NRC considers smaller emergency zones for small reactors

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will meet Wednesday, Dec. 17, to discuss proposals from the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for a reduced emergency planning zone for small modular reactors.

The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in Room 2B1 of the NRC’s Two White Flint building at 11555 Rockville Pike in Rockville. The meeting will discuss NEI’s proposed generic approach, as well as an expected site-specific approach by TVA as part of its Early Site Permit application for small modular reactors at the Clinch River site in Tennessee.

The NRC in 2010 highlighted emergency planning as one of several key policy issues for small modular reactors. Nuclear power plant emergency preparedness lays out plans for the plants as well as state and local authorities to recommend public protective actions within 10 miles of a plant in the unlikely event an accident releases radioactivity to the environment. Proposed small modular reactor designs are a fraction of the size of most current reactors, raising the question of how the new designs can best address emergency planning concepts. This meeting is part of ongoing NRC discussions with NEI regarding generic small modular reactor emergency planning issues. This is the first meeting to discuss a possible site-specific application.

If TVA includes a reduced emergency planning zone in its Early Site Permit application, the NRC will carefully review the proposal to ensure it would meet requirements for protecting public health and safety. Even if the NRC were to issue a permit, TVA would still have to apply for a license to build and operate small modular reactors at the Clinch River site.

The meeting agenda includes opportunities for the public to participate in the discussion. A teleconference will be available for those unable to attend the meeting in person. Anyone wishing to call in to the meeting should contact Joseph Williams at joseph.williams@nrc.gov or 301-415-1470 by Dec. 12 to ensure the teleconference can accommodate all callers.