The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Monday affirmed its approval of a rule setting “risk-informed, performance-based” emergency preparedness requirements for small modular reactors and other new nuclear technologies.
Applicants and licensees for SMRs and other new nuclear technologies can use the rule to develop a performance-based emergency preparedness program as an alternative to current offsite radiological emergency planning requirements, the NRC said.
The alternative emergency preparedness requirements for SMRs and other new technologies provide “reasonable assurance” that adequate protective measures will be put in place by SMR and other new technology licensees, NRC staff said in a memo outlining the proposed rule.
It also promotes regulatory stability, predictability and clarity while reducing the need for requests for exemptions from emergency preparedness requirements, NRC staff said.
Staff said the rule recognizes that if there are accidents at smaller reactors and non-light-water reactors, there will be a relatively small and slow release of fission products.
The NRC has been developing its emergency preparedness rule for SMRs and other new technologies since 2016.
The Union of Concerned Scientists slammed the NRC’s “reckless” decision for failing to require SMRs and other new nuclear technology to have offsite emergency plans.
“Past natural and human-made disasters have taught us that having a robust and workable emergency plan in place is the key to minimizing human suffering and loss of life if the unthinkable happens,” Edwin Lyman, UCS director of nuclear power safety, said in a statement.
The Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade group, praised the NRC’s decision, saying it would ensure public safety.
“The Commission’s vote on [emergency planning zones] is critical to the success of next generation nuclear technologies,” Doug True, NEI vice president and chief nuclear officer, said Tuesday in an email. “We encourage the NRC to continue modernizing its approach to regulate the next generation of nuclear reactors, which will be essential to economy-wide decarbonization.”
The rule takes effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to add comments from the Nuclear Energy Institute.