April 12th, 2016

Nuclear Innovation Alliance recommendations call for updating the regulatory process


Cambridge, Mass. – The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) today released recommendations calling for updating the regulatory process for advanced nuclear reactors. Representing a diverse group of technical experts, nuclear technology companies, investors, environmental organizations and academics, the organization developed recommendations that address opportunities within the regulatory, policy and industry arenas to facilitate the efficient, predictable and safe licensing of a new generation of reactors.


Motivated by the urgent need for sustainable, reliable and affordable electricity that can help reduce carbon emissions, the NIA’s recommendations lay out a path forward for a staged evaluation and licensing process suitable to advanced, non-light water reactors. While current regulation is structured to oversee light water reactor technology, advanced reactors have different features and performance characteristics, and use substantially different fuels, cooling systems, and safety and operating strategies. These new technologies offer potentially enhanced safety, cost and waste performance.


“Nearly every analysis of global energy development and climate change indicates that we need to expand use of nuclear energy to address these challenges, but this expansion requires a new generation of technology,” said Ashley Finan, NIA policy director and lead author of the paper. “To make that possible, the current regulatory process can be updated in order to provide clear and early feedback to developers and investors. Our proposed process includes discrete stages for improved project risk management and, where appropriate, is based on real risks and potential outcomes, rather than prescriptive regulations that may not apply.”


In developing these recommendations, the organization consulted nuclear innovators, safety experts, former staff and commissioners of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), members of the financial community, and other nuclear industry stakeholders.


The NIA’s regulatory recommendations are designed to:


  • Create a staged review process of advanced reactors to facilitate the commercialization of innovative reactor designs, and to provide clear and early feedback to investors and developers.

  • Develop and employ licensing project plans through NRC and industry cooperation to improve communication, efficiency and project execution.

  • Develop a statement of licensing feasibility process to standardize a review phase that would provide early feedback to applicants.

  • Adapt the existing light water reactor-centric requirements to address the unique features of advanced, non-light water reactor technologies.

  • Develop a plan to implement a technology-inclusive licensing and regulatory framework based on risk-informed and performance-based principles.

  • Encourage the continuation of the Department of Energy (DOE)/NRC Advanced Reactor Licensing Initiative.


The organization’s policy recommendations are to:


  • Revise the NRC’s budget structure so that licensees and applicants reimburse it for activities related to their regulation, with Congress funding other agency-related activities.

  • Appropriate funds for the NRC to prepare for advanced reactor licensing.

  • Continue funding to DOE for competitively awarded grants for early efforts to license advanced reactors.


The industry recommendations encourage stakeholders to:


  • Coordinate and deliver a consistent message about technology-inclusive advanced reactor priorities.

  • Inform the NRC as early as possible of prospective applicants’ intent to request review.

  • Take a more active role in communicating with the NRC, DOE and other stakeholders on the challenges and opportunities associated with various advanced reactor designs.

  • Pursue the development of codes, standards and conventions for advanced nuclear power, working with the appropriate research and standards organizations.


To download a copy of the white paper, please visit the NIA website.


Media Contact: Karen Heinold, kheinold@pcgpr.com, 202-379-6358




About the Nuclear Innovation Alliance

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) leads advanced nuclear energy innovation. We assemble companies, investors, experts and stakeholders to advance nuclear energy innovation and enable innovative reactor commercialization through favorable energy policy and funding. We research, develop and advocate policies that enable the efficient licensing and timely early-stage demonstration of advanced reactor technologies. Learn more about NIA at http://www.nuclearinnovationalliance.org/ and on Twitter at @theNIAorg and Facebook at www.facebook.com/theNIAorg