Keeping the NRC’s Rules Up to Date

Anthony de Jesus
Regulations Specialist

NRC’s regulations (found in 10 CFR, Code of Federal Regulations) are very important. They are how we do our job of protecting people and the environment.

10cfrtwopartjpgOur rules cover these three main areas:

  • Commercial reactors for generating electric power and research and test reactors used for research, testing, and training.
  • Materials – Uses of nuclear materials in medical, industrial, and academic settings and facilities that produce nuclear fuel.
  • Waste – Transportation, storage, and disposal of nuclear materials and waste, and decommissioning of nuclear facilities from service.

To keep all these rules, on all these topics, up-to-date, we use a single process, called the Common Prioritization of Rulemaking, to prioritize our rulemaking activities.

Each year we identify the rules already under development and any new rules that need to be written. Using the same criteria, we rank by priority, every rule, regardless of the regulatory area. This way we ensure that we are focusing our resources on the high priority rules that most contribute to the NRC’s key strategic goals of safety and security. Through this annual review we also monitor the progress of our rulemaking activities and develop budget estimates for preparing new rules.

rulemaking web 1Because the NRC is committed to transparency, participation, and collaboration in our regulatory activities, we created a new “Rulemaking Priorities” Web page. This page allows us to provide periodic updates concerning rulemaking developments, which responds to a recommendation proposed by the Administrative Conference of the United States.

Our new page provides the rulemaking activities identified and prioritized through our Common Prioritization of Rulemaking process. From this page you can access the methodology that NRC staff uses to prioritize our rulemaking activities.

Each rulemaking activity listed on this new Web page is linked to further information on that rulemaking, including:

  • an abstract that describes the rule
  • a prioritization score
  • a justification describing how the rule was prioritized
  • estimated target dates for completion of the rule

We plan to update the web page regularly so this information remains up to date. We hope this new page will help you understand how the NRC prioritizes its rulemaking activities. After all, our regulations are at the heart of what the NRC does for a living.

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

13 thoughts on “Keeping the NRC’s Rules Up to Date”

  1. With the EPA it is “Comply or Die”. With the NRC it is “Why Comply?”

    Why do you keep saying things that are easily proven false?

    <The NRC, on the other hand, under regulates and no nuclear power plant ever has to cease operation, either temporarily to get into compliance

    Belied by just this single NRC news release which states “Based on the results of the team inspection activities, the NRC has found there are a number of potential issues that appear to need licensing actions. The NRC has scheduled a meeting with OPPD officials on April 22 to discuss four changes the licensee made to the plant that may have required prior NRC approval”.  This resulted in the plant being shut down for over 27 months (more than 30, actually).

    Right here, in the records of the NRC, are the facts that prove that what you say is absolutely fabricated, nonsense, utter bilge… and for some reason the NRC moderator leaves it to commenters like me to correct you, instead of issuing corrections immediately or deep-sixing the falsehoods outright.  This is very, very strange.

  2. Having regulations is one thing, enforcing them is quite another!
    Why Comply?!
    I often contrast the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The EPA, a tough no-nonsense regulator, and the NRC, a lax federal agency by comparison in my opinion.
    With the EPA it is “Comply or Die”. With the NRC it is “Why Comply?”
    Perhaps the EPA over regulates as many businesses have been forced to cease operation because the costs to stay or get into compliance with EPA regulations is just too steep. But that being said, isn’t it better to “error” on the side of public safety?
    The NRC, on the other hand, under regulates and no nuclear power plant ever has to cease operation, either temporarily to get into compliance or permanently, due to regulatory non-compliance.
    With the EPA it is their “way or the highway”. With the NRC it is their way or the nuclear industry’s way, whichever is less onerous and especially less costly for the industry itself.
    The EPA doesn’t negotiate or not enforce its safety requirements. With the NRC everything is negotiable, requirements, rules, policies, and yes even penalties. Exemptions (just like all the exemptions under Obamacare), regulatory relief, & due date extensions are always granted. Only those not requested by the nuke industry are not approved by the NRC.
    The EPA fines businesses for noncompliance and the penalties can be very significant. Since 2000 the NRC has greatly reduced the number of monetary fines it issues nuke plant owners, and it is not because their compliance record warrants it. Nuke plant owners view any rare paltry NRC monetary fine as just a small cost of doing business. Besides nuke plant owners just tack the penalty onto customer utility bills anyway. (God forbid if the utility share or stockholders were required to pay it!).
    To the EPA “Safety First” means just that. To the NRC “Safety First” really means “Financial Safety First”!
    The NRC is captured by the industry it is supposed to regulate. After all the NRC “parasite” cannot harm its nuclear industry “host”.

