On November 18, 2015 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a Proposed Rule titled “Regulatory Improvements for Decommissioning Power Reactors.” This is the first in a three step process to develop new amended regulations for decommissioning nuclear facilities in the U.S. The NRC is requesting input from a broad range of stakeholders – the public included – in order to develop the draft amended regulations (these will eventually become the final regulations).
Read more about the NRC’s proposed rule in this Old Colony Memorial article →
The reason that the NRC has proposed regulatory amendments is because more and more reactors are shutting down across the country, and the agency needs to have better regulations in place. Since 2013, five facilities have shut down/defueled and are transitioning to decommissioning. Prior to that, no reactors had shut down since 1997.
While these amended regulations may not apply to Pilgrim (if Pilgrim enters into decommissioning before the final regulations are published, likely sometime in 2019), they are still important to address. The amended regulations would apply to nuclear facilities around the country, and there’s a slight chance the NRC could agree to apply the new regulations retroactively in some cases.
Please take a minute and send the NRC an email commenting on the proposed rule. We listed some talking points below – you can pick points that you think are important to help get your email started.
*To submit a comment on the proposed rule, email the NRC at Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov; please put Docket ID NRC-2015-0070 in the subject line. If you don’t want your contact information publically disclosed, just omit contact information from your comment. Deadline is Mar. 18, 2016.
**UPDATE: The NRC has extended the public comment period until March 18, 2016. It will take about a week for the docket to officially be updated.
*To read our comments letter, click HERE. (Stay tuned, our final comments will be posted soon)
(This is by no means an exhaustive list of possible comments!)
- Currently the NRC views reactor accidents as the biggest threat; however, after shutdown the spent fuel in wet pool storage and in dry casks pose different, but still very dangerous threats. This is especially true given the rise of terrorism and climate-related threats.
- Reactors that shut down should be required to maintain formal offsite radiological emergency preparedness, including at least a 10-mile emergency planning zone and alert/notification systems, until any and all radiological waste is shipped offsite to a repository.
Application of Amended Regulations
- The new amended regulations will only apply to rectors newly shutting down, not those already shut down. The NRC should apply new regulations proactively, at least to the reactors that have most recently shut down since 2013.
Physical Security Requirements
- Physical security requirements for spent fuel pools, including armed responders, should not be reduced post-shutdown, and the Design Basis Threat for radiological sabotage should continue to apply to decommissioned reactors and until all nuclear waste is transferred offsite.
- The storage of casks away from climate-related risks (at higher elevations, away from the shoreline for coastal plants) should be part of a physical security plan required by the NRC.
Current Regulatory Approach
- Licensees should not be allowed to defer environmental cleanup for 60 years; licensees should be required by the NRC to fully and promptly clean up contaminants on the site within a decade.
- NRC approval should be required for PSDARs. The NRC needs a way to approve, deny and/or critic decommissioning plans with regard to hazards posed to the environment and public.
- Comments on the PSDAR submitted by states, local governments, general public and other interested parties should be analyzed by the NRC and incorporated into the final PSDAR.
- The methods for eventual offsite transfer of spent fuel and the schedule for disposal should be addressed in the PSDAR.
- Clean-up standards to be achieved for onsite contamination should be outlined in the PSDAR.
- Industry should not be in charge of a community committee or public advisory committee, but the NRC should support states or local communities in creating one.
- The role of states, town governments, general public, etc. should be enhanced in the decommissioning process.
- Trust funds should be expanded and grown so that all radiological contamination – whether spent nuclear fuel, leaks, or other problematic and serious contamination – can be effectively cleaned up and the site can be returned to “greenfield” standards.
- After shutdown, licensees should be required to move all spent fuel out of pool storage as soon as technologically feasible.
- The NRC should upgrade existing regulations so that dry cask storage sites are more secure against terrorist attacks, and are required to be moved to higher elevations and further from shorelines to protect against hazards associated with climate impacts.
- The NRC should maintain strong oversight of facilities during and post-decommissioning – until any and all radiological waste is permanently transferred offsite – in order to protect environmental and public health.