While the NRC does not decide where an applicant should build a reactor, when an applicant proposes to build a new reactor project, the NRC evaluates whether and to what extent the site and reactor design provides reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety using the siting criteria set forth in 10 CFR Part 100 of the NRC regulations. In a 2-1 vote—with Chairman Hanson and Commissioner Wright voting to approve, and Commission Baron voting to disapprove—the Commission has accepted a new approach for evaluating where reactors can be sited, opening the door to positioning advanced reactors in more densely populated areas than has been allowed for large, light-water reactors.
Background on the new approach
Key changes in the new approach
In his vote sheet, Commissioner Hanson noted the importance of the risk-informed methodology described in Regulatory Guide 1.233, which provides guidance on assessing uncertainties and adequacy of defense-in-depth – an aspect “particularly important for evaluating new and novel technologies,” according to Chairman Hanson. The Chairman therefore asked the staff to provide appropriate guidance on assessing defense-in-depth adequacy and establishing hypothetical major accidents to evaluate, a directive included in SRM-SECY-20-0045. In addition, Commissioner Wright directed the staff to integrate Probabilistic Risk Assessment and mechanistic source term methods into its approach to identify likely events, outcomes, and consequences.
Commissioner Wright voted to approve in September 2020, whereas the other two Commissioners did not submit votes until June 2022, and their voting record was released on July 13, 2022. Commissioner Baran disapproved the recommended approach stating that “unlike existing light-water reactors, advanced reactors do not have decades of operating experience” upon which to rely.
For more information on advanced reactors and NRC guidance, please contact Amy Roma, Partner, or Stephanie Fishman, Associate.