  3. Not sure quite what you’re asking here.

    Had the TMI operators known about the incident with a stuck pressurizer relief valve at Davis-Besse not long before, they would have understood the instrument readings they were seeing; alternatively, if there had been an instrument showing the actual valve position instead of the commanded position, they would also have known what was going on.  They would have left the high-pressure coolant injection pumps running.

  4. There is a site for Poets Against Nuclear Power. Perhaps Engineer-Poet you could go there and use your poetry against them!

    So I give you several paragraphs of rebuttal including many information-dense links, and you ignore it all, including a direct question on one of your statements… to refer me to some group of literature majors who call themselves poets, but probably wouldn’t know an integral from an integer?

    Besides, that appears to be a Fakebook group.  I don’t do Fakebook.  My computer has it specifically blocked.

    “On July 14, 2011, a month before he resigned, Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan addressed the country in a national TV broadcast. “We will aim to bring about a society that can exist without nuclear power,” Kan declared.”

    He has no small amount of gall for taking that position, blaming nuclear power for something he helped bring about.  Kan interfered with the on-site management at Fukushima Dai’ichi, delaying the venting and addition of water to the reactors which was essential to preventing fuel damage.  Everything that followed, including the hydrogen explosions, was a direct consequence of Kan’s insistence on taking authority in an emergency about which he knew nothing.

    You can evade the hard questions, but pretending they weren’t asked won’t change the consequences of your failure to properly address the problem.

  5. Engineer-Poet, Moderator, and all,

    Which sentences of App A and/or App B would, if adhered to, have prevented TMI and/or reduced the extent of meltdown?

  6. @ Engineer-Poet:
    There is a site for Poets Against Nuclear Power. Perhaps Engineer-Poet you could go there and use your poetry against them! Here is something for you from their site:
    “On July 14, 2011, a month before he resigned, Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan addressed the country in a national TV broadcast. “We will aim to bring about a society that can exist without nuclear power,” Kan declared. “The risk of nuclear energy is too high. It involves technology that cannot be controlled according to our conventional concept of safety.” The message was not lost on Japan’s energy conglomerates. Three major nuclear suppliers-Toshiba, Mitsubishi, and Hitachi-announced plans to shift their attention to renewable energy programs (solar…and geothermal) and energy-smart communities.”
    Nuclear Roulette by Gar Smith, p. xxiv.

  7. Three Mile Island.  The incident was precipitated by connection of a water hose to an instrument air line (possible sabotage); it was exacerbated by failure of a water-level instrument which was added to the design by NRC mandate, confusing the operators and preventing them from understanding and correcting the situation before fuel damage occurred.

    The plant met NRC requirements when built, including the commonality of the connectors for air and water.  That was only changed afterward.

  8. I have been looking for a report of a US nuclear power mishap that would not have been prevented by prudent businesslike compliance with NRC requirements.

    Does anyone have an example and/or a link to an example?

