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Regulatory Support

 Third Way - Nuclear Reimagined

Regulatory Support​
Through GAIN, DOE – in close coordination with NRC – is providing nuclear technology developers through regulatory framework development and licensing support. This support and its outcomes will take a variety of forms and continue to evolve as technologies mature.  A few high impact actions that have recently completed, or are nearing completion, are listed below.

Regular Industry Interaction with NRC on Advanced Reactor Topics  
Following a successful series of semi-annual DOE-NRC workshops on Advanced Non-Light Water Reactors held in 2015 – 2017, the workshop format was transitioned to more frequent (6 weeks) periodic industry stakeholder meetings with NRC that are focused on specific topics of interest.  GAIN participates in these meetings in support of DOE and through its engagement with the NEI's Advanced Reactor Regulatory Task Force. For information on the topics being addressed in these meetings, please visit the link below. 
NRC Periodic Stakeholder Meetings 

NRC Issues Final Rule for Emergency Preparedness for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and Other New Technologies (ONTs)
December 18, 2023
The NRC has issued the final rule regarding emergency preparedness. The rule and related NRC guidance were effective on December 18, 2023 and address how state-of-the-art facility designs and safety research apply to future operation of small modular reactors and other new technologies. The expected outcome is greater regulatory stability, predictability, and clarity related to the development and near-term deployment of these advanced technologies by:
  • continuing to provide reasonable assurance that adequate protective measures can and will be implemented by an SMR or ONT licensee
  • recognizing advances in design and technological advancements 
  • crediting safety enhancements in evolutionary and passive systems
  • crediting the potential benefits of smaller sized reactors and non-LWRs associated with postulated accidents, including slower transient response times, and relatively small and slow release of fission products
  • reducing the need for requests for exemptions from EP regulatory requirements
NRC Issues Construction Permit for Kairos Hermes Test Reactor in Tennessee
December 14, 2023
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a construction permit to Kairos Power for the company's Hermes non-power test reactor in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The permit authorizes Kairos to build a 35-megawatt thermal reactor that would use molten salt to cool the reactor core. Kairos submitted its application to build the Hermes reactor in 2021.  The test reactor, which will not generate electricity, is intended to provide operational data to support the development of a larger version for commercial power. Kairos will have to submit a separate application for an operating license before it could operate the Hermes reactor.

Summary Record of Decision U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Docket no. 50-7513 Construction Permit Application for the Kiros HERMES Test Reactor - ML2333/ML23338A257 
Kairos Power LLC Docket No. 50-7513 HERMES Test Reactor Construction Permit - ML2333/ML23338A258

NRC accepts Kairos Power Hermes 2 Construction Permit Application for Docketing
September 11, 2023
The NRC accepted the Kairos Power Hermes 2 Construction Permit application for docketing.  This means that the NRC staff has determined that the application contains the information needed to support their more detailed review in support of future CP issuance.  The acceptance letter reflects that an NRC schedule for completing the reviews will be provided within 30 days.  Hermes 2 is a two unit test reactor facility that would be built in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. 

NRC accepts Carbon Free Power Project's Limited Work Authorization Application for docketing
September 5, 2023
The NRC accepted the Carbon Free Power Project's (CFPP) application for a Limited Work Authorization (LWA) for docketing.  The acceptance letter indicated that it's the NRC staff's goal to conduct and complete an efficient and high-quality review of the LWA application and provide its decision by August 2025.  The CFPP will be located at the DOE's Idaho National Laboratory complex near Idaho Falls, Idaho. The Small Modular Reactor (SMR) plant will deploy six, 77-megawatt modules to generate 462 megawatts of carbon free electricity utilizing a NuScale Power, LLC design.  NRC's issuance of an LWA would allow for early construction activities to commence.
Acceptance for Docketing of the Carbon Free Power Project Limited Work Authorization Application - ADAMS Accession No. ML23236A263
NRC accepted NUSCALE's US460 Standard Design Approval (SDA application for docketing
July 31, 2023
the NRC accepted NUSCALE's US460 Standard Design Approval (SDA) application for docketing.  This means that the NRC staff has determined that the application contains the information needed to support their more detailed review in support of SDA issuance.  The acceptance letter reflects an NRC schedule to issue an Advanced Safety Evaluation Report with no open items by November, 2024, with a Final Safety Evaluation Report and SDA by July 2025.  This uprated version of the NUSCALE esign that was previously certified by the NRC is associated with the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP).  The CFPP will be located at the DOE's Idaho National Laboratory. The SMR plant will deploy six, 77-megawatt modules to generate 462 megawatts of carbon free electricity.
Acceptance for Docketing of the NUSCALE US460 Standard Design Approval Application - ADAMS Accession No. ML23198A163

