NEI urges streamlining new reactor hearing procedures

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has submitted comments urging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to streamline its procedures for holding hearings on proposed new reactors units.

The nuclear industry trade group fears that NRC hearings late in the process could potentially delay fuel loading at four new nuclear units under construction in Georgia and South Carolina.

NEI filed 42 pages of comments July 2. For reactors granted a combined construction and operating license (COL) under the NRC’s new 10 CFR Part 52 regulations, safety issues associated with design, site and operations are resolved up front in the combined license.

To confirm that the plant has been built as designed and licensed, the regulations also require the license holder to meet requirements relating to the completion and closure of inspections, tests, analyses and acceptance criteria (ITAAC).

For reactors licensed under Part 52—including the four reactors being built at Southern Co.’s Plant Vogtle in Georgia and SCANA’s V.C. Summer in South Carolina—the regulations provide an opportunity for an “ITAAC hearing” late in the construction process but before loading fuel into the reactor.

The focus of this hearing is limited to whether the facility as built complies with—or upon completion of construction, will comply with—the acceptance criteria in the combined license. To date, no ITAAC hearings have been held, but there will be opportunities for ITAAC hearings for the reactors now under construction.

After considering public comments received by the July 2 deadline, the NRC staff expects to submit its modified procedures to the commission for review and approval later in 2014.

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Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at