  •   Are there any costs that should be assigned to those sites not planning to accept large quantities of depleted uranium for disposal in the future?
  •   Is NRC’s assumption that only two existing low-level radioactive waste sites (i.e., EnergySolutions’ Clive Utah disposal facility and Waste Control Specialists’ Texas disposal facility) plan to accept large quantities of depleted uranium for disposal in the future reasonable?
  •   What additional costs or cost savings, not already considered in the draft regulatory analysis, will the supplemental proposed rulemaking or alternatives cause to society, industry, and government?  What are the potential transfer (“pass- through”) costs to the waste generators and processors?

Submitting Comments  Comments are due by November 16, 2017.  Comments received after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is able to assure consideration only for comments received on or before this date.  Interested stakeholders may submit comments by any of the following methods:

  •   Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2011-0012.
  •   E-mail comments to Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov. If you do not receive an automatic e-mail reply confirming receipt, then contact us at 301-415-1677.
  •   Fax comments to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at 301- 415-1101.
  •   Mail comments to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff.

Docket ID NRC-2011-0012 should be referenced when submitting comments.

For additional information, please contact Gregory Trussell, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, at (301) 415-6445 or at Gregory.Trussell@nrc.gov.

NRC Accepts Comments on Draft FY 2018-2022 Strategic Plan

On September 27, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency was seeking public comments on draft NUREG–1614, Volume 7, ‘‘Draft Strategic Plan: Fiscal Years 2018–2022.’’  The draft Strategic Plan provides the agency’s strategic goals and objectives and proposed strategies for achieving them.

In the Federal Register notice, NRC states that the agency “encourages and welcomes public comments that can help it respond to challenges and shape its strategic direction over the next four years, particularly comments on the plan’s goals, objectives, and strategies.”  (See 82 Federal Register 44,858 dated September 26, 2017.)

The Federal Register notice regarding the Draft FY 2018-2022 Strategic Plan can be found at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-09-26/pdf/2017-20538.pdf.

The draft Strategic Plan is available in NRC’s Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) under Accession No. ML17254A104.

Overview  The NRC is an independent agency established by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 that began operations in 1975 as a successor to the Atomic Energy Commission.  The NRC’s mission is to license and regulate the nation’s civilian use of radioactive materials to provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety, as well as to promote the common defense and security and to protect the environment.

The draft Strategic Plan, covering the period Fiscal Years (FY) 2018–2022, describes how the NRC plans to achieve its two strategic goals:

  • ensure the safe use of radioactive materials; and
  • ensure the secure use of radioactive materials.

The draft establishes a framework for the next four years for the NRC to achieve its mission.  It also provides an overview of the NRC’s responsibilities, key challenges and management priorities, and it outlines the objectives and key activities to achieve the agency’s goals.

The draft plan is largely consistent with the previous plan (FY 2014-2022) with continued focus and commitment to the NRC’s mission and strategic goals of safety and security.  The most notable change is a new vision statement, which highlights the agency’s commitment to the Principles of Good Regulation.  It also includes minor updates and editorial enhancements.

Background  In accordance with the Government Performance and Results (GPRA) Modernization Act of 2010, agencies are required to submit their strategic plans to Congress the year following the start of a Presidential term.  The Commission has approved a draft Strategic Plan and is now seeking comments from the public so that the agency may benefit from a wide range of stakeholder input to help shape the NRC’s strategic direction for the upcoming planning period.

The NRC issued its first Strategic Plan in September 1997 and, as required, it has been updated every four years since then.  The 2018-2022 edition is due to Congress and the President by
February 5, 2018. 

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

NRC Issues SRM re Final Rule for Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal (10 CFR Part 61)

On September 8, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM) in response to SECY-16-0106, which sought Commission approval to publish a final rule in the Federal Register that would amend Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) Parts 20, “Standards for Protection Against Radiation,” and Part 61, “Licensing Requirements for Land Disposal of Radioactive Waste.”

The SRM can be found online at https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1725/ML17251B147.pdf.

