Fuel Cycle Sub-Arena

The Nation's fuel cycle facilities comprise one of two sub-arenas that the staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) identified in considering which areas of the materials safety arena to target for greater use of risk information. This page summarizes the following aspects of this sub-arena:


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For fuel cycle facilities, make continuous improvement in licensing and oversight, and risk inform new regulations as needed, while performing existing risk-informed functions.

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SECY-99-100 and SECY-04-0182, as well as the related staff requirements memorandum (SRM), provide the conceptual framework for risk-informing the NRC's fuel cycle activities. Guidance on how to apply this framework is provided in "Risk-Informed Decision-Making for Material and Waste Applications, Rev. 1," which is available in the NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS), under Accession No.ML080720238. In particular, individual risk-informed applications must meet the established screening criteria.

The screening criteria applied to the goals (below) of implementing the NRC's revised regulatory requirements, as specified in Title 10, Part 70, of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR Part 70), would indicate that the given activity was undertaken to increase confidence in the margin of safety of fuel cycle facilities by requiring the use of a risk-informed approach to identify and manage items that are relied on for safety. Cost/benefit was not a consideration, and technical feasibility was known because two licensees had already implemented such systems. The revision of 10 CFR Part 70 is expected to reduce staff effort, while improving regulatory effectiveness, by providing more frequent updates of licensee design information and related risk information.

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The staff has established the following goals for risk-informed and performance-based activities in this sub-arena:

  • Revise the existing licensing guidance to reflect lessons learned from implementation of 10 CFR 70 Subpart H.
  • Complete revision of inspection guidance to make use of the resulting risk information to focus inspections.
  • Revise the Fuel Cycle Oversight Program to make it more risk-informed and performance-based consistent with Commission direction.

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List of Risk-Informed and Performance-Based Activities

This list shows the ongoing licensing initiatives, projects, and activities that the staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has targeted for greater use of risk information in the Fuel Cycle Facilities Sub-Arena within the Materials Safety Arena:

ANS Standard 57.11, "Integrated Safety Assessments for Fuel Cycle Facilities"

Summary Description

In SECY-12-0091, "Completeness and Quality of Integrated Safety Analyses," the staff recommended to the Commission that the staff request the American Nuclear Society (ANS) to develop an integrated safety analysis (ISA) standard. This standard would provide guidance on performing a complete, high-quality ISA. In addition to approving the staff's recommendation, the Commission instructed the staff to abstain from revising NUREG-1520, "Standard Review Plan for Fuel Cycle Facilities License Applications," in the areas related to the ISA standard until the standard's issuance. These areas include elements of risk analysis such as common cause failure, human error, and accident sequence screening.

In 2013, the ANS established a working group under the Nonreactor Nuclear Facilities Committee (NRNF) for proposed standard 57.11, "Integrated Safety Assessments for Fuel Cycle Facilities." The working group consists of representatives from the industry, Department of Energy (DOE), and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The staff actively participated in the initial drafts of the standard until 2015 when the staff reduced its participation in standards development as part of Project AIM.

The issuance of the standard is a high priority activity based on the tasks included in the Westinghouse Lessons Learned Action Plan. Specifically, the action plan included a high-priority task to evaluate the license review process. The staff recommended revising NUREG-1520 to address the risk-related findings of the Westinghouse Lessons Learned Report. The staff elevated the priority of issuing the ISA standard because of the standard's influence on the staff's ability to revise NUREG-1520.

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Rulemaking – Cybersecurity for Fuel Cycle Facilities

Summary Description

In the March 24, 2015, staff requirements memorandum (SRM) for SECY-14-0147, "Cyber Security for Fuel Cycle Facilities," the Commission directed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff to proceed with a high-priority cyber security rulemaking for fuel cycle facilities (FCFs). In response to the Commission's direction, the staff prepared a proposed rule that, if approved by the Commission, would amend the current regulations in 10 CFR Part 73, and make conforming changes to additional regulations in 10 CFR Part 40, "Domestic Licensing of Source Material," and Part 70, "Domestic Licensing of Special Nuclear Material," to establish cyber security requirements for certain FCF applicants and licensees. The proposed regulation, if approved, would require FCF applicants and licensees within the scope of the rule to establish, implement, and maintain a cyber security program designed to promote common defense and security and to provide reasonable assurance that the public health and safety remain adequately protected against the evolving risk of cyber attacks. As such, the licensee's cyber security program would enable the licensee to detect, protect against, and respond to a cyber attack capable of causing one or more of the consequences of concern defined in the proposed rule.

The determination of which 10 CFR Part 40 or Part 70 applicants and licensees that are within the scope of the proposed rule was risk-informed. The proposed requirements would apply only to: (1) each applicant or licensee subject to the requirements of 10 CFR Part 40 for the operation of a uranium hexafluoride conversion or deconversion facility; and (2) each applicant or licensee subject to the requirements of 10 CFR 70.60, "Applicability." This risk-informed approach avoids applying cyber security requirements to applicants or licensees that are of low risk to public health and safety.

Also included in the proposed rule is a risk-informed screening process to identify in-scope digital assets whose function is maintained by an alternate means and, therefore, would not require additional cyber security controls. This risk-informed determination is intended to reduce the regulatory burden while ensuring adequate protection of public health and safety.

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Rulemaking for Reprocessing Facilities

Summary Description

In SRM-SECY-13-0093, the Commission approved development of a reprocessing-specific rule in a new 10 CFR Part 7X. In the SRM the Commission also directed that the continued development of the regulatory framework for reprocessing be limited in scope, for the time being, to the resolution of "Safety and Risk Assessment Methodologies and Considerations for a Reprocessing Facility."

The purpose of this activity is to develop the foundation for the potential regulatory framework for reprocessing to enable a risk-informed licensing and oversight process by:

  • Evaluating methods for hazards and risk evaluations that can be implemented for aqueous and electrochemical reprocessing facilities;
  • Identifying performance requirements for a risk-informed regulatory framework; and
  • Obtaining peer review and public comments on the safety and risk assessment methodologies.

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Building Smarter Fuel Cycle Licensing and Inspection Programs

Summary Description

On January 15, 2019, the Director of the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) issued a memorandum to the NMSS staff on key principles for NMSS reviews. The memorandum states that the scope of staff reviews should be adjusted in the following ways:

  • focus staff resources and expertise on the most safety-significant portions of a licensing decision;
  • focus staff effort on reaching "adequate protection" or other regulatory conclusions based on reasonable assurance with respect to system performance, rather than an individual component; and
  • enable the staff to acknowledge that a new technology may be safer than an existing technology, although operating experience with that new technology may be lacking and the new technology may not meet the regulatory review standards developed for the existing technology.

The memorandum goes on to encourage "continued innovation and transformation in our work, including enhancing our use of risk insights in making a finding of reasonable assurance." The enclosure to the memorandum includes additional information on "reasonable assurance of adequate protection" and describes various principles the staff and management should consider in establishing the scope of licensing reviews, as well as performing and documenting the results of these reviews.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, December 31, 2020