Exchanging Information on the Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Maria Guardiola
Chemical Engineer
Division of Fuel Cycle Safety and Safeguards

 

FCIX concept 2014If you follow the NRC closely, you’ve probably heard about our annual Regulatory Information Conference, which brings together a couple thousand people from around the world to discuss a wide range of topics related to the NRC’s work. This type of conference is an invaluable forum for the NRC and a variety of stakeholders—licensees, the public, other government officials—to discuss emerging issues, policy initiatives and nuclear safety.

In a couple weeks we’ll hold a similar but much smaller and more focused conference. The Fuel Cycle Information Exchange will be held June 10-11 at our Rockville, Md., headquarters. It allows the NRC to talk to and hear from industry, the public and government officials about issues related to the nuclear fuel cycle. By that we mean facilities that process uranium ore, meaning they convert it into a form that can be enriched (concentrated), enrich the uranium and fabricate it into nuclear fuel.

The ability to exchange information with stakeholders is so important to the work the NRC does. We value input from all our stakeholders, even from our critics. This format allows open dialogue and a free exchange of views that strengthens the safety basis for our decisions and fosters a greater awareness of important regulatory issues.

Much like the RIC, the fuel cycle conference is heavy on technical details but also features higher level policy talks from senior-level NRC managers. This year’s program includes remarks from Chairman Allison Macfarlane, chief executive Mark Satorius, and his deputy for materials, Mike Weber. Here are just some of the items on the agenda:

  • NRC’s Yucca Mountain activities
  • Analyzing chemical hazards
  • Radiation protection standards
  • Decommissioning planning
  • Nonproliferation and security
  • Considering spent fuel storage when designing nuclear fuel

Participants are also invited to tour the NRC’s Emergency Operations Center, where managers and staff would converge to monitor a licensee’s response to an emergency.

Join us if you can, or tune into our webcast of the executive remarks. If it doesn’t fit into your plans, though, you can rest assured we will use this conference to talk through important issues that will help us to keep you safe. You can find more information here.

Even the Best Guidance Can Be Updated

Don Tailleart
Regulatory Improvements Team Leader
Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response

 

Well-written documents can stand the test of time – just look at the Declaration of Independence. The NRC and FEMA aimed for durability 30 years ago as we responded to the Three Mile Island accident. We co-wrote criteria for nuclear power plants to prepare and evaluate emergency response plans and preparedness programs. That guidance document has been the go-to standard for plant staff, and emergency preparedness managers at the state, local and tribal level.

The NRC and FEMA realized, however, that when a document starts showing its age it’s time for a revision. That’s why a joint NRC/FEMA team is revising NUREG-0654/FEMA-REP-1. This is an update rather than a complete rewrite. Our aim is to make the guidance more user-friendly by restructuring and streamlining it with a focus on evaluation criteria.

Evaluation criteria, by the way, are the parts of emergency plans and preparedness programs that directly respond to NRC or FEMA requirements. Both agencies use evaluation criteria when reviewing emergency plans to make sure the preparedness programs are acceptable.

Before starting on the revision, the NRC and FEMA took suggestions from the public and interested groups. Our writing teams used that information to refocus preliminary evaluation criteria language on capabilities and overall program elements. We’ve moved more detailed information on evaluation criteria implementation to a new NRC emergency preparedness guidance document and to the FEMA Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program Manual.

These changes reduced the number of criteria from 381 to about 190. Both the NRC and FEMA believe the updated criteria will provide an appropriate basis for U.S. nuclear power plants and state/local/tribal governments to develop radiological emergency plans and improve emergency preparedness.

Our writers have also been updating and adding several topics to the document’s introduction. The updated intro will address the document’s purpose, scope, and background, as well as the basis for developing emergency plans. New introduction topics include how the document will be used and how the document relates to regulations and other guidance documents. It also includes information on the alternative approaches used to meet NRC and FEMA requirements.

We expect to have the revised preliminary draft ready by the end of May. We’ll make the document available for public review and discussion, including holding another public meeting/webinar in late June at NRC headquarters. We expect to have a formal public comment period on the draft document starting in October 2014.