SRM Direction  In the SRM, the Commission approved certain substantive revisions to the draft final rule and its subsequent publication as a supplemental proposed rule for a 90-day public comment period.  Specifically, prior to its publication as a supplemental proposed rule, the SRM states that the draft final rule should be revised to incorporate the following changes:

  1. reinstate the use of a case-by-case basis (i.e., “grandfather provision”) for applying new requirements to only those sites that plan to accept large quantities of depleted uranium for disposal;
  2. reinstate the 1,000 year compliance period from the proposed rule with a specific dose limit of 25 mrem/year and adopt a longer period of performance assessment—the period of which would be based on site-specific considerations and a “reasonable analysis,” as defined in SRM-SECY-13-0075, “Proposed Rule: Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal (10 CFR Part 61) (RIN 3150-AI92))—and apply the 1,000 year compliance period to the inadvertent intruder performance objective in 10 CFR 61.42 and the site stability performance objective in 10 CFR 61.44;
  3. clarify that the safety case consists of the quantitative performance assessment, as supplemented by consideration of defense-in-depth measures;
  4. modify the draft final rule text addressing defense-in-depth to narrow its consideration solely to providing additional assurance in mitigating the effects of large uncertainties that are identified during the performance assessment; and,
  5. be informed by broader and more fully integrated, but reasonably foreseeable, costs and benefits to the United States waste disposal system resulting from the proposed rule changes, including pass-through costs to waste generators and processors.

 

The SRM notes that the timing for the staff to prepare a regulatory basis for the disposal of Greater-than- Class C (GTCC) waste as directed in SRM-SECY-15-0094, “Historical and Current Issues Related to Disposal of Greater-Than-Class C Low-Level Radioactive Waste,” should be changed from the previous direction of within six (6) months of the completion of the ongoing 10 CFR Part 61 rulemaking to six (6) months after the publication of the supplemental proposed rule.

Background  The regulations for the disposal of commercial low-level radioactive waste in land disposal facilities are set forth in 10 CFR Part 61.  NRC originally adopted these regulations in 1982.  Although the NRC has never licensed any land disposal facilities under this part, the Agreement States that currently or plan to license low-level radioactive waste land disposal facilities must adopt compatible versions of these regulations.

In SECY-13-0075, dated July 18, 2013, the NRC staff provided the Commission with a proposed rule to amend 10 CFR Part 61.  The Commission approved publication of the proposed rule in SRM-SECY-13-0075, dated February 12, 2014.  After making Commission directed changes, the NRC published the proposed rule for an initial 120-day comment period in the Federal Register on March 26, 2015.  The public comment period closed on July 24, 2015.  After receiving extension requests, the staff reopened the comment period, which then closed on September 21, 2015.

 

For additional information on the Part 61 final rule and associated documents, please contact either Gary Comfort at (301) 415-8106 or at Gary.Comfort@nrc.gov or Stephen Dembeck at (301) 415-2342 or at Stephen.Dembek@nrc.gov.

 

NRC Assesses Civil Penalty Against Allen County Cardiology

On September 7, 2017, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency has proposed a $7,000 civil penalty against Allen County Cardiology for the failure to perform daily surveys and weekly tests while handling licensed radioactive material for use in medical procedures.  The company is based in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The violations were identified during an NRC inspection last year and a subsequent investigation.  The NRC determined a medical technologist willfully failed to perform daily ambient radiation exposure rate surveys and weekly area radioactive contamination surveys.  The technologist also willfully provided inaccurate and incomplete records to the agency.  Allen County Cardiology took corrective actions, which included ensuring adequate time for completing the required tasks, conducting audits and committing to have an independent health physics service perform semi-annual audits.

The NRC has concluded that the company’s actions are effective and will prevent recurrence. Agency inspectors will conduct a follow-up inspection.  A copy of the Notice of Violation has been posted on the Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) at the NRC website.

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

NRC Proposes FY 2018 Budget to Congress

On May 23, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released the agency’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 as presented to Congress.  The agency is proposing an FY 2018 budget of $952 million, including the Office of the Inspector General—a request nearly $45 million lower than 2016’s spending levels.  Since the NRC recovers approximately 90 percent of its budget from licensee fees, which are sent directly to the U.S. Treasury, the resulting net appropriation request is $138 million.

