NRC decides to take up NRDC petitions over spent fuel safety

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will consider the issues raised in a petition for rulemaking submitted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) over spent fuel storage at nuclear power plants.

The NRDC is requesting that the NRC amend its regulations to require each operating and new reactor licensee to improve spent nuclear fuel safety. The NRC said in a notice to be published in the July 23 Federal Register that it has determined that the issues raised are appropriate for consideration and will consider them in its ongoing “Station Blackout Mitigation Strategies” rulemaking.

On Sept. 20, 2011, the NRC published a notice of receipt in the Federal Register of six petitions for rulemaking filed by the NRDC, including PRM-50-100. The petitioner solely and specifically cited the “Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century: The Near-Term Task Force Review of Insights from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Accident,” dated July 12, 2011, as the rationale for the petitions.

For PRM-50-100, the petitioner cited Section 4.2.4, pages 43-46, of the Fukushima Task Force Report, which discusses the enhancement of spent fuel pool makeup capability and instrumentation for the spent fuel pool. At the time of receipt of the petitions, the commission was still in the process of reviewing the Fukushima Task Force Report and did not institute a public comment period for the petitions.

In PRM-50-100, the environmental group requests that the NRC institute a rulemaking proceeding applicable to nuclear facilities licensed under Parts 50 and 52 of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations and other applicable rules to require licensees to:

  • provide sufficient safety-related instrumentation, able to withstand design-basis natural phenomena, to monitor key spent fuel pool parameters (i.e., water level, temperature, and area radiation levels) from the control room;
  • provide safety-related alternating current (AC) electrical power for the spent fuel pool makeup system;
  • revise their technical specifications to address requirements to have one train of onsite emergency electrical power operable for spent fuel pool makeup and spent fuel pool instrumentation when there is irradiated fuel in the spent fuel pool, regardless of the operational mode of the reactor; and
  • have an installed seismically qualified means to spray water into the spent fuel pools, including an easily accessible connection to supply the water (e.g., using a portable pump or pumper truck) at grade outside the building.

The NRC said it has determined that the issues raised in PRM-50-100 are similar to the actions of Recommendation 7.5 of the Fukushima Task Force Report. Therefore, the NRC will consider the issues raised in PRM-50-100 in the ongoing Station Blackout Mitigation Strategies rulemaking. The public will have the opportunity to provide comments on PRM-50-100 as part of that rulemaking. The NRC will consider the issues raised by the remaining NRDC petitions through the process the commission establishes for addressing the remaining recommendations in the Fukushima Task Force Report.

In a separate notice to be published in the July 23 Federal Register, the NRC said it is issuing a regulatory basis document to support the potential amendment of its regulations concerning nuclear power plant licensees’ and applicants’ station blackout mitigation strategies. The issuance of this regulatory basis document is one of the actions stemming from the NRC’s lessons-learned efforts associated with the March 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi accident in Japan. At this time, the NRC said it is not soliciting formal public comments on the materials identified in this document.

By making these documents publicly available, the NRC said it seeks to inform stakeholders of the current status of the commission’s rulemaking development activities. Stakeholders should also note that there two related petitions for rulemaking (PRM), both submitted by the NRDC, that are being addressed within this rulemaking. Those are PRM-50-100 and PRM-50-101.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.