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Be Aware, Take Action to Prepare

Patricia Milligan
Senior Level Advisor for Emergency Preparedness
 

Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to PrepareSeptember is National Preparedness Month, a time each year to reflect on the importance of knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency. The first step in preparing is to know your hazard. Once you do, FEMA has a wealth of resources to help you plan.

If you live near a nuclear power plant, you probably know it has operated safely and securely for decades. You should still be prepared in the unlikely event of a plant emergency. The two most important things to know are:

1) if you hear a siren or alert, tune in for instructions from state or local officials, and

2) follow those instructions.

A key part of the NRC’s mission is to make sure adequate plans are in place to protect the health and safety of the public. We require plant operators to develop emergency preparedness plans and regularly practice carrying them out in emergency exercises that include first responders and local and other federal government agencies.

These exercises test the skills of those who would respond in a real emergency and identify any areas that need to be addressed. We assess the operators’ performance during exercises. As part of our regular inspections, we also make sure the operators’ emergency plans meet our requirements and are capable of protecting the public.

While the NRC holds to operator to account for their on-site performance, FEMA evaluates how well the offsite response organizations perform during exercises to ensure that they are meeting FEMA requirements.

If you live near an operating nuclear power plant, you should already know whether you work or reside in the “Emergency Planning Zone.” This information would come from your state or local government. You could also receive an annual mailing from the plant. The exact zones and their configurations depend on a number of factors, such as specific site conditions, population and local emergency response.

In the event of an emergency, the plant operator will be in close contact with state and local officials, including emergency responders. Local officials, not the NRC, will make decisions regarding the best course of action. These decisions will factor in technical information about the plant and the weather, as well as other details regarding local emergency plans. That is why it’s important to tune in to their instructions.

It is important to keep in mind that evacuation is not always the best course of action. Depending on your location, you may or may not be advised to take potassium iodide as a way to protect your thyroid. State and local officials are in the best position to make these decisions, so do not take action until you receive instruction from them.

If you want more information on emergency planning, see our website. For more information on National Preparedness Month, check out this website. And don’t forget that FEMA has set aside Sept. 30 for America’s PrepareAthon, an opportunity for everyone to prepare for specific hazards that might affect them.

“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.

Watching Response Centers Put Trucks on the Road

Lauren Gibson
Project Manager
Japan Lessons-Learned Division

 

The nuclear industry has officially opened two National Response Centers — in Memphis, Tenn., and Phoenix, Ariz. These response centers help U.S. nuclear power plants meet the requirements of the NRC’s Mitigation Strategies Order, which we issued after the Fukushima accident.

The centers, previously called Regional Response Centers, contain extra equipment to duplicate plants’ emergency diesel generators, pumps, hoses and so on. This equipment would maintain plant safety functions for an indefinite period if an event disabled a plant’s installed safety systems. An industry group, called the Strategic Alliance for FLEX Emergency Response (SAFER), is managing the response centers. This organization also has two control centers that are separate from response centers and would coordinate equipment deliveries.

mitigation_strategies_infographic_r4SAFER has completed two exercises to demonstrate to the NRC they can get backup equipment to any site within 24 hours. NRC staff observed these “proof-of-concept” exercises. The first demonstrated transporting emergency equipment by road from the Memphis response center to the Three Mile Island Nuclear Station in Pennsylvania within the required time. The second exercise involved sending equipment by air from the Phoenix response center to the Surry Power Station in Virginia within the required time.

The NRC staff watched to make sure the equipment can be successfully shipped and delivered. We also observed and evaluated the plants’ — and SAFER’s– communication and coordination throughout the exercises. The conclusions we’re drawing from these exercises will be one input in deciding whether the plants can meet the requirements of Phase 3 of the Mitigation Strategies Order. We’ll send the industry a letter reviewing the performance of the national response centers and SAFER this fall.

While the NRC regulates the individual nuclear power plants that would request and receive the equipment, SAFER is not an NRC licensee. Nevertheless the NRC’s regulatory role does extend to the National Response Centers. Since the centers are key to how plants meet the Mitigation Strategies Order, we’re certainly interested in their performance. To expedite the availability of these Centers to respond, the NRC is working in parallel to design our regulatory oversight approach. Whatever the exact mechanism, you can be sure that the key consideration will be protecting the public’s health and safety.

You can see our website’s Japan Lessons Learned section for more information about the mitigation strategy requirements and related guidance.

 

 

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