Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

USA ‘New Nuclear’ lobby trying to weaken powers of Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Edwin Lyman, senior scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program, said the timing of the legislation is “premature.” Lyman told Congress to consider that the legislation might pose an unfair burden on taxpayers and put Americans at increased risk.

The legislation would also eliminate language that requires NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel to hold a hearing on new applications.

“That’s inherently dangerous technology that needs tough questions to be asked about it,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). “I don’t think the public is going to be happy if they’re told ‘no hearings’ on this dangerous technology.”

regulatory-capture-1

Advanced reactor bill raises ‘red flags Hannah Hess, E&E reporter E&E Daily: Friday, April 22, 2016

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s head of operations yesterday tried to sell lawmakers on a strategy to license the latest nuclear technology.

But Victor McCree had to contend with lawmakers who have their own plan to lay the groundwork for advanced reactors, and it goes beyond the administration’s comfort zone……

Eight days ago, EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) teamed up with Whitehouse and Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to introduce legislation to reform the licensing process and restructure how NRC is funded.

But a hearing of the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee revealed concerns about safety and security, including NRC’s own fears that the legislation could handcuff regulators (E&E Daily, April 14).

The bill would change NRC to develop “technology-inclusive regulatory framework” — defined as using methods of evaluation that are flexible and predictable, such as risk-informed and performance-based techniques.

Critics warn that lawmakers didn’t properly explain those terms, which could lead to less rigorous standards for the approval of novel nuclear power technologies.

The legislation would also eliminate language that requires NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel to hold a hearing on new applications.

“That’s inherently dangerous technology that needs tough questions to be asked about it,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). “I don’t think the public is going to be happy if they’re told ‘no hearings’ on this dangerous technology.”

NRC concerns

McCree, who assumed NRC’s top career post last fall, cautioned that the bipartisan legislation would require “significant time and resources” over several years in areas where the agency’s internal planning process was well underway.

Current performance metrics allow fluidity at NRC to “account for emerging safety or security issues, changes in licensee plans and the like,” McCree said. “As written, the proposed requirements would limit the NRC’s flexibility in this area.”

At the Obama administration’s request, NRC earmarked $5 million for work on advancing small modular reactor (SMR) licensing practices in its fiscal 2017 budget proposal. Both House and Senate proposed spending bills include language to address this issue.

McCree said NRC staff expect to complete the first draft of their own strategy for licensing non-light-water reactor technologies soon and will discuss it in a public meeting in June.

NRC is also in the process of a downsizing measure, popular on Capitol Hill, that aims to streamline the agency.

Testifying on behalf of the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council, where he now is chairman of a task force on advanced reactors, Merrifield encouraged the committee to press for further staffing cuts below NRC’s Project Aim 2020. ….NRC’s budget for fiscal 2017 would cut an equivalent of 90 full-time employees, surpassing the Project Aim goal, for a total reduction of roughly 280 full-time workers since fiscal 2014 …….

One thing senators and the nuclear industry agree on is that the commission’s current licensing process, with a design and certification that can cost billions of dollars and stretch for up to a decade, is one of the biggest obstacles for SMRs and advanced reactor designs that use coolants other than water.

“You have a situation in which it is very hard to get early investment in these new technologies,” Crapo said.

Ashley Finan, policy director of the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, one of four industry witnesses who testified in support of the Senate legislation, presented charts showing the big money and time hurdles the private sector sees with the current NRC process.

“The investors and innovators have made it very clear that their most immediate and pressing concern is regulatory uncertainty,” Finan said……

Because advanced nuclear reactor companies rely primarily on investors, the bill seeks to change the model……

The Nuclear Infrastructure Council wants language added that would provide early stage engagement with no or limited cost to the developer, with an “appropriate cost share,” perhaps 50-50, for later stages of the licensing process.

“Fewer resources are not good for the agency in protecting against a terrorist attack,” said an animated Markey, demanding any of the witnesses to refute his claim.

Bill ‘premature’

Edwin Lyman, senior scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program, said the timing of the legislation is “premature.”

Lyman told Congress to consider that the legislation might pose an unfair burden on taxpayers and put Americans at increased risk.

The history of the failed Next Generation Nuclear Plant project, a prototype of a modular high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, is an illustrative example, he said.

Mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the project was suspended after the Energy Department decided in 2011 not to proceed into the detailed design and license application phases. DOE’s decision cited the reluctance of vendors, owners and operators, and customers to commit to substantial upfront cost sharing.

“The main problem is the cost and difficulty of obtaining the necessary analyses and experimental data to satisfy regulatory requirements and ensure that new reactors can operate safely,” Lyman said. “This is a fundamental issue we think Congress needs to address through oversight of the budget for nuclear energy [research and development].”….. http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060036081

April 22, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: