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“Continued Storage” – What It Means and What it Doesn’t

David McIntyre
Public Affairs Officer
 

UPDATE: The NRC’s final rule on the continued storage of spent nuclear fuel was published in the Federal Register on September 19, 2014, becoming effective October 20.The final Generic Environmental Impact Statement for Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel is available on the NRC website.

There has been some confusion in media reports about the purpose of the NRC’s new rule on continued storage of spent nuclear fuel. The rule, approved by the Commission August 26, will be published soon in the Federal Register and take effect 30 days later.

The continued storage rule specifically deals with the period of time after the reactor has ceased operating. The rule adopts the NRC staff’s assessments of the environmental effects of storing spent nuclear fuel at a reactor site for various periods of time following the reactor’s licensed life for operation. It adopts the conclusions of the agency’s Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) on the Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel, also approved August 26 by the Commission.

drystoragegraphic)For each new reactor, license renewal application, and storage facility specific license or renewal, the NRC performs a thorough safety review of reactor operations and spent nuclear fuel management at the site. Separately, the National Environmental Policy Act requires the NRC to perform an environmental analysis of each licensing action, which considers impacts on the surrounding environment.

The continued storage rule, when implemented, will allow the NRC to process license applications and renewals for nuclear reactors and spent fuel storage facilities without assessing the portion attributed to the environmental impacts of continued storage. This is because such impacts have now been generically assessed by the NRC in the GEIS.

The GEIS analyzed three scenarios:

  • A geologic repository for disposing of spent fuel becomes available 60 years following the licensed life of a reactor (short-term storage);
  • A repository becomes available 100 years beyond the short-term scenario, or 160 years after the licensed life of a reactor (long-term storage); and
  • A repository never is available (indefinite storage).

In evaluating the third scenario, the GEIS assumed that licensee control and regulatory oversight, or “institutional controls,” will remain in place to ensure the safety and security of the waste as long as needed.

The short-term and long-term scenarios reflect current U.S. policy that spent nuclear fuel will be disposed of in a deep geologic repository. The indefinite storage scenario is included because the Appeals Court that struck down the earlier version of the rule directed the NRC to consider the possibility a repository may never be built.

The rule is not a safety decision or licensing action for any site; it does not authorize the initial or continued operation of any nuclear power plant, and it does not authorize storage of spent fuel. The NRC licenses spent fuel storage through other means: Spent fuel pools are covered by a plant’s operating license, and dry cask storage is permitted either through a general license or a separate license, with licenses or certificates for casks issued for up to 40 years.

Media headlines proclaiming that nuclear waste will be stored in place indefinitely under this rule, or that safety controls on spent fuel storage will be weakened, do not accurately reflect the rule’s purpose or effect. Ultimate responsibility for the disposition of spent fuel lies with Congress and the Department of Energy. DOE’s most recently stated goal is to have a repository available by 2048. The NRC is committed to ensuring that spent fuel remains safe and secure, wherever it is stored or disposed.

The NRC Information Digest Knowledge Hunt

Ivonne Couret
Public Affairs Officer
 

2013_2014_InformationDigestCoverToday marks the debut of the 26th edition of the NRC Information Digest — an award winning publication that provides a summary of information about us and the industries we regulate. The Digest is used by a wide array of people, including the public, industry stakeholders, government agencies and the media. It strives to provide a handy primer of the agency’s regulatory responsibilities and licensing activities.

The Digest includes some of the quick facts and short answers to commonly asked questions about the NRC. Here are some of the questions for which you can find answers in the Digest.

  1. What is the statutory authority that created the independent NRC from a portion of the former Atomic Energy Commission and what day did this agency begin its operation? Hint – NRC: An Independent Regulatory Agency section, page 4
  2. What is the renewal date for our international agreement with the United Kingdom? Hint – U.S. and Worldwide Nuclear Energy section, page 23
  1. How many current operating nuclear reactors are there and in what section can you find a listing of the operating nuclear reactors and their general licensing information? Hint – Nuclear Reactors section, page 33
  1. What is the total number of material licenses in NRC Jurisdiction? Hint – Nuclear Materials section, page 65
  1. What are the names of the nuclear reactors currently undergoing decommissioning in DECON status? Hint – Radioactive Waste section, page 95

We’re always interested in what you have to say about the Info Digest as we continue to work to make it better and more useful. Let us know with your comments below or send us an email at opa.resource@nrc.gov.

 

Answers:

  1. The Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 created the NRC from a portion of the former Atomic Energy Commission. The new agency was to independently oversee—but not promote—the commercial nuclear industry. The agency began operations on January 18, 1975.
  2. 2018
  3. 100 reactors and Appendix A begins on 116
  4. 2,857
  5. LaCrosse, Zion 1 & 2 and Humboldt Bay 3

The Final Fee Rule is, Finally, Final

Arlette Howard
Senior Program Analyst
Office of the Chief Financial Officer
 

It happens near the end of every summer – the NRC’s final fee rule is implemented. This year’s effective date is August 29, 2014. What does that mean? The final rule establishes the fee policy for fiscal year (in this case FY 2014, which ends Sept. 30th). It’s prepared in response to public comments on the proposed rule and final fee amounts in compliance with the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990, as amended.

budgetinfographicFor FY 2014, the NRC’s budget is approximately $1 billion. Based on this amount, the NRC will recover about $916.7 million by collecting fees. About 36 percent of the fees are attributed to licensee-specific services (such as services done by NRC staff for a particular licensee) and 64 percent from annual fees collected from all licensees.

