Preparing for Subsequent License Renewal

Albert Wong
Division of License Renewal
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation

The NRC’s operating licenses for commercial nuclear power reactors are valid for 40 years and may be renewed for an additional 20 years at a time.  So far the agency has renewed 78 licenses and has applications for another 16 under review. We received the first license renewal application in April 1998, and we’re expecting to receive the last application for a first renewal sometime after 2020.

Today, Dominion Virginia Power announced that it expects to submit a subsequent license renewal application in 2019 – a renewal beyond the 60 years of operation from the first license and the initial renewal — for Surry Power Station.

Subsequent renewal applications will be reviewed under the same regulations (10 CFR Part 54) as the initial renewals. That means they will get similar scrutiny for both safety (focusing on how the plant operators manage the effects of aging on certain plant components) and environmental impacts. There will also be opportunities for public input and hearings.

Of course, operating plants beyond 60 years may raise different technical issues for us to address in these reviews. So we are drawing on our experience with the initial license renewals, plant operating experience, ongoing research, and expert opinions to identify strategies for dealing with the challenges of extending operation to 80 years. Two draft guidance documents will be published in December 2015 for public comment. They are “Generic Aging Lessons Learned for Subsequent License Renewal Report” and the “Standard Review Plan for Review of Subsequent License Renewal Applications for Nuclear Power Plants.”

The final guidance documents – including responses to public comments and explanations of any changes from the drafts – will be published in time to support our review of subsequent license renewal application.

Plant operators applying for subsequent license renewal will need a detailed technical basis, along with associated research and “aging management programs,” to demonstrate how they will keep their plants operating safely during the additional 20 years. The NRC staff will give these applications the same thorough reviews we give initial renewals. We expect the reviews will take about two years, though the quality of the applications could affect the schedule.

The NRC is proactively preparing for anticipated subsequent license renewal applications and stands ready to ensure the continued safety of operating plants once applications are received.

 

 

Counting the Costs on Advanced Reactor Reviews

Anna Bradford, Chief
Advanced Reactors and Policy Branch
Office of New Reactors

We’re continuing to examine topics from the recent two-day public workshop we jointly hosted with the Department of Energy regarding non-light water reactor designs. One topic getting a lot of attention is the possible costs for NRC reviews of applications for these designs.

Last month’s workshop included presentations on the NRC’s experience licensing non-light water designs, as well as discussions of proposed advanced reactor designs.
Last month’s workshop included presentations on the NRC’s experience licensing non-light water designs, as well as discussions of proposed advanced reactor designs.

For instance, some people interpreted a DOE presentation on the Next Generation Nuclear Plant project as saying it costs $800 million to receive a final certification or license from the NRC. The bulk of that $800 million, however, falls outside of NRC fees and would be made up of the designer’s costs to develop and test its design to ensure that it works as planned.

In other words, the designer does not pay the NRC $800 million to review a reactor design. Looking at recent reviews of large light-water reactors, we see designers spent approximately $50 – $75 million for NRC fees to certify their designs.

A recent Government Accountability Office assessment, “Nuclear Reactors: Status and Challenges in Development and Deployment of New Commercial Concepts” says costs can be “…up to $1 billion to $2 billion, to design and certify or license the reactor design.” A different portion of the GAO report, however, pointed out most of these costs aren’t attributable to the NRC review. The largest part of the price tag would be research, development, and design work to develop and test a new reactor design.

We can also examine information from the public workshop on design development costs versus NRC review costs for the developer of a new small modular reactor design. The company said that of approximately $300 million in design investment to date, only $4 million of that amount (or slightly more than 1 percent) is from NRC fees for several years of pre-application interactions with the agency.

Here’s something to keep in mind: NRC review costs depend on the quality and maturity of the applicant’s information. The NRC always aims to efficiently and effectively review designs. Incomplete or inadequate information will very likely increase costs, however, since the NRC will spend more time and effort getting the data necessary to determine whether the reactor could operate safely and securely.

Everyone benefits from a common understanding of NRC costs as we discuss the next generation of reactor designs. The NRC’s website has more information on how the agency is approaching advanced and small modular reactor designs.