Specific details of the budget include the following:

  • Requested funding for 3,284 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, including the OIG—which represents a reduction of approximately 270 FTE from the FY 2016 level. Reductions in staffing were related to completion of work related to the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force and improved efficiency of agency operations, including reductions in procurement operations, physical and personnel security, and information technology.
  • Requested funding of $466.7 million for nuclear reactor safety, $171.1 million for nuclear materials and waste safety—which includes $30 million to support activities for the proposed Yucca Mountain deep geological repository for spent fuel and other high-level radioactive waste—and $301.4 million for corporate support.
  • Requested funding of $12.1 million for the OIG, an independent office that 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 website.  A limited number of hard copies of the report will be available from opa.resource@nrc.gov.

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

NRC to Hold Fuel Cycle Information Exchange

On June 13-14, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will host the 11th Fuel Cycle Information Exchange at the agency’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.  This event enables NRC staff, licensees, international counterparts, members of the public and other stakeholders to discuss issues related to uranium enrichment and conversion, and nuclear fuel fabrication.  Online registration is now open.  Onsite registration will also be available during the conference.

Agenda Overview  On the morning of June 13, 2017, NRC Executive Director for Operations Victor McCree will deliver opening remarks and Eileen Supko, Principal at Energy Resources International, will give a keynote address.  The conference will also include discussions and presentations on safety culture, advanced fuels, small modular and advanced reactors, waste disposal, fees, operating experience, and cybersecurity.

Logistics  The conference will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. on June 13 and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on June 14.  It will be held in the NRC Auditorium.  A telephone bridge line has been set up for those who cannot attend the conference in person.  An operator will moderate the bridge line, allowing participants to ask questions at designated times.  Anyone choosing to phone in should call (888) 790-9948 and use passcode 3424316.

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

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

President Trump Announces Intent to Nominate NRC Commissioners

On May 22, 2017, U.S. President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate Annie Caputo and David Wright as Commissioners  for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), as well as to nominate current NRC Chair Kristine Svinicki as Commissioner and Chair for a new five-year term.

Annie Caputo   According to the White House news release dated May 22, 2017, President Trump intends to nominate Annie Caputo of Virginia to be an NRC Commissioner for the remainder of a five-year term expiring June 30, 2021.  Caputo currently serves as Senior Policy Advisor for Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  She also held this position for previous Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) from 2007 to 2012.  From 2005 to 2006 and from 2012 to 2015, Caputo worked for the House Committee on Energy & Commerce handling nuclear energy issues.  Prior to working for the Congress, Caputo worked as an Executive Assistant and Congressional Affairs Manager for Exelon Corporation.  Caputo has more than 20 years of experience advising the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, as well as the nuclear industry, on nuclear energy regulation, policy development, legislation, and communications.  Caputo graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Engineering.  Caputo, her husband and two children reside in McLean, Virginia.

Kristine L. Svinicki  President Trump also plans to nominate Kristine L. Svinicki of Virginia to be an NRC Commissioner for a five-year term expiring June 30, 2022, as well to designate her as Chair.  Svinicki currently serves as an NRC Commissioner, having been originally confirmed in 2008, re-nominated to a second term in 2012 and designated as the Commission’s Chair by President Trump in January of 2017.  Prior to being confirmed as an NRC Commissioner, Svinicki served in various staff positions in the U.S. Senate, including as a Professional Staff Member for the Committee on Armed Services, with a concentration on defense science and technology policy and the atomic energy defense activities of the U.S. Departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DoD).  Previously, Svinicki worked as a Nuclear Engineer in DOE’s Washington headquarters and the Department’s Idaho Operations Office.  Earlier in her career, she was an Energy Engineer with the State of Wisconsin, Public Service Commission in Madison, Wisconsin.  Svinicki graduated from the University of Michigan and currently resides in Falls Church, Virginia.

