Light-Water Reactors Sub-Arena

New light-water reactors (LWRs) comprise one of four sub-arenas that the staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) identified in considering which areas of the reactor safety arena to target for greater use of risk information. This page summarizes the following aspects of this sub-arena:


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Implement risk-informed and performance-based activities to address the PRA elements of Title 10, Part 52, of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR Part 52), and to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the design certification, licensing, and oversight activities that the NRC staff conducts for new LWRs.

This objective has two main parts:

  • First, this objective involves using the plant-specific PRA to implement risk-informed and performance-based programs. For example, the maintenance rule (10 CFR 50.65) will utilize the PRA to a great extent. Other examples include initiatives that a new reactor licensee may voluntarily pursue, such as risk-informed technical specification completion time, risk-informed in-service inspection, or special treatment under 10 CFR 50.69.
  • Second, this objective involves using risk insights and PRA results to improve the NRC's effectiveness and efficiency in the licensing and oversight processes. For example, the staff will use risk insights, in conjunction with other considerations, to focus its review of a new reactor license application on those aspects that are important to risk. Other examples include developing risk-informed acceptance criteria for applications and adopting a risk-informed approach to sampling the inspection, testing, analysis, and acceptance criteria (ITAAC) to confirm the acceptability of the as-built plant.

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The risk-informed and performance-based activities (listed below) for this sub-arena satisfy the following screening criteria:

  • The stated objective will help to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the NRC's regulatory process, while increasing nuclear plant safety and reducing unnecessary regulatory burden.
  • The bases for developing a risk-informed and performance-based regulatory structure for licensing and oversight of new LWRs are articulated in several Commission documents, policy statements, and processes (including the 10 CFR Part 52 rulemaking).
  • Goals and activities to meet the objective for this sub-arena will be performance-based, to the extent that they meet the following four criteria:
    1. measurable parameters to monitor performance
    2. objective criteria to assess performance
    3. flexibility to allow licensees to determine how to meet the performance criteria
    4. no immediate safety concern as a result of failure to meet the performance criteria

An applicant for a combined license (COL) for a new LWR is required to perform a PRA. The NRC staff expects such PRAs to be used for the following purposes:

  • Identify risk-informed safety insights.
  • Demonstrate how risk compares to the Commission's goals.
  • Assess the balance between accident prevention and mitigation.
  • Identify and address vulnerabilities, reduce risk contributors, and select among design alternatives during the design phase.
  • Demonstrate that the plant design represents a reduction in risk (compared to existing operating plants).
  • Demonstrate that the design addresses the requirements in 10 CFR 50.34(f), as they relate to Three Mile Island (TMI).

PRA results and insights are used to support the following programs (among others):

  • Regulatory Treatment of Non-Safety Systems (RTNSS)
  • Inspection, test, analysis, and acceptance criteria (ITAAC)
  • Reliability Assurance Program (RAP)
  • Future aspects of regulatory oversight, technical specifications, the maintenance rule (10 CFR 50.65), and others

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The following goals are derived from the Commission's policy statements and guidance, which reflect the current phase of NRC and industry development, as well as the current implementation of risk-informed activities:

  • Ensure (during the design certification phase) that the applicant used risk-informed safety insights to select among alternative features, operational strategies, and design options to reduce or eliminate the significant risk contributors of existing operating plants.
  • Ensure that the risk associated with the design compares favorably with the Commission's goals of less than 1E-04/year for core damage frequency (CDF) and less than 1E-06/year for large release frequency (LRF).
  • Using the results and insights from the PRA, ensure that the COL applicant supported the RTNSS process, including the identification of structures, systems, and components (SSCs).
  • Using the results and insights from the PRA, ensure that the COL holder supported regulatory oversight processes, as well as programs associated with plant operations (such as technical specifications, reliability assurance, human factors, and maintenance rule implementation).
  • Using the results and insights from the PRA, ensure that the applicant identified and supported the development of specifications and performance objectives for plant design, construction, inspection, and operation (such as the ITAAC, RAP, technical specifications, and COL action items and interface requirements).

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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 Light-Water Reactors Sub-Arena within the Reactor Safety Arena:

Evaluate and Develop Risk-Informed Regulatory ROP Guidance for New Reactors

Summary Description

In response to the staff requirements memorandum (SRM) on SECY-12-0081, "Risk-informed Regulatory Framework for New Reactors," the staff submitted SECY-13-0137, "Recommendations for Risk-Informing the Reactor Oversight Process (ROP) for New Reactors." In that SECY paper the staff recommended the development of an integrated risk-informed approach for evaluating the safety significance of inspection findings for new reactor designs. In its SRM on SECY-13-0137, the Commission approved the staff's recommendation to develop appropriate performance indicators (PIs) and thresholds for new reactors. The Commission requested that the staff develop, with appropriate stakeholder input, the necessary updates to the PIs, including any new PIs or changes to thresholds, and submit them to the Commission for approval before power operation for the first new reactor units.

The Commission disapproved the staff's recommendation to develop an integrated risk-informed approach for evaluating the safety significance of inspection findings for new reactor designs. The Commission directed the staff to enhance the Significance Determination Process (SDP) by developing a structured qualitative assessment for events or conditions that are not evaluated in the supporting plant risk models, such as those conditions that might arise with passive safety systems, digital instrumentation and control (I&C), and human performance issues. The Commission requested that the staff submit a paper to the Commission with its proposed approach for any revisions to the SDP for new reactors at least 1 year before the scheduled implementation of any changes to the Reactor Oversight Program (ROP).

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, January 04, 2021