Fusion Systems

Fusion systems harness the energy released in a controlled thermonuclear fusion reaction in which two nuclei combine to form a new nucleus. This process occurs in our Sun and other stars. Creating and sustaining the high temperature and pressure conditions for fusion on Earth has been a major technological challenge since the first controlled fusion in 1958. Significant progress has been made in recent decades.

On January 3, 2018, the United States Congress passed the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) that requires the NRC to develop and implement the necessary regulatory frameworks for advance reactor designs by December 31, 2027. Fusion systems are included in the NEIMA's definition for advanced reactor. Therefore, the NRC is working to develop a clear and predictable regulatory framework for the near-term fusion system designs.

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On January 3, 2023, the NRC staff submitted SECY-23-0001, "Options for Licensing and Regulating Fusion Energy Systems," providing three options for Commission consideration for. These three options included:

  1. Categorization of fusion systems as utilization facilities with the NRC staff developing a new framework to address the associated specific hazards.
  2. A byproduct material approach augmenting the framework in 10 CFR Part 30, "Rules of General Applicability to Domestic Licensing of Byproduct Material".
  3. A hybrid framework with decision criteria, based on the potential risks and hazards of a specific fusion system, to determine whether a byproduct material or a utilization facility approach is appropriate for that system.

On April 13, 2023, the Commission issued SRM-SECY-23-0001, "Staff Requirements – SECY-23-0001 – Options for Licensing and Regulating Fusion Energy Systems," approving the option for a limited-scope rulemaking to establish a regulatory framework for fusion systems that augments the NRC's byproduct material framework in 10 CFR Part 30. The Commission included additional direction for the staff:

  • The staff should take into account the existence of fusion systems that already have been licensed and are being regulated by the Agreement States, as well as those that may be licensed prior to the completion of the rulemaking.
  • The staff should develop a new volume of NUREG-1556, "Consolidated Guidance About Materials Licenses," dedicated to fusion systems, so as to provide consistent guidance across the National Materials Program.
  • The staff should evaluate whether controls-by-design approaches, export controls, or other controls are necessary for near-term fusion systems.
  • If in the future, the staff, in consultation with the Agreement States, determines that an anticipated fusion design presents hazards sufficiently beyond those of near-term fusion technologies, the staff should notify the Commission and make recommendations for taking appropriate action as needed.

The staff is currently developing the proposed rule and the new volume to NUREG-1556. Both will be issued for public comment.

Rulemaking Milestones Date
Proposed Rule sent to Signature Authority September 13, 2024
Proposed Rule Publication Date March 14, 2025

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Agreement State Participation

Agreement States have entered into agreements with the NRC that give them the authority to license and inspect byproduct, source, or special nuclear materials used or possessed within their borders. Under this program, the NRC and Agreement States function as regulatory partners and work together on:

  • Development of regulatory guides and procedures
  • Development of regulations
  • Integrated Material Performance Evaluation Program (IMPEP)

The NRC will leverage this experience and work with all Agreement States to develop a comprehensive framework for regulation of Fusion Systems.

More information on the Agreement States Program.

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Public Meetings

The NRC considers public involvement in, and information about, our activities to be a cornerstone of strong, fair regulation of the nuclear industry. We recognize the public's interest in the proper regulation of nuclear activities and the importance of providing opportunities for citizens to be heard. The NRC held seven public meetings between January 2021 and July 2023. Details of those meetings can be found below. The next public meeting on the NRC's Fusion Systems rulemaking is tentatively planned for Fall 2023. Specific meeting details will be provided at a later date on the NRC Public Meeting Schedule.

Upcoming Public Meetings Date
  • TBD
Recent Public Meetings Date
Virtual Public Meeting on “Proposed Rule: Regulatory Framework for Fusion Energy Systems” July 12, 2023
Commission Meeting: Organization of Agreement States and the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors May 18, 2023
Commission Meeting: Briefing on Regulatory Approaches for Fusion Energy Devices November 8, 2022
Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards Full Committee Meeting October 5, 2022
Meeting with the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards Regulatory Policies and Practices Subcommittee September 23, 2022
Virtual Public Meeting on "Developing Options for a Regulatory Framework for Fusion Energy Systems" June 7, 2022
Virtual Public Meeting on "Developing Options for a Regulatory Framework for Fusion Energy Systems" March 23, 2022
Virtual Public Meeting on "Developing Options for a Regulatory Framework for Fusion Energy Systems" October 27, 2021
Virtual Public Meeting on "Developing Options for a Regulatory Framework for Fusion Energy Systems" September 16, 2021
Meeting with Advisory Committee for Reactor Safeguards Future Plants Subcommittee May 6, 2021
Virtual Public Meeting on Developing Options for a Regulatory Framework for Fusion Energy Systems March 30, 2021
Virtual Public Meeting on Developing Options for a Regulatory Framework for Fusion Energy Systems January 26, 2021
DOE, NRC, and Fusion Industry Association public forum October 6, 2020

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