David Wright  The May 22 press release states that President Trump also plans to nominate David Wright of South Carolina to be an NRC Commissioner for the remainder of a five-year term expiring June 30, 2020. Wright is currently the President of Wright Directions, LLC—a strategic consulting and communications business in the energy sector.  Wright previously served as a Member and Chair of the South Carolina Public Service Commission (SCPSC) from 2004 – 2013.  He was elected to serve as President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) for 2011 – 2012.  Wright has owned and operated several different businesses, and served as a Councilman, Mayor and a Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives.  A colon cancer survivor, Wright is active as an advocate for colon cancer awareness and education and is frequently asked to share his message with groups around the country.  Wright received his Bachelor’s Degree from Clemson University.  He has four children and three grandchildren and currently resides in Columbia, South Carolina.

Background  Five Commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms head the NRC.  One of them is designated by the President to be the Chairman and official spokesperson of the Commission.  The Chair is the Principal Executive Officer of and the Official Spokesperson for the NRC.  As Principal Executive Officer, the Chair is responsible for conducting the administrative, organizational, long-range planning, budgetary and certain personnel functions of the agency.  The Chair has ultimate authority for all NRC functions pertaining to an emergency involving an NRC license.  The Chair’s actions are governed by the general policies of the Commission.  The Commission operates as a collegial body to formulate policies, develop regulations governing nuclear reactor and nuclear material safety, issue orders to licensees, and adjudicate legal matters.  In addition to Chair Kristine L. Svinicki, the NRC currently has two other Commissioners including Jeff Baran and Stephen G. Burns.

For additional information related to Commission business, please contact Annette L. Vietti-Cook, Secretary of the Commission, at (301) 415-1969 or at NRCExecSec@nrc.gov.  For additional information related to Federal Intergovernmental Matters, please contact Darrell Adams, Congressional/External Affairs Officer, at (301) 415-1776 or at oca_web@nrc.gov.

WCS Places Spent Fuel Storage Application on Hold

By letter dated mid-April 2017, Waste Control Specialists (WCS) asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to temporarily suspend the agency’s review of its application to construct and operate a spent nuclear fuel Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) in Andrews County, Texas.

WSC “is faced with a magnitude of financial burdens that currently make pursuit of licensing unsupportable,” Rod Baltzer, the company’s President and CEO, said in a letter to the NRC dated April 16, 2017.  According to Baltzer, the estimated $7.5 million that is needed to continue the licensing process was a significant factor in WCS’ decision.  The following day, NRC announced that it would freeze the review.

The request comes as EnergySolutions is trying to buy WCS, although the U.S. Department of Justice has sued to block the merger, arguing it would essentially create a monopoly on radioactive waste disposal.  “WCS expects to go forward with this project at the earliest possible opportunity after completion of the sale,” Baltzer said in a statement.

In the meantime, on March 16, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency was providing additional opportunities for the public to comment on the CISF application that was submitted by WCS.

Background

On April 28, 2016, WCS filed an application seeking a 40-year license for a CISF to receive spent fuel from nuclear reactors for storage, pending final disposal.  (See LLW Notes, May/June 2016, pp. 16-17.)  Specifically, WCS is requesting authorization to construct and operate a CISF at the company’s 60.3 square kilometer (14,900 acre) site in western Andrews County, Texas.  On this site, WCS currently operates facilities that process and store certain types of radioactive material—mainly low-level radioactive waste and mixed waste.  The facility also disposes of hazardous and toxic waste.

According to the application, WCS plans to construct the CISF in eight phases.  Phase one of the CISF would be designed to provide storage for up to 5,000 metric tons uranium (MTU) of spent nuclear fuel received from commercial nuclear power reactors across the United States.  WCS proposes that small amounts of mixed oxide spent fuels and Greater-Than-Class C (GTCC) low-level radioactive wastes also be stored at the CISF.  WCS stated that it would design each subsequent phase of the CISF to store up to an additional 5,000 MTU.  A total of up to 40,000 MTU would be stored at the site by the completion of the final phase.  Each phase would require NRC review and approval.

