Advanced Reactor Research
To support the regulation and licensing of new light-water reactor (LWR) facilities and advanced reactor designs that differ substantially from the current generation of LWR facilities, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) seeks to resolve key safety and licensing issues. Toward that end, the NRC has engaged in an extensive program of anticipatory and confirmatory research, designed to provide independent information and expertise to support the agency's regulatory decisionmaking and characterize technical questions that may become important safety issues in the future. For new and advanced reactors, this research program focuses on the following nine key areas, each of which addresses multiple technical topics and activities:
- framework, including the development of regulatory decision making tools based on risk-informed, performance-based principles
- accident analysis, including probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) methods and assessments, human factors, and instrumentation and controls
- reactor/plant systems analysis, including thermal-fluid dynamics, nuclear analysis, and severe accident and source term analysis
- fuels analysis and testing
- materials analysis, including graphite behavior and high-temperature metal performance
- structural analysis, including containment/confinement performance and external challenges
- consequence analysis, including dose calculations and environmental impact studies
- nuclear materials safety (including enrichment, fabrication, and transport) and waste safety (including storage, transport, and disposal)
- nuclear safeguards and security
These areas of anticipatory and confirmatory research are designed to improve the agency's knowledge where uncertainty exists, where safety margins are not well-characterized, and where regulatory decisions need to be confirmed in existing or new designs and technologies. Much of this research work is done by Government laboratories, universities, and other research institutions under contracts with the NRC. In addition, the NRC obtains information indirectly through domestic and international cooperation, as well as directly from research and development conducted by reactor designers and developers.
The NRC's annual Regulatory Information Conference (RIC) provides a forum for presentations and discussions about the agency's research activities. Information gained from the research program is documented in our NUREG-series publications and is used in developing regulatory guides. In addition, some of these publications provide documentation and information on the use of technical computer codes that are used in research, modeling, and analysis.