When Plans Change — Discontinuing Some Rulemaking

Leslie Terry
Team Leader
Office of Administration

NRC does its job with regulations contained in the Chapter I of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations. These regulations cover everything from commercial 10cfrreactors to nuclear materials used in a variety of settings, to storing and disposing of nuclear waste.

A year ago we explained how we keep our rules up to date and unveiled a web page to provide periodic updates on our rulemaking activities. To recap, we identify the rules already under development and any new rules that need to be written. We then rank by priority every rule, regardless of the regulatory area. This way we ensure we’re focusing our resources on the high priority rules that most contribute to the NRC’s key strategic goals of safety and security. We also monitor the progress of our rulemaking activities and develop budget estimates for preparing new rules.

Sometimes our rulemaking plans change. Our Commissioners voted recently to approve a staff recommendation to discontinue eight rulemaking activities that were in the early stages of development.

During our most recent review, the staff identified several rulemakings that were in the early stages of development, but staff believes are no longer needed to meet the NRC’s key strategic goals of safety and security. The staff wrote a paper requesting Commission approval to discontinue nine activities, and discussed a 10th rulemaking the Commission had already decided to discontinue. The Commission agreed to discontinue seven of the nine rulemakings the staff proposed.

The discontinued rulemakings covered a variety of topics, and the basis to discontinue is different for each rulemaking. For example, we have a rulemaking underway to better define the requirements for reactors that have permanently shut down and are decommissioning. We felt that rulemaking was an appropriate place to address decommissioning options, including entombment for power reactors, so we are discontinuing a separate rulemaking on entombment.

We also feel the current case-by-case framework is sufficient for reviewing the limited number of requests we’ve received for alternate disposal pathways for waste with very low activity. So we’re discontinuing a rulemaking to set generic requirements, which had already been on hold for a number of years. Instead, we’ll take another look at the issue as part of an assessment of low level radioactive waste disposal, and if we decide that a rulemaking is necessary, we’ll ask the Commission to revisit the issue.

We encourage you to read more about the Commission’s vote and the staff’s proposal on our web site. You can also check our prioritization web page for future updates on our rulemaking activities.

The 411 on NRC Fees for Licensees

Michele Kaplan
Team Leader
License Fee Policy Team

questionnewThe NRC is an independent agency chartered by Congress to regulate the civilian use of nuclear materials. By law, we’re required to recover 90 percent of our budget from the companies and people that we provide services to (such as applicants for licenses, operating nuclear power plants that we inspect, etc.)

The two main laws that govern NRC’s fee recovery are called the Independent Offices Appropriation Act of 1952, and the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1990, as amended.

Here are some common questions (and answers) about the NRC’s fee structure and process.

Q. Does the NRC get all of its funding from the fees that it charges?

A. No, all NRC funding is appropriated by Congress. The 90 percent of our budget that we collect in fees is paid to the U.S. Treasury. This is called “cost recovery.”

Q. How are the NRC’s budget and the NRC’s fees related?

A. Each year, Congress decides the amount of the NRC’s budget. As our budget increases or decreases, or as the number of applicants and licensees increases or decreases, the amount that must still be recovered from fees may cause the fees to go up or down in a given year.

Q. How does the NRC determine the amount of the fees?

A. The NRC goes through a rulemaking process each year that describes the cost recovery process and allows members of the public to comment on the proposed fees, which is then followed by publication of the final fees.

Q. What are the different types of fees?

A. There are hourly and annual fees. Hourly fees are charged according to how much work the NRC performs for a particular applicant or license. For example, a company with a reactor license may pay $5 million in annual fees, and, in addition, may pay $200,000 for hourly fees because they asked the NRC to review and approve an amendment to their license. Annual fees recover regulatory costs not directly attributed to a licensing action or oversight of a specific license.

budgetQ. What is the hourly staff fee?

A. Currently, the staff fee is $268 per hour. This hourly rate includes the internal costs that are necessary to operate the agency, such as human resources, rent, computer support, etc. Our fees are published every year and the current fees can be found here.

Q. If I want to submit something to the NRC for review, can you tell me what the review will cost?

A. It depends. For some applications, such as import licenses or sealed sources, the NRC charges a flat fee to complete the entire review. For other applications, the NRC charges hourly rates for the full amount of time that agency staff spends on the review of that particular application. Some applications require more review than others.

Q. Are there exceptions for small businesses?

A. Yes, the NRC does take into consideration “small entities.” Please see more information here.

Q. How much does it cost to get a new reactor design certified by the NRC?

A. The two reactor designs most recently certified by the NRC resulted in fees of between $45 million and $70 million. These costs included hourly fees for pre-application interactions between NRC and the applicant, the NRC’s review of the application itself, and the NRC’s review of application revisions that were submitted by the applicant.

Q. What if I want to discuss a potential application with the NRC but don’t have the money to pay large fees?

A. You’re encouraged to call or email the NRC staff to discuss your questions or to set up a meeting. Short, infrequent meetings of a general nature may not be billed. However, more in-depth or technical meetings, or activities such as the review of applications, will incur fees.

Still want to know more? A longer list of Q&As are available here.

 

 

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.