WCS would receive canisters containing spent nuclear fuel from the reactor sites.  Once accepted at the site, WCS would transfer them into onsite dry cask storage systems.  WCS plans to employ dry cask storage system technology that has been licensed by the NRC pursuant to 10 CFR Part 72 at various commercial nuclear reactors across the country.  According to WCS, the dry cask storage systems proposed for use at the CISF would be passive systems (i.e., not relying on any moving parts) and would provide physical protection, containment, nuclear criticality controls and radiation shielding required for the safe storage of the spent nuclear fuel.  WCS also states that the dry cask storage systems would be located on top of the concrete pads constructed at the CISF.

For additional information, please contact Maureen Conley of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at (301) 415-8200.

DOE and NRC to Hold Third Advanced Reactor Workshop

On April 25-26, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) continued their joint workshop series on innovative reactor technologies in Bethesda, Maryland.  The workshop, which was open to the public, begin at 8:30 a.m. on April 25, 2017.  It was held at the Bethesda North Marriott in Bethesda, Maryland.  The workshop included presentations as well as structured and open discussions, using a facilitator.

“We are encouraging interested parties to continue discussing the most efficient and effective path forward to safely develop and deploy advanced reactors in the United States,” said Vonna Ordaz, Acting Director of the NRC’s Office of New Reactors.  “We expect to discuss topics such as modeling and testing innovative technologies, as well as how vendors might approach getting their designs approved for U.S. use.”

The NRC defines advanced reactors as those technologies using something other than water to cool the reactor core.  The NRC is currently discussing one such advanced design with a vendor considering applying for design certification.  The NRC remains available for early-stage discussion with other potential advanced reactor vendors.

For more information on the workshop, please contact the Nishka Devaser at (301) 415-5196 or at nishka.devaser@nrc.gov; John Segala at (301) 415-1992 or at john.segala@nrc.gov; Trevor Cook at (301) 903-7046 or at trevor.cook@nuclear.energy.gov; or, Tom Sowinski at (301) 903-0112 or at thomas.sowinski@nuclear.energy.gov.

NRC Releases Draft Regulatory Basis for Decommissioning Rule

On March 10, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency was making publicly available a pre-publication draft regulatory basis for a future power reactor decommissioning rule.  The intent is to provide an efficient decommissioning process; reduce the need for exemptions from existing regulations; and, support the principles of good regulation—including openness, clarity, and reliability.

A notice regarding the draft regulatory basis was published in the Federal Register later in March 2017, initiating a 90-day public comment period.

Overview

NRC released the preliminary draft document in order to facilitate discussion during the agency’s annual Regulatory Information Conference, which was held from March 14-16, 2017.  (See LLW Notes, January/February 2017, pp. 40-41.)  The conference included a March 15 technical session on power reactor decommissioning.

The rule would establish clear requirements for commercial power reactors transitioning to decommissioning.  The draft regulatory basis draws upon comments submitted in response to an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) that was published in November 2015.

Staff Analysis

In the draft regulatory basis, the NRC staff concludes there is sufficient justification to proceed with rulemaking in the following areas:  emergency preparedness; physical security; decommissioning trust funds; offsite and onsite financial protection requirements and indemnity agreements; and, application of the back-fit rule.

The staff suggests guidance, rather than rulemaking, should be used to address the following items:  the role of state and local governments in the decommissioning process; the level of NRC review and approval of a licensee’s post-shutdown decommissioning activities report; and, whether to revise the 60-year limit for power reactor decommissioning.

The NRC staff is seeking additional public input before making recommendations on the following topics:  cyber security; drug and alcohol testing; minimum staffing and training requirements for certified fuel handlers; aging management; and, fatigue management.

That additional input, as well as comments received on the draft document, will be considered as the staff develops the final regulatory basis, which the NRC plans to publish in late 2017.  That document will be used in developing a proposed rule to be provided to the Commission in the spring of 2018.  The NRC staff expects to provide a draft final rule to the Commission in fall 2019.

Background

The NRC published an ANPR on the draft regulatory basis for a future power reactor decommission rule in November 2015, seeking public comment on a number of areas to be considered during the rulemaking process.

The NRC began a similar rulemaking process in 2000-2001, but stopped after a stronger focus on security was prompted by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  However, five reactors have permanently shut down since the beginning of 2013, and three more are expected to cease operations by 2019.