The law requires the NRC to recover about 90 percent of our budget through fees, which means the agency is only funded about 10 percent from taxpayer money.

There are two types of fees the NRC charges. One is an hourly rate and flat application fees, and the other is an annual fee. Both types of fees recover the costs of regulating the use of radioactive materials. Hourly fees recover the costs of providing specific services to individual licensees (or potential licensees) such as reviewing applications and performing inspections. Annual fees recover all costs associated with regulatory activities, such as rulemaking and research, which benefit all licensees.

The final rule includes several changes from FY 2013. First, we are changing the current hourly rate from $272 to $279. Secondly, we are revising the flat license application fees (found in our federal guidelines 10 CFR Parts 170.21 and 170.31) to reflect the new hourly rate.

And, finally, we are revising the annual fees to recover the costs of providing regulatory services that benefit all classes of licensees. The annual fees increase for operating reactors, research and test reactors, most fuel facilities, material users, and uranium recovery facilities. Annual fees decrease for spent fuel storage facilities (at operating, decommissioning and decommissioned reactor sites) and Department of Energy transportation activities.

For more details on the final rule, please visit www.regulations.gov and use Docket ID NRC-2013-0276. For FY 2014 budget information, go here.

Q&A with Engineer Emma Wong In Recognition of Women’s Equality Day

emmawongEmma Wong is a chemical engineer working in the agency’s Spent Fuel Alternative Strategies Division. Previously, she worked in the Division of Engineering as a technical reviewer for license amendments and license renewals. Emma has worked at the NRC for eight years. She holds have a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, San Diego.

Q1. What are your job responsibilities?

A1. My current responsibilities include:

·        Resolving technical issues related to extended storage of reactor spent nuclear fuel

·        Presenting at technical conferences and standards committees regarding extended storage of spent nuclear fuel

·        Developing analytic capabilities to assess hazards of advanced reprocessing

·        Interacting with the public stakeholders and industry representatives on licensing activities

·        Monitoring research projects for technical accuracy

Q2. What do you like most about your job?

A2. I am always learning something new and interesting. It can range from going on an inspection, audit, interacting with the public, learning a new skill, or mentoring others. Working for a regulatory agency allows me the opportunity to use my engineering degree as a foundation for learning and understanding complex processes in order to make reasonable and informed decisions to protect the public health and safety.

Q3. What prompted you to get into engineering as a career?

A3. When I was growing up in Michigan, I was surrounded by an engineering environment and engineers. In addition, my parents and teachers promoted learning and were very supportive of my future career paths. Since I was very good at math and science and liked to understand how things worked, I chose to explore engineering. To make this decision, I took a series of seminars to learn about each type of engineering and settled on Chemical Engineering. However, it was a close call between Chemical Engineering and Nuclear Engineering.

Q4. There tends to be fewer girls/women in STEM majors and jobs. Did you face special challenges on your road to becoming an engineer?

A4. Every engineering field faces unique challenges. There are many people who may not take women engineers seriously, and to overcome this perception, there is another perception that women must overachieve to prove themselves. I have learned that persistence, acknowledgement of weaknesses, and focusing on a problem calmly is the best way to stay on course and earn respect.

Also, there were not a lot of role models for women in engineering when I was growing up. There are many more now. It is important to find role models and mentors and talk to them about how they succeeded. I found that participating in professional societies such as Society of Women Engineers and Women in Science and Engineering allowed greater access to resources and colleagues.

Q5. What are your long-term career goals?

A5. My long-term goals are to be influential in the decision-making processes and influencing the future goals of the NRC. There will always be challenges and barriers with any goal, but since the agency is an avid supporter of the diversity and inclusion goals, I believe that many of these challenges and barriers are being addressed.

Q6. What advice would you give to girls/young women considering a career as an engineer?

A6. I have mentored many young women about the career path to becoming an engineer. While it can prove to be challenging, it is an area where women can thrive. Here is some of the advice I have provided to others:

·        Don’t be afraid to try new things, such as different types of engineering majors, internships. Keep trying until you find what fits best. Besides knowing what you want to do, it is also good to know what you don’t want to do.

·        Have multiple mentors and advisors. As you grow, don’t be afraid to find new mentors who fit your current needs. Besides, it’s always nice to have someone to talk to.

·        Engineering and science are not scary. All the numbers, symbols, and complex equations may make it seem that way, but all engineers and scientists had to start somewhere — one equation and theory at a time.

·        Being an engineer is a good career path. But if you find out later that something else fits better, an engineering education is a good foundation for many other careers, including medicine, law, business and regulation.

In 1971, at the request of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), the U.S. Congress designated Aug. 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.”

 

Throwback Thursday: The Signing of the Atomic Energy Act of 1946

President Truman signs the Atomic Energy Act of 1946.President Harry Truman signed the Atomic Energy Act 68 years ago this month – Aug. 1, to be exact. The act set up the Atomic Energy Commission, a civilian agency charged with managing the nuclear technology developed during WWII. Later, the AEC was divided into two agencies – the NRC and the Department of Energy. The NRC was tasked with regulating civilian nuclear technologies. Pictured behind President Truman (left to right) are seven men: Tom Connally, Eugene Millikin, Edwin Johnson, Thomas Hart, Brien McMahon, Warren Austin and Richard Russell. What did the men all have in common? Photo courtesy of the Department of Energy.

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