Reexamining the NRC’s Regulatory Framework

Mike Johnson
Deputy Executive Director for Reactor and Preparedness Programs

The NRC’s spent more than two years examining what changes to its regulations we should make based on lessons from the Fukushima accident in March 2011. After lots of public discussion and considering the options offered during that time, the NRC staff has made recommendations to the agency’s five Commissioners for their consideration.

How we Regulate_onlyThis process started shortly after the accident, when the NRC gathered several senior staff to consider what the accident taught us. This task force’s July 2011 report included 12 broad recommendations. The first recommendation called for “a logical, systematic, and coherent regulatory framework for adequate protection that appropriately balances defense-in-depth and risk considerations.” The Commission directed the staff in August 2011 to evaluate that recommendation and provide options for responding.

Since then the staff has met with the public and other interested parties three times. The staff also released three white papers and met with the independent experts on the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards six times. The staff for this effort included experts in reactor regulation, risk assessment, materials oversight, security, research and the legal aspects of revising NRC rules.

The staff concluded the NRC’s current regulations can maintain U.S. nuclear power plant safety and incorporate Fukushima-related improvements. But the staff recommends these three enhancements:

1. Establish a new category for certain events that could extend current requirements 

2. Establish Commission expectations for establishing multiple layers of defense against accidents and to protect public health

3. Clarify the role of voluntary industry initiatives in the NRC regulatory process

The Commission will decide which recommendations, if any, to implement. The Commission will meet publicly to discuss the staff’s work on Jan. 10, 2014. The meeting will be webcast for those unable to attend in person.

More information on the NRC’s overall post-Fukushima efforts is available here.

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