United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

NRC Interactions: Public | Industry | Department of Energy | International

Industry Interactions

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Increased Communications

Communications with stakeholders is key to the success of the NRC's efforts to review accident tolerant fuel (ATF) technologies within the industry's proposed timelines. The ATF project plan describes a new paradigm in fuels licensing where the development of the technical basis (i.e., the justification that the new ATF technologies are safe to use) occurs in parallel with any needed refinement of the regulatory infrastructure (i.e., new/modified regulations, new/modified guidance, etc.) Historically, refinement of the regulatory infrastructure, if necessary, begins after industry develops a technical basis and submits licensing actions. Before licensing actions are submitted for review, there may be little or no interaction between industry and the NRC staff. This lack of interaction can result in cases where additional testing requiring irradiation is necessary to gain NRC approval, which can cause extensive delays.

To avoid these delays, the NRC has set out to significantly increase the communication with stakeholders before submittals are received. Specifically, the ATF project plan states:

Refinement of the regulatory infrastructure will be done in real-time and with significant communication with agency stakeholders to maintain transparency and clearly communicate regulatory expectations to the vendors as early as possible in the process. In addition, the new paradigm allows for licensing activities in the form of TRs to proceed in parallel with the completion of the technical basis for a specific concept. Data sharing and close engagement with the vendor during this time will be critical in gaining the efficiency depicted in Figure 3.2 [ATF project plan new paradigm diagram]. The staff will need to perform significant amounts of prework to prepare for and conduct the most efficient reviews of ATF LTRs [licensing topical reports].

The NRC is following the ATF project plan regarding interactions with stakeholders. One of the associated successes is the issuance of the Chromium-coated cladding Interim Staff Guidance (ISG) in January 2020. The ISG was issued before any Chromium-coated cladding submittals were received, and will ensure that the NRC staff can perform a more efficient and effective review of any forthcoming coated cladding submittals.

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General Communications with Industry

The NRC will send out communications to industry when it is deemed necessary for the staff to provide, or request, information from industry regarding ATF. The following communications have been issued to industry.

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Meetings with Vendors

To stay abreast of developments, challenges, and changes in scheduling and technical direction the NRC meets with the major fuel vendors on a routine basis (often quarterly) on the topic of ATF. These publicly noticed meetings have an open portion in the beginning of the meeting for NRC updates and any public comments. Afterward, the meeting is generally closed because the information discussed is often proprietary and business-sensitive.

A list of past public meetings, including those with fuel vendors, can be found on the Interactions with the Public webpage.

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Pre-submittal Meetings

Meetings to discuss forthcoming topical reports, license amendments, and other submittals are very important to both the NRC and industry to discuss any challenges or questions surrounding the licensing of ATF. The NRC highly encourages all industry stakeholders to request a pre-submittal meeting as early as possible in the development cycle to ensure that any foreseen challenges and progress are discussed.

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Conference and Seminar Attendance

Industry and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hold several conferences throughout the year to discuss ATF progress, research, and industry direction. Two examples of these conferences are the TopFuel conference and the DOE's Advanced Fuels Campaign annual meeting. The NRC staff attends these meetings to stay up-to-date on ATF developments and timelines, and to identify what parts of the regulatory infrastructure might need to be revised or developed for the forthcoming applications.

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In late September 2016, the Electric Power Research Institute and the NRC signed a memorandum of understanding to conserve resources and to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort. Both the NRC and EPRI agreed to cooperate in selected research efforts and to share information and/or costs related to such research whenever such cooperation and cost sharing is appropriate and mutually beneficial.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, July 23, 2020