I have frequently written about the need to change the Nuclear Regulatory Commission license fee structure from the current model of a single annual fee for all power reactors, no matter how complex they are or how much power they produce. Under current rules, the annual fee for any power reactor is approximately $4.1 million dollars, a level that encourages designers and operators to seek the largest available plants so that the cost per unit output is as low as possible.
As a guy who has computed that there is a large market for power plants significantly smaller than the 1000-1700 MW proposed by the established industry, I was encouraged to read a note in the most recent issue of Nuclear News that the NRC has announced that it is considering a variable fee structure for power reactor licenses. That note reminded me that I need to do a better job of keeping up with the Federal Register notices. This is an important time for the nuclear industry and for the future prospects of atomic entrepreneurs.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering whether to propose to amend its rule governing annual fees to establish a variable annual fee structure for power reactors based on licensed power limits. Current regulations governing annual fees require that each operating power reactor pay the same annual fee, regardless of the size of the reactor. The NRC has determined that the current single annual fee structure for power reactors should be reviewed in light of the potential for future licensing of small and medium sized nuclear reactors, some of which may not be used to generate electric power, and some of which may be used and licensed in configurations of up to twenty (20) reactors (modules). Although issuance of a license for a small or medium sized reactor which triggers imposition of fees may be several years in the future, this ANPR invites early input from interested stakeholders and the public on the issues relevant to the establishment of a variable annual fee structure for power reactors.
You can access the proposed rule and the thought process that the commission has followed in establishing the current fee structure by downloading the document from Regulations.gov. Comments on the proposed rulemaking are due by June 8, 2009. There are a variety of ways to submit comments documented at the above link. When I submit mine, I will let you know and post a copy here.
Update: Posted May 31, 2009. I just sent my detailed comments in to the NRC on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Variable Annual Fee Structure for Power Reactors. Here is a link to a copy of my submission: AAE Comments on NRC-2008-0664. Once I get a confirmation that my submission has been received and posted to the Federal Register web site, I will post that link as well.