  9. Keeping rules up to date is all right but who is going to enforce 50.59 vs 50.90 issues when the Utilities get to choose which they want to do? Here is a great trade article where one of SCE’s Engineers together with a colleague that worked for MHI bragged about all the “improvements” they made, any of which should have triggered a 50.90 review but the NRC remained mum, it came out the very same month that Unit 3 started leaking ☢ reactor core coolant.
    Improving Like-For-Like Article: https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/347889/col-nrc-tech-paper.pdf

    This “freedom” has now resulted in a $5 Billion Replacement Steam Generator Debacle at San Onofre, which the NRC is doing its best to cover up, since it makes them look very bad, because NRC Region IV looked the other way and let SCE design the replacement steam generators (RSG) “in house” without a 50.90 review which resulted in all four replacement steam generators suffering “unprecedented RSG tube wear” as compared to the rest of the US nuclear fleet.

    http://sanonofresafety.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/steamgeneratortubesplugged1.pdf

    #SanOnofreGate The new hashtag that will allow you to keep up to date on the ongoing investigation into the multi-billion $ SCE-CPUC ripoff.

  10. Relaxing requirements for nuclear power plants is of concern to me.

    You’ve made that abundantly clear.  It looks like anything that might reduce complexity or work burdens (and thus cost) is in your crosshairs.  The fossil-fuel industry could have no better friend.

    I was raised on the concept of keeping radiation exposures as low as reasonably achievable.

    “Raised on” it?  Is that hyperbole, or were you literally brought up believing that all radiation was deadly, just as some are raised believing that certain ancient books (in English translation) are literally true?

    It’s very easy to prove that moderate, long-term doses of radiation are totally harmless and likely helpful.  People have been bathing in radon- and radium-rich hot springs, and sitting on or burying themselves in radioactive monazite beach sands, for thousands of years… for their health!  There’s no evidence that it doesn’t work and much that it does.

    Studies of survivors of “disasters” like Hiroshima and Nagasaki find that those receiving moderate doses had “a suppression of background cancer rates”; a similar reduction was observed in Chernobyl cleanup workers receiving low doses (“an anomalous finding of ERR/Gy = –0.47”).  Animal studies confirm this, with lab rats receiving 0.8 rad/day of gamma rays living 25% longer lives than unexposed controls.  That’s been published fact for longer than I’ve been alive, but anti-nuclear propaganda has suppressed the knowledge.

    No matter how much we can justify that larger radiation exposures are OK, uncontrolled accidental releases of radioactivity will still cause panic I think.

    Nuclear plant meltdowns proceed very slowly.  If you can escape at a walking pace, you can generally stay ahead of the danger zone.  That danger zone is mostly due to I-131, which disappears within about 3 months.

    We’ve had 3 nuclear generating plant events with substantial radiation releases between TMI in 1979 and Fukushima in 2011.  That is less than 1 event per decade, and no major release has shared the chain of causation of any of the previous ones.  We can pretty much be assured that once we’ve had an accident and incorporated the lessons learned, there is a vanishingly small likelihood of having it happen again; in the case of Fukushima, the problem was threats ignored.  Despite that, the worst release outside the Soviet Union had zero fatalities.  What’s the problem here?  I don’t see one.

    even the experts disagree years after an accident on just what exposures the public actually received during a nuclear disaster.

    In other words, the exposures are small enough that there are no symptoms of exposure to indicate the dose received.  No symptoms of exposure means minimal threat.  Would you rather have that, or something like the fertilizer plant in West, TX that blew up a few years ago and essentially erased the town?

    No other source of energy has killed, maimed, and traumatized people as much as nuclear power. (And left large areas of our planet uninhabitable).

    You’re one of the people who can’t distinguish nuclear power from nuclear bombs, aren’t you?  If you’d open your mind even a tiny bit, you’d realize you’re totally, completely, utterly, ridiculously wrong.  Several times as many people die every year from the byproducts of biomass combustion than were killed in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings combined.  The Fukushima and Chernobyl exclusion zones are just as habitable as the beach at Guarapari… which is a vacation spot.

