United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Reactor License Renewal Regulations

On this page:

License Renewal Rule - 10 CFR Part 54

In 1982, the NRC held a workshop on nuclear power plant aging, in anticipation of the interest in license renewal. That led the NRC to establish a comprehensive program plan for Nuclear Plant Aging Research (NPAR). Based on the results of that research, a technical review group concluded that many aging phenomena are readily manageable and do not pose technical issues that would preclude life extension for nuclear power plants. In 1986, the NRC published a request for comment on a policy statement that would address major policy, technical and procedural issues related to life extension. In 1991, the NRC published the license renewal rule in 10 CFR Part 54, "Requirements for Renewal of Operating Licenses For Nuclear Power Plants." The NRC then undertook a demonstration program to apply the rule to pilot plants and develop experience to establish implementation guidance. To establish a scope of review for license renewal, the rule defined age-related degradation unique to license renewal. However, during the demonstration program, the NRC found that many aging mechanisms occur and are managed during the period of the initial license. In addition, the NRC found that scope of the review did not allow sufficient credit or existing programs, particularly the implementation of the maintenance rule which also manages plant aging phenomena.

As a result, in 1995 the NRC amended the license renewal rule. The amended 10 CFR Part 54 established a regulatory process that is simpler, more stable, and more predictable than the previous license renewal rule. In particular, Part 54 was clarified to focus on managing the adverse effects of aging rather than identification of all aging mechanisms. The rule changes were intended to ensure that important systems, structures, and components will continue to perform their intended function in the period of extended operation. In addition, the integrated plant assessment (IPA) process was clarified and simplified to be consistent with the revised focus on passive, long-lived structures and components. The development of the License Renewal Rule revision and the current Commission philosophy regarding license renewal is discussed in the Statement of Considerations that accompanies the License Renewal Rule as published in the Federal Register, May 8, 1995.

To top of page

Environmental Regulations - 10 CFR Part 51

The environmental protection regulations in 10 CFR Part 51, "Environmental Protection Regulations for Domestic Licensing and Related Regulatory Functions," were revised on December 18, 1996, to facilitate the environmental review for license renewal, codifying the findings documented in the Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS). The GEIS examines the possible environmental impacts that could occur as a result of renewing any commercial nuclear power plant license, and, to the extent possible, establishes the bounds and significance of these potential impacts. The application must also contain an analysis of the plant's impact on the environment if allowed to continue operation beyond the initial license term. A review of the environmental aspects of renewing an operating license continues on a separate "track" than the safety reviews of the technical information.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, April 25, 2013