NRC's Issues Vision for Advanced REactor Construction Oversight
June 7, 2023
The NRC has recently issued SECY-23-0048 summarizing its "Vision for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Advanced Reactor Construction Program".  This is significant both because it signals increasing preparations for the near-term construction and deployment of advanced reactor technologies, and because it proposes a more risk-informed and performance based approach to focus NRC's inspection resources on the most safety-significant parts of the facility.  This NRC effort will also include an updated review of its manufacturing license oversight processes, addressing factory assembly of safety-significant systems and structures. 

Abilene Christian University Construction Permit Application Accepted by the NRC for Review
November 18, 2022
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has accepted for review a construction permit application from Abilene Christian University, which requests permission to build its Molten Salt Research Reactor (MSRR) facility on the university's campus in Abilene, Texas. The one-megawatt, non-power MSRR would use molten salt coolant with fuel dissolved in the salt. The facility would provide a platform to research molten-salt technology, as well as educational opportunities in nuclear science and engineering. If the NRC issues the construction permit and the facility is built, ACU will have to submit a separate application for an operating license in the future.  ACU's pre-application activities with the NRC staff addressed several aspects of the MSRR design. Because of this constructive engagement, the NRC was able to establish a review schedule of 18 months. Barring unforeseen delays, the staff expects to complete its environmental and safety reviews by May 2024.​

Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Updates Regulatory Priorities for New and Advanced Reactors 
June 7, 2022
NEI submitted a letter to NRC providing an update to industry's regulatory priorities that are intended to lead to a more modern and efficient regulatory framework for new and advanced reactors.  It is anticipated that addressing these priority items will require the collective efforts of multiple industry stakeholders (NRC, DOE, industry, etc.)

NRC Releases Updated Draft Part 53  Rule Text for Advanced Reactors
May/June, 2022
The development of the Part 53 rule is directed by Congress through 2018's Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) and forms one important part of the overall regulatory framework for advanced reactors.  The rule is intended to promote regulatory stability, predictability, and clarity for those technologies, reducing the need for requests for exemptions from the current light-water based requirements, while recognizing their technological advancements in reactor design. In response to industry feedback, the NRC is developing two pathways (frameworks) within the rule that would provide various options for license applicants, as noted below:

1) "Framework A" to the rule is intended for applicants implemeting a risk-informed and performance based approach to design and licensing. Updated Draft Part 53 Framework A Preliminary Proposed Rule Language was distributed by NRC on May 11, 2022 
Updated Draft Part 53 Framework A Preliminary Proposed Rule Language - ADAMS Accession No. ML22125A000​

2)  “Framework B” to the rule is intended for applicants pursuing a more traditional design and licensing approach, utilizing risk insights to support or complement deterministic analyses.  NRC publicly released the first draft of the Part 53 Framework B Preliminary Proposed Rule Language on June 10, 2022

NRC summarized the content of Framework B in a public meeting held with industry stakeholders on June 17,  2022.
NRC Summary Slides - ADAMS Accession No. ML2216​5A114 ​

NRC Denies Oklo Combined License Application
January 6, 2022
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has denied, without prejudice, Oklo Power, LLC.'s application to build and operate the company's Aurora compact fast reactor in Idaho. Oklo submitted the application on March 11, 2020, and the NRC then indicated its plan to complete its review of the Aurora design in a two-step process. The first step was to engage Oklo in public meetings and other interactions to gather the additional information identified by NRC to efficiently align on key safety and design aspects of the Aurora's licensing basis.  The NRC's denial is based on not receiving the additional information needed from Oklo to close those information gaps. It's noted that the NRC has made no safety findings regarding the Aurora design and the denial was provided “without prejudice", meaning that Oklo is free to submit a complete license application to NRC in the future.​

Kairos Power Construction Permit Application Accepted by the NRC for Review
November 30, 2021
​The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has accepted for review Kairos Power's construction permit (CP) application for constructing a test reactor at a site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  The Kairos application seeks to build the company's “Hermes" test reactor, a 35-megawatt non-power reactor using molten salt to cool the reactor core, to provide operational data to support development of a larger version meant for a commercial nuclear power plant. The company will be required to submit a separate application for an operating license in the future.  The NRC was able to establish a shortened CP application review schedule of 21 months based on previous Kairos pre-application interactions, and barring unforeseen delays, expects to complete its environmental and safety reviews by September 2023.

