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Governing Regulations and Requirements for Topical Reports

A topical report allows for a single review and (if appropriate) approval by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of a safety-related topic that may apply to multiple nuclear power plants. This increases the efficiency and efficacy of the licensing process and reduces the burden on licensees by minimizing the time and resources that both industry and the NRC staff could expend on redundant licensing reviews. For additional information, see the following topics on this page:

Governing Regulations

The NRC's regulations related to topical reports are set forth in Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations sections 10 CFR 2.390, 10 CFR 21, 10 CFR 50.5, 10 CFR 50.7, and 10 CFR 170.11.

The NRC has also developed internal Office Instruction LIC-500, "Processing Requests for Reviews of Topical Reports" to standardize the process of reviewing a topical report within the NRC.


The following requirements apply to topical reports:

Criteria for a Topical Report

A report submitted for review as a topical report should meet all four of the following criteria:

  1. The report deals with a specific safety-related subject regarding a U.S. nuclear power plant that requires a safety assessment by the NRC staff; for example, component design, analytical models or techniques, or performance testing of components and/or systems that can be evaluated independently of a specific license application.

  2. The report is expected to be referenced by multiple licensees in a number of license amendment requests following NRC staff approval. Generally, a report intended for use by multiple sites of an individual licensee is not considered a topical report.

  3. The report contains complete and detailed information on the specific subject presented. Conceptual or incomplete preliminary information will not be reviewed.

  4. NRC approval of the report will increase the efficiency of the review process for applications that reference the report.

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Exceptions to the Criteria

Exceptions to these criterion, especially criterion (2), may be allowed on a case-by-case basis if the NRC staff determines that an exception is in the public interest. The applicant must provide written justification of this to the NRC staff prior to submitting the topical report for review, preferably at the pre-submittal meeting stage. Examples of justification for an exception include a contribution to resolving a safety-related issue, a technological advancement that would benefit safety or reduce an operational burden, or significant cost savings to the industry. Any NRC staff decision to accept for review a topical report that does not meet the four criteria above must also find that the projected staff resources for review of the report are justified. Before accepting a topical report with exceptions for review, the NRC also determines whether the resources expended in the review are worth reducing resources committed to other regulatory activities, such as licensing actions.

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Using Topical Reports in Plant-Specific Licensing Actions

Licensees may not reference a topical report in a licensing amendment request until the topical report is fully completed and the approved ("-A") version of the topical report is verified for completeness by the NRC staff. The "-A" designation alone does not make a topical report an official licensing document, but it does represent a good-faith commitment on the part of the NRC to accept the conclusions of the topical report and the NRC's associated safety evaluation during future licensing reviews, subject to changes in regulations or NRC guidance.

However, plant-specific concerns must always be taken into account when actually using an approved topical report in a specific licensing action. For this reason, the NRC verifies relevant criteria for approved topical reports during each licensing action to ensure that the topical report's conclusions are both valid and applicable to the particular licensing action under review. Although sometimes redundant, the NRC believes that this is an essential step in ensuring that the otherwise time-saving topical report program fully meets the NRC's high standards for protection of public health and safety.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, April 01, 2016