    This is part and parcel of believing the erroneous (propaganda-generated, AAMOF) notion that all radiation exposure is dangerous and must be minimized for safety.  People have been living in natural high-radiation areas for millennia, and show no ill effects.  The ideas and models which have driven radiation-protection policies in the USA since the work of Hermann Müller are provably wrong.  This has done grievous harm to the public in two ways:  first, by wasting effort in needless “protection” and denying worthwhile exposures from e.g. medical imaging, and second, by failing to eliminate the harmful air and water emissions of fossil-fuel plants in the mistaken idea that nuclear power plants were somehow more dangerous.

    we should wean ourselves from nuclear power ASAP.

    No, absolutely not.  Despite its issues nuclear fission has the smallest environmental footprint of any source of energy we’ve got, and there is no way to phase it out and keep climate change below 2° C (which is still probably much too high for safety).  It should be maintained and expanded as fast as practically possible, because oil is a national security threat and coal and gas are global threats.

  11. Dear Engineer-Poet,
    Relaxing requirements for nuclear power plants is of concern to me. I was raised on the concept of keeping radiation exposures as low as reasonably achievable. It is hard for me to try and think differently about it I guess. Panicky evacuations in and of themselves cause death as you say. No matter how much we can justify that larger radiation exposures are OK, uncontrolled accidental releases of radioactivity will still cause panic I think. Especially since even the experts disagree years after an accident on just what exposures the public actually received during a nuclear disaster. If they can’t determine this more accurately long after an accident, how can we be assured that we are getting accurate information so that we are not in harm’s way during an accident?!
    Other sources of energy pollute our environment as you say, and if we can prevent another nuclear disaster, I quite agree that living with nuclear power is the best option today. But we should wean ourselves from nuclear power ASAP. No other source of energy has killed, maimed, and traumatized people as much as nuclear power. (And left large areas of our planet uninhabitable).
    With the energy options we have today nuclear power no longer makes sense.

  12. I’m happy to see the NRC keeping its regulations up to date.  There are petitions in front of the NRC right now noting that the linear no-threshold model on which so many regulations are based has been proven false in many tests (including the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors), and asking for the NRC to re-write or scrap anything affected by this updated knowledge.  This would include all work regulations based on the As Low As Reasonably Achievable exposure standard.  Replacing ALARA with a simple threshold standard (per day, month and year) would simplify many tasks around nuclear plants, allowing much more actual work to be done rather than meticulously planning work to minimize already-minuscule exposures.  It would also update accident response guidelines, preventing policy-driven disasters like the panicky evacuations around Futaba which caused the deaths of so many fragile elderly.

    After that, the NRC needs to look at other things.  One essential piece is the standards for nuclear-rated components.  If components built for NRC certification are not substantially more reliable than selected and inspected commercial components, then those regulations are probably not contributing to anything except higher costs and should be scrapped.  Reducing the cost of components and expanding the list of available suppliers would make components cheaper to source and easier to replace, allowing them to be updated much more frequently and reducing the likelihood that they would fail in service.  That would improve overall safety.

    Last is the task of comparative risk, which the NRC has not undertaken to date.  Everyone knows that coal is dangerous, but natural gas also has a great many dangers and environmental hazards associated with its production, shipment and consumption.  Replacing natural gas with nuclear energy improves overall safety as well as national security and greenhouse emissions.  The NRC should view its role as improving our overall safety and security, and avoid any tendency to focus on trivial risks while ignoring great ones.

  13. Glad the NRC is keeping its rules up to date. Problem I have is that the NRC is not enforcing them. Rules are regularly negotiated with the nuclear industry. The NRC regularly allows the industry to come up with “initiatives” to avoid new rules or even compliance with existing rules. The industry and the NRC know full well that since initiatives are voluntary they are not enforceable. How convenient?! For detailed information check out blogs on the NRC Open Forum entitled “Another Unholy Marriage” and “Behavior Modification Approaches Contrasted”.

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