It has been pointed out that the NRC is not successful in facilitating a nuclear industry that is not static. If the nuclear industry is not active building new reactors, not trying to get new types of reactors and just applying for continued operation of existing light water reactor then the NRC can handle it. (90% of the time within 12 months) Reviewing the testimony of Gregory Jaczko shows that this is cited as a big success – being able to handle regular maintenance applications 90% of the time within 1 year
Before the NRC was created, nuclear regulation was the responsibility of the AEC, which Congress first established in the Atomic Energy Act of 1946. Eight years later, Congress replaced that law with the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which for the first time made the development of commercial nuclear power possible. The act assigned the AEC the functions of both encouraging the use of nuclear power and regulating its safety. The AEC’s regulatory programs sought to ensure public health and safety from the hazards of nuclear power without imposing excessive requirements that would inhibit the growth of the industry. This was a difficult goal to achieve, especially in a new industry, and within a short time the AEC’s programs stirred considerable controversy. An increasing number of critics during the 1960s charged that the AEC’s regulations were insufficiently rigorous in several important areas, including radiation protection standards, reactor safety, plant siting, and environmental protection.
The NRC is highlighting that they would regulate and inhibit the growth of the nuclear industry. 36 years of history has shown that the nuclear industry has been inhibited under the NRC.
Develop an Expedited Process for New Reactor Permits: The current schedule dictates that the NRC take four years under a best-case scenario to permit a new power plant. The NRC collaboratively with Congress should develop an expedited process for applicants that preemptively meet certain conditions. The NRC might be modified to handle this, but consideration should be made to shift this to a new system.
The following list of tasks should be put under something else and should not be handled by the NRC.
• Develop a Faster Process for Reactor Design Certification: A reactor design must be certified by the NRC before it can be used in a new power plant.
Adding in pre-application time with licensing certification period for the NRC review of a new reactor certification is 9-20+ years and of the more than one dozen different reactors that have been up to pre-application only 4 reactors are certified and three of those are variations of the same reactor. The odds of successfully getting through certification are less than 1 in 5.
• Open Up to New Technologies: The NRC is not prepared to efficiently regulate a diverse, growing, market-driven industry that could produce reactors both large and small. No new nuclear technology has been approved by the NRC in its 36 years of existence. All technology was approved by the Atomic Energy commission that existed before the NRC.
• Begin Rulemaking for Reprocessing: While a geologic repository is crucial under any scenario, growth in nuclear power will likely necessitate that the U.S. also develop a reprocessing capacity as well, to help manage spent nuclear fuel. While the private sector should determine if such a facility is needed, the NRC should begin the rulemaking process now. .
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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