Spent Fuel Storage and Transportation Sub-Arena

Spent fuel storage and transportation comprises one of three sub-arenas that the staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) identified in considering which areas of the waste management arena to target for greater use of risk information. This page summarizes the following aspects of this sub-arena:


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Utilize risk information on a case-by-case basis to prioritize and address regulatory initiatives in spent fuel storage and radioactive materials transportation.

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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 waste activities. Guidance on how to apply this framework is provided in "Risk-Informed Decision-Making for Material and Waste Applications". In particular, individual risk-informed applications must meet the established screening criteria.

In this subarena, the NRC staff is limited in its ability to risk-inform the agency's regulatory activities because it is not cost-beneficial to perform risk-assessment of each of the numerous storage or transport designs. As a result, the agency has conducted (or sponsored) risk assessments for a few selected designs. In addition, the staff may apply risk assessments to specific activities on a case-by-case basis, provided that the screening criteria are met. For example, the staff has completed and documented a pilot study PRA of a dry cask storage facility, and determined that the risk from that facility was negligibly small.

The goal described below meets the screening criterion for cost/benefit by assessing risk impacts by judgment.

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The staff has established the following goal for risk-informed and performance-based activities in this subarena:

  • Produce updated versions of NUREG-1536, "Standard Review Plan for Dry Cask Storage Systems," and NUREG-1567, "Standard Review Plan for Spent Fuel Dry Storage Facilities."

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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 Spent Fuel Storage and Transportation Sub-Arena within the Waste Management Arena:

Regulatory Framework for Spent Fuel Storage and Transportation

Summary Description

As shown in existing probabilistic risk assessment studies, the risk associated with dry cask storage is very low. The goal of this effort was to develop a framework for spent fuel storage to enable the staff to perform a more risk-informed regulatory review, improve guidance, streamline casework activities, help assess 10 CFR 72.48 changes, and evaluate requests for exemptions to the regulation while maintaining appropriate margins of safety and security. NMSS/DSFM developed a scoping and implementation plan for risk-informing storage regulatory activities.

The NRC's graded approach to improve the dry cask storage regulatory process takes into consideration quantitative and qualitative risk insights, as well as, qualitative evaluations that rely on safety functions, defense-in-depth, and engineering judgement, while also maintaining safety and security and ensuring that the associated regulatory requirements are met.

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Thermal Evaluation Model Topical Report

Summary Description

Capitalizing on the Division of Fuel Management's efforts to enhance the spent fuel storage licensing process over the last several years, on November 8, 2019, NEI submitted a white paper containing sixteen recommendations to explore further enhancements related to dry storage performance safety margin.  The goal of the white paper is to leverage industry experience with loading and maintenance of dry cask spent nuclear fuel storage systems to identify improvements to the regulatory framework for licensing these systems.  The staff has held eight workshops during this fiscal year to align on the recommendations, develop implementations plans, and status implementation efforts.  In general, the white paper, and more importantly, the staff's leadership on this initiative align well with the agency's direction to become a modern risk-informed regulator, especially as the staff develops plans to further risk-inform its approach to spent fuel storage licensing.  The staff has made great progress in implementing changes that address several of the of the sixteen recommendations in the white paper.

In addition to the method of evaluation (MOE) topical report, other initiatives related to the overall effort identified in this website include:  Regulatory Framework for Spent Fuel Storage and Transportation and the Risk Tool for Spent Fuel Dry Cask Storage.

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Risk Tool for Spent Fuel Dry Cask Storage

Summary Description

The NRC staff is developing a guidance document to include risk information in the review of dry cask license applications and license amendments. The tool is based on risk studies, past safety evaluation reports, and staff expert knowledge. This dry cask Risk Tool would be used to rate specific licensing actions in four different color coordinated results which correspond to high (red), medium (yellow), or low (green) risk, and outside the scope of the tool (blue). This preliminary risk rating can then be used alongside other information and staff experience to determine the level of review required for a specific requested licensing action.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, January 04, 2021