NRC Provides Updated Draft Pre-application Guidance to Advanced Reactor Developers 

May, 2021
The NRC staff has published an updated paper to provide information to advanced reactor developers on the benefits of a robust preapplication engagement to optimize application reviews.  Pre-application interactions benefit both advanced reactor developers and NRC by improving the stability and predictability of the licensing process through the early identification and resolution of technical and policy issues.   The NRC's paper addresses industry questions and inputs on the October, 2020 version, proposes a set of pre-application activities that would enable more predictable and shorter schedules during the review of an advanced reactor license application. This guidance for pre-application activities is essentially a staged licensing approach, where some key elements of an advanced reactor design are reviewed, and the evaluation documented before the license application is submitted.

NRC Provides an Update on its Advanced Reactor Program
February 1, 2021
The NRC's technical staff recently issued  SECY-21-0010 to provide the Commission with an update on the staff's ongoing activities to make the safe use of advanced nuclear reactor technology possible. The paper informs the Commission about the progress and the path forward on NRC advanced reactor licensing and readiness activities such as the resolution of key technology-inclusive policy issues, development of risk-informed and performance-based licensing approaches, and interactions with prospective applicants and other stakeholders.  This thorough overview is a good resource for industry stakeholders pursuing near-term advanced reactor technology deployments.​

NRC Staff Provides Planned Approach for Microreactor Licensing
October 6, 2020
The NRC staff issued SECY-20-0093, “Policy and Licensing Considerations Related to Micro-reactors".   The purpose of this paper is to identify potential policy issues related to licensing micro-reactors, and to describe the NRC staff's approach to facilitate licensing submittals for near-term and future deployment and operation of micro-reactors.  It's expected that the identified topics will be further addressed in upcoming public interactions with stakeholders.   
   ​​Enclosure 1

Commission Accelerates Rulemaking for Advanced Reactors 
October 2, 2020
Consistent with Section 103 of NEIMA, the NRC staff has begun efforts to develop a new regulation, through rulemaking,  in establishing a "Risk Informed, Technology-Inclusive Regulatory Framework for Advanced Reactors" for optional use by applicants for new commercial advanced nuclear reactor licenses. The staff presented its proposed plan for this rulemaking to the Commission in SECY-20-0032 dated April 13, 2020. On October 2, 2020 the Commission approved the staff's proposed approach in the SRM to SECY-20-0032 and directed the staff to accelerate its efforts to publish the final rule by October 2024, a significant acceleration from the originally targeted December, 2027 required by NEIMA.

To achieve the goals and objectives stated in the rulemaking plan, the NRC staff plans to release preliminary draft rule content as its developed, and has commenced a series of public meetings to receive stakeholder inputs.  
Oklo's Combined License Application Accepted by NRC for Review
June 5, 2020
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) accepted Oklo Power LLC's combined license application for review.  The application seeks approval to build and operate its Aurora reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site in Idaho. This is the first combined construction and operating license application - known as a COL - for an advanced fission technology to be accepted for NRC review.  The NRC plans to complete the review of the Aurora design in a two-step process. In the first step (with an estimated duration of 5 months), NRC plans to engage Oklo in public meetings, conduct regulatory audits, and issue requests for additional information to efficiently align on four key safety and design aspects of the licensing basis. This will then enable the NRC staff to define the scope of its full, detailed technical review which will form the second step needed to complete the overall process.
Review Letter