The five reactors now undergoing decommissioning required several exemptions from NRC’s regulations for operating reactors to reflect their decommissioning status.  By incorporating changes into regulation, the NRC believes the transition from operation to decommissioning can become more efficient and effective for the agency and the licensee, as well as more open and transparent for the public.

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

The pre-publication draft regulatory basis for a future power reactor decommissioning rule is available on the NRC website at http://ric.nrc-gateway.gov/docs/abstracts/sessionabstract-20.htm.

NRC Issues Annual Assessments for Nation’s Nuclear Plants

On March 3, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency has issued annual letters to the nation’s 99 commercial nuclear power plants operating in 2016 regarding their performance throughout the year.  All but three were in the two highest performance categories.

Overview

Of the 96 highest-performing reactors, 83 fully met all safety and security performance objectives and were inspected by the NRC using the normal “baseline” inspection program.

Thirteen reactors were assessed as needing to resolve one or two items of low safety significance.  For this performance level, regulatory oversight includes additional inspection and follow- up of corrective actions.  Plants in this level include:  Davis Besse (Ohio); Diablo Canyon 2 (California); Dresden 3 (Illinois); Ginna (New York); Grand Gulf (Mississippi); Hope Creek 1 (New Jersey); Monticello (Minnesota); Oyster Creek (New Jersey); Salem 2 (New Jersey); South Texas Project 1 and 2 (Texas); and, Vogtle 1 and 2 (Georgia).  Oyster Creek, as well as Vogtle 1 and 2, have resolved their identified 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.

Three reactors are in the fourth performance category.  Arkansas Nuclear One 1 and 2 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.  Reactors in this category receive additional inspections to confirm the performance issues are being addressed.

Later this spring and summer, the NRC will host a public meeting or other event for each plant to discuss the details of the annual assessment results.  Details for each event will be announced separately.  In addition to the annual assessment letters, plants also receive an NRC inspection plan for the coming year.

Background

“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 inspecting U.S. nuclear plants to verify that they are operating safely, the NRC continuously assesses their performance.  The letters help our stakeholders understand our plant performance assessments and how we address any identified performance deficiencies.”

Information on the NRC’s oversight of commercial nuclear power plants is available through the NRC’s webpage on the Reactor Oversight Process.  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.

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

NRC Seeks to Fill Open Reactor Safeguards Advisory Committee Position

On November 28, 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency is seeking a qualified candidate for appointment to its Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS).

The ACRS is an advisory group that provides independent technical review of, and advice on, matters related to the safety of existing and proposed nuclear facilities, as well as on the adequacy of proposed reactor safety standards.  It also advises the Commission on issues in health physics and radiation protection.

Overview

The ACRS’s primary focus is on safety issues associated with the operation of 99 U.S. commercial nuclear power plants and regulatory initiatives including risk-informed and performance-based regulations, license renewal, power uprates, new reactor applications and the use of mixed oxide and high burn up fuels.  In addition, the ACRS may be asked to provide advice on radiation protection, radioactive waste management and earth sciences in the agency’s licensing reviews for fuel fabrication, enrichment and waste disposal facilities.

Qualifications

The Commission is seeking an individual with extensive experience in nuclear power plant probabilistic risk assessment and risk management.  The best-qualified candidates will have at least 20 years of specific experience in those areas, as well as considerable broad experience and a distinguished record of achievement in one or more areas of nuclear science and technology or a related engineering discipline.

Applications

Interested individuals should find candidate criteria and details in the corresponding Federal Register notice published on November 28, 2016.  The notice is available on the NRC website.  Resumes will be accepted until December 30, 2016.  Resumes may be submitted via

  •   mail to Jamila Perry and Alesha Ballinger, ACRS, Mail Stop T2E-26, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001; or,
  •   e-mail to Jamila.Perry@nrc.gov and Alesha.Bellinger@nrc.gov.

