1. How much of the NRC’s portfolio of regulations deals with things outside the “nuclear island”, specifically the downstream steam systems?

    1. From the PWR perspective: Well, the steam systems remove heat from the reactor so the NRC is concerned about that. What happens if not enough or too much heat is removed? Aside from the direct effects, the reactivity feedback from temperature changes affects the core. Also, there is potential for leakage from primary to secondary, so as a potential release pathway they are concerned. The steam systems are “high energy” systems and as such, ruptures in the piping could affect other equipment important to safety so they are interested in that. Similarly the turbines are high energy devices that can generate missiles that could damage important equipment.

      Overall the regulator has a number of concerns with the steam systems. Check chapter 10 of NUREG-0800.

      1. It should also be noted that many of these advanced reactors may have significant design differences, even outside of the nuclear island, which could run counter to the traditional thinking in several of these areas of concern.

  2. Rod,

    Good seeing you the other day at the RIC!

    On the subject of developing advanced reactor design criteria, I’d say you hit the nail on the head. And I think you are right in stating that NEI might not be the correct sponsorship group. Luckily, I think the industry has recognized this, which is why I’d like to point out that DOE has led the effort and taken the first shot at developing a set of design criteria. In July 2013, DOE and NRC established a joint initiative to address this issue, and, at the end of last year, INL released a report called INL/EXT-14-31179, “Guidance for Developing Principal Design Criteria for Advanced (Non-Light Water) Reactors.” This report was developed “using technical and reactor technology stakeholder inputs coupled with analysis and evaluations provided by a team of knowledgeable DOE national laboratory personnel with input from individual industry licensing consultants.” Specifically, input was gathered from several groups, including:
    – academics from ANS, KAERI, Argonne, INL, and ORNL
    – large, well-established nuclear “legacy” companies like AREVA, GE, and Toshiba
    – newer, entrepreneurial and/or “startup” companies like TerraPower, Gen4 Energy, and Hybrid Power Technologies

    The report was then sent to the NRC and was discussed in a recent public meeting (held January 6th, 2015). Details on the public meeting and the report itself can be found . The meeting confirmed the desired outcome stated in the report: NRC-issued regulatory guidance related to the requirements of 10 CFR 50/52 pertaining to the development of advanced reactor design criteria.

    I believe this is the “project” Chairman Burns was referencing in his speech.

    As for the idea of generic advanced reactor design criteria, I think there needs to be a good deal of thought on how “generic” those criteria should be. This comment is long enough as is, so I’ll sign off now, but if you’re interested, I’d be happy to share my perspectives/opinions on that question.

  3. Is not the fundamental problem with the NRC is that it is fee-based? Would not a more fundamental/structural fix to the NRC include receiving some part of the federal budget? The NRC would still have a portion of its budget that is fee-based, but the federal money could be specifically appropriated to new technology.

    1. @Jim L

      The real structural problem is that the NRC is some kind of weird hybrid of “fee-based” and government appropriations-based organization.

      They bill “customers” on an hourly rate for “services rendered,” but that money flows into the great big Treasure revenue pot. The agency must then go through the annual budget preparation process which actually starts about two years before the Congressional budget is voted on for a given fiscal year. It is treated just like any other Executive Agency with prioritization as directed by the Office of Management and Budget.

      There is no direct “demand signal” link between workload, income stream and manning. If a line suddenly appeared outside of the “ivory tower” on Rockville Pike, with credible checks in hand, it would take at least two years between the time that the NRC would start demanding payment and new hires would start filling vacant appropriated FTEs.

      As the line builds, the agency might happen to be in a budget review process and be able to add a few extra FTEs in anticipation of there still being a demand once the additional people get approved, found and finally hired.

      If the people in line get tired of waiting and take their checks home with them before they are served, the Treasury doesn’t get paid.

      If anyone from the NRC would care to correct this description, please feel free. Unfortunately, I think I have it reasonably accurately and that many agency leaders are as frustrated by the situation as I am.

      By the way, all you Ronald Reagan fans, the NRC was turned into a “fee-based” organization during the David Stockman/Ronald Reagan era when tax cutters decided that “user fees” were more digestible for the wealthy influencers than “taxes.”

      1. Funny, I’ve never heard any NRC agency leaders publicly complain about this insanity. Of course, I’m not as immersed in the day to day activities of the NRC as you are, so I may not be looking in the right places. Or should I assume their continued employment in contingent upon their “silence” on the issue?

      2. @Rod,
        Any ideas on a more rational set up for the NRC? Is there another outfit that the NRC can mimic?? Maybe not the USPS, though….

      3. Not every decision that Ronald Reagan made was necessarily good. He was after all an imperfect human being. But he did reverse the economic malaise (in part by reducing taxes) and the military weakness that Jimmy Carter caused, and compared to Carter he was pro-nuclear (truthfully, however, I think he was ambivalent).

        Indeed, if we want an example of how a President can adversely impact the NRC, then we need to look no further than the current Administration’s appointment of Jackzo as the Chairman who had to resign because of his abusive and intolerant style of management.

        The world today desperately needs a triumvirate like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope Saint John Paul II.

  4. “perhaps it is time to develop a few specialized voices that can represent the varying views of inventors, manufacturers, operators, and suppliers.”

    The standards committees (ANS, IEEE, ASME, etc) used to be quite active in this realm. Nowadays it doesn’t seem that way. Should they be taking a more active role?

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