Major Commission Policy Issue Resolved Based on Utility-Led Licensing Modernization Project (LMP)
June 15, 2020
The DOE has recently completed its work with industry stakeholders in support of the advanced reactor Licensing Modernization Project (LMP). This project was led by Southern Company (on behalf of industry), coordinated through the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), and cost-shared by DOE. The project developed technical licensing methods reflected in NEI 18-04 that are non-LWR technology-inclusive, risk-informed, and performance-based.  LMP's key objective is to establish formally NRC endorsed regulatory guidance for this foundational design and licensing approach that can be used by advanced reactor license applicants. The NRC technical staff has completed its review of the approach the Commission has  unanimously approved its use, resolving this longstanding policy and regulatory uncertainty for advanced reactor technologies.  Completion of this coordinated DOE-Industry-NRC effort is expected to encourage safer, simpler advanced reactor designs, and potentially accelerate their commercial deployment.   
Regulatory Guide 1.233

Status of NRC's "Readiness for non-LWRs" - Near-Term Implementation Action Plans
June 12, 2020
The NRC staff developed a vision and strategy that was coordinated with industry stakeholders in the 2016-2017 timeframe.  Its purpose is to assure that the NRC is ready to review potential applications for non-light water reactor (non-LWR) technologies effectively and efficiently.  To achieve the goals and objectives stated in the vision and strategy, the NRC developed implementation action plans (IAPs).  Many of the key topics in the plans have been addressed through NRC review of industry and DOE-sponsored regulatory framework proposals.   NRC has recently provided a detailed status and schedule for the specific activities already completed or in progress regarding the high priority and near-term (2017 – 2022) portion of the plan).
NRC Integrated Schedule 

Industry-Led Technology-Inclusive Content of Application Project (TICAP)
March 9, 2020
The TICAP is an industry-led and DOE cost-shared effort to develop technology-inclusive guidance regarding the expectations for the content for specific portions of the safety analysis report (SAR) that would be used to support an advanced reactor application.  Development of this guidance, and its endorsement by NRC, is another key to reducing regulatory uncertainty for advanced non-LWRs, since existing application guidance is very large-LWR centric.    The TICAP effort is directly informed by the results of the LMP summarized above.  It is a foundational part of a broader effort by the NRC, termed the advanced reactor content of application project (ARCAP), to establish a new set of risk-informed regulations (sometimes referred to as "Part 53") as directed by Congress via NEIMA. 

Key Commission Policy Issue Regarding Containment Now Resolved
December 4, 2018
The Commission formally concurred with the NRC technical staff's recommendations regarding the advanced non-LWR approach for allowing alternatives to large leaktight containment structures (see NRC SECY-18-0096).  Allowing alternatives to containment structures has been an unresolved Commission policy issue for over 25 years, and has been a significant source of regulatory and financial uncertainty for advanced reactor developers.  This more flexible and performance-based "functional containment" approach was proposed to the NRC by DOE-supported work within the NGNP Project, and later the Advanced Reactor Technology Program.  It was more recently confirmed by advanced non-LWR developers to be technology-inclusive through a series of NRC interactions with industry stakeholders earlier this year that were supported by GAIN.

For more information regarding the containment flexibilities available to advanced non-LWR developers, please see SECY-18-0096, "Functional Containment Performance Criteria for Non-Light-Water-Reactors"

Guidance for Developing Principal Design Criteria for Non-Light-Water Reactors
April 2018
This document provides fundamental guidance that will reduce regulatory risk for the advanced non-LWR design community.

Cooperation between the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Department of Energy (DOE) has culminated in the issuance of a significant licensing aid for developers of advanced non-light-water (non-LWR) reactors. The NRC's new Regulatory Guide 1.232, "Guidance for Developing Principal Design Criteria for Non-Light-Water Reactors," helps developers of these technologies align their concepts with relevant NRC regulations and forms a key portion of the NRC's advanced reactor regulatory framework.

The Regulatory Guide's generic set of Advanced Reactor Design Criteria cover most non-LWR technologies. The guide also includes technology-specific criteria for sodium-cooled fast reactors and high temperature gas-cooled reactors. Revision 0 to RG 1.232 (ADAMS Accession No. ML17325A611) was made available to the public on April 9, 2018.

DOE-NRC Memorandum of Understanding 
November 10, 2016
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) describes the roles, responsibilities, and the processes related to the implementation of the DOE Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative. GAIN is an initiative that is intended to provide the nuclear energy community with increased access to the technical, regulatory, and financial support necessary to mover new or advanced nuclear reactor designs toward commercialization while ensuring the continued safe, reliable, and economic operation of the existing nuclear fleet.