Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Important Article at Idaho Samizdat: NEI Seeks Consensus on Licensing SMRs

The Idaho Samizdat: Nuke Notes blog has posted an extremely important article on the struggle to get small modular reactors licensed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The struggle is being enjoined by the Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear industry group, and it faces a very difficult uphill battle. Why? Here's an excerpt:
In an exclusive interview with this blog, Paul Genoa, Director of Policy Development at NEI, (right) emphasized the serious nature of the work.

"This isn't a forum for people to trade marketing slides," he said. "We are looking for ways to meet the NRC's requirements, but in new or innovative ways that don't impose unnecessary costs on small reactors."

What NEI hopes to do, according to Genoa, "is to create a new regulatory paradigm for small reactors," and to do it in the next 18 months.

NEI's priorities are laid out in remarks Genoa made to the SMR conference last February. In this interview, he ticks off the items at the top of the list including annual fees, decommissioning costs, emergency response, and modularity, e.g., how to manage multiple small reactors at a single site.

Other issues include design certification, the licensing application process, and Price-Anderson liability issues. The last one will be tough, Genoa said.

"It is hard any time you have to make a statutory change."

That doesn't mean it will be easier to change the regulatory requirements to adapt them to SMRs. The NRC has a mature view of reactor safety issues especially for LWRs. Genoa said the NRC "is doing a good job to encourage the industry to organize itself to address the issues." Despite this assessment, the industry still has to make its case with the agency.

Part of it is what the NRC calls a “chicken and egg” issue. The agency wants to see customers showing interest in SMRs before it commits itself to diving deep into the regulatory issues for them. _IdahoSamizdat

The US federal government is largely composed of overpaid ass-kissers who exist to work their way up the civil service ladder to the ultimate golden pension, and take great pains not to stand out from the crowd more than can be avoided. Expecting the NRC or any other US governmental agency to adopt rational and progressive changes in a regulatory framework in order to free up the private sector to innovate and produce, is the height of naivety. That is why the NEI's effort to achieve a breakthrough within 18 months is so monumental.

This is a campaign that will be worth following. Thanks to Idaho Samizdat for their coverage.

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