For additional information on the ACRS go the NRC website at www.nrc.gov or contact Maureen Conley of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

Department of Justice Files Civil Antitrust Lawsuit to Block Proposed EnergySolutions’ Acquisition of Waste Control Specialists

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that it has filed a civil antitrust lawsuit seeking to block the proposed $367 million acquisition of Waste Control Specialists LLC by EnergySolutions.  The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware on November 16, 2016.

According to DOJ’s press release, the proposed transaction “would combine the two most significant competitors for the disposal of low level radioactive waste … available to commercial customers in 36 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.”

DOJ argues that the proposed transaction “would deny commercial generators of … [low-level radioactive waste] – from universities and hospitals working on life-saving treatments to nuclear facilities producing 20 percent of the electricity in the United States – the benefits of vigorous competition that has led to significantly lower prices, better service and innovation in recent years.”

“Since opening its … [low-level radioactive waste] disposal facility in 2012, Waste Control Specialists has provided EnergySolutions the only real competition it has ever faced,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division.  “This competition has allowed customers to extract better prices and to receive better and more innovative service in the … [low-level radioactive waste] disposal industry.  If consummated, EnergySolutions’ proposed acquisition of Waste Control Specialists would make EnergySolutions the only option for customers in nearly 40 states.  And this at a time when projects worth billions of dollars are set to be awarded in the coming years.”

DOJ’s press release asserts that Waste Control Specialists provides the “only true competition” for EnergySolutions.  “That competition has led to increased innovation and lower prices for customers,” contends DOJ.  “EnergySolutions’ acquisition of Waste Control Specialists would eliminate that competition, with no likelihood of new entry to fill the void.”

Low-level radioactive waste is the radioactive byproduct of nuclear power generation, scientific research and certain medical treatments.  Low-level radioactive waste includes such items as personal protective clothing, tools, water purification filters and resins, hardware from nuclear power plants, and equipment from medical and research institutions.  Low-level radioactive waste may only be disposed of in a facility licensed by, or pursuant to an exemption provided by, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) or a state acting under an agreement with the NRC.  Low-level radioactive waste disposal is an essential service for operating nuclear reactors, research laboratories and medical facilities.  Additionally, low-level radioactive waste disposal is a requirement for the safe decommissioning of such facilities when they reach the end of their useful lives.

EnergySolutions offers customers a full range of integrated services and solutions, including nuclear operations, characterization, decommissioning, decontamination, site closure, transportation, nuclear materials management, processing, recycling, and disposition of nuclear waste, and research and engineering services across the nuclear fuel cycle.

Waste Control Specialists operates a West Texas facility for the processing, treatment, storage and disposal of a broad range of low-level radioactive and hazardous wastes.

For additional information about EnergySolutions, please contact Dan Shrum at (801) 649-2000 or at dshrum@energysolutions.com or go to the company’s web site at www.energysolutions.com.  For additional information about WCS, please contact Rodney Baltzer at (972) 450-4235 or at rbaltzer@valhi.net or visit the company’s web site at www.valhi.net.  For additional information about the proposed acquisition, please contact Mark Walker at mwalker@energysolutions.com or at (801) 231-9194.

Nuclear Gauge Reported Stolen in West Virginia

A West Virginia company has notified the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that a portable moisture-density gauge containing sealed sources of radioactive material has been stolen.  Thrasher Engineering of Bridgeport, West Virginia reported that the device was stolen early on September 10, 2016 from a technician’s truck while it was parked in Beaver, West Virginia.

Surveillance video acquired by local police shows an individual parking a white pickup truck next to the truck holding the gauge and then transferring the device to his or her vehicle.  The gauge was apparently locked by two different means, as required by NRC regulations.

The gauge holds small amounts of cesium-137 and americium-241.  It is used to make measurements by projecting the radiation from the two radioactive sources into the ground and then displaying the reflected radiation on a dial on its top.

Stored in a robust, yellow transportation case when not in use, the gauge consists of a shielding container with a plunger-type handle protruding from the top.  As long as the radioactive sources are in the shielded position, the gauge would present no hazard to the public.  However, any attempt to tamper with the radioactive sources in the device could subject the person to radiation exposure.

Anyone seeing the gauge should leave it alone and report its location to the NRC’s Operations Center at (301) 816-5100 or the Raleigh County, West Virginia Sheriff’s Office at (304) 255-9300.  The NRC Operations Center is staffed 24 hours a day and accepts collect calls.

For additional information, please contact Diane Screnci at (610) 337-5330 or Neil Sheehan at (610) 337-5331.

NRC Posts Additional CA BTP Implementation Questions & Answers

On August 29, 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that additional questions and answers (Nos. 22, 23, and 24) regarding implementation of the revised Branch Technical Position on Concentration Averaging and Encapsulation (CA BTP) have been posted to the NRC public website at http://www.nrc.gov/waste/llw-disposal/llw-pa/llw-btp.html.

The regulatory requirements for licensing a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility describe a system for classifying low-level radioactive waste for near-surface disposal.  Classification of low-level radioactive waste is based on the concentrations of certain radionuclides, and 10 CFR § 61.55(a)(8) specifically allows for averaging of concentrations in determining the waste class.  The CA BTP expands on those regulatory requirements by describing acceptable averaging methods that can be used in classifying waste.

For additional information, please contact Don Lowman, Project Manager for NMSS/DSFM/SFLB, at (301) 415-5452 or at Donald.Lowman@nrc.gov.

NRC Makes Yucca Mountain Hearing Documents Publicly Available

By press release dated August 19, 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency has made nearly 3.7 million documents from the adjudicatory hearing on the proposed nuclear waste repository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain publicly available in the agency’s online documents database.

The documents were formerly part of the Licensing Support Network (LSN) created to allow various parties and the public access to documents needed for the hearing on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) request for a construction authorization for the repository.  The NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Boards had admitted nearly 300 contentions from various parties challenging aspects of DOE’s application.  The LSN was shut down when the hearing was suspended in September 2011 after Congress reduced funding.

In August 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the NRC to resume its review of the application using the remaining previously appropriated funds.  In response, NRC staff completed the Safety Evaluation Report (SER) in January 2015 and a supplement to DOE’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in May 2016.

The LSN documents were placed in the NRC’s online documents database, known as ADAMS, to comply with federal records requirements and assist the staff in completing the safety review.  At that time, only LSN documents submitted by the staff were publicly available.  However, the Commission directed that all LSN documents be made publicly available in ADAMS once the staff completed its license review activities.

The new LSN Library in ADAMS includes enhanced search capabilities as well as an online user’s guide.  The NRC Public Document Room reference staff is also available to provide LSN Library assistance and can be reached at (301) 415-4737 or at (800) 397-4209 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, except federal holidays.

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

Commissioner Proposes NRC Revisit Tracking of Category 3 Sources

In a memo dated July 29, 2016, NRC Commissioner Baran proposes that U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff revisit the question of whether and how to track Category 3 sources.  In the memo, Commissioner Baran asserts that the “case for doing so is even stronger today than it was seven years ago.”

The memo concludes with the following proposed staff direction:

In light of [the Government Accountability Office’s] GAO’s findings and the years of operating experience with the [National Source Tracking System] NSTS, I propose that the NRC staff take a fresh look at the question of whether and how to track Category 3 sources. This re-evaluation can build on the efforts of the working groups established in response to the GAO investigation. I propose that, within six months of the Staff Requirements Memorandum resulting from this paper, the staff should submit a notation vote paper to the Commission that includes the following:

1)   An evaluation of the pros and cons of different methods of requiring transferors of Category 3 sources to verify the validity of a transferee’s license prior to the transfer; 


2)   An evaluation of the pros and cons of including Category 3 sources in the NSTS; and 


3)   Based on these evaluations, options for addressing the GAO recommendations.

In conducting these evaluations, the staff should assess the risks posed by the aggregation of Category 3 sources into Category 2 quantities and consider the current views of our Agreement States partners.

The memo, which has been posted to the Resources Page of the Disused Sources Working Group (DSWG) web site, is also publicly available via the “Recently Released Commission Documents for 2016” area of the NRC Web site at www.nrc.gov under Accession No. ML16197A229.

For additional information, please see the Resources page of the DSWG web site at www.disusedsources.org