After much study, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is amending its regulations to establish a separate fee structure for light-water small modular reactors (SMRs) because it anticipates that it will soon receive SMR license applications.
SMRs are nuclear power plants that are significantly smaller in size than those in the current operating fleet. Under this fee structure, an SMR’s annual fee will be based on how much power it is licensed to generate, NRC said in a May 24 news release.
Without this separate fee structure, an SMR would have been required to pay the same annual fee as a large operating light-water reactor. The fee structure for SMRs complies with the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990, which requires that NRC fees be “fairly and equitably” allocated among its licensees.
Oregon-based NuScale Power is working together with the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) to site several NuScale-designed SMR units at the Department of Energy (DOE)’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) grounds in Idaho.
NuScale says that its SMR technology has a generating capacity of 50 MWe and is small enough to be transported by barge, truck or train.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has also applied for an early site permit from NRC to study the suitability of its Clinch River site River site near Oak Ridge, Tennessee for SMRs.
The NRC published the proposed rule, “Variable Annual Fee Structure for Small Modular Reactors,” in the Federal Register for public comment on Nov. 4, 2015, and held a public meeting on Nov. 16, 2015.
The final rule will become effective June 23, following May 24 publication of the final rule in the Federal Register.
In fiscal year 2008, the NRC staff determined that the annual fee structure for part 171 of title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations fees, which was established in 1995, should be re-evaluated to address potential inequities for future SMRs, due to their anticipated design characteristics.
The key characteristics include modular design, generating capacity, and can also include security design features that could ultimately result in a lower regulatory oversight burden for this type of reactor.