United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Accident Tolerant Fuel Project Plan

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While the NRC may license these accident tolerant fuels (ATF) under the current regulatory structure, the staff is taking steps to make agency processes more efficient and effective. The NRC has developed a project plan to prepare for both near-term and longer-term ATF designs that addresses the complete fuel cycle, including consideration of fuel fabrication, fresh fuel transport, in-reactor requirements, and spent fuel storage and transportation. The plan also acknowledges consideration for operational flexibilities that licensees may seek based upon the additional safety margin provided by ATF designs. Throughout the development of the plan, the staff had extensive engagement with agency stakeholders, including licensees, nuclear fuel vendors, industry groups, nongovernmental organizations, and the NRC's international counterparts.

The plan outlines a new regulatory approach to fuel licensing, in which the NRC engages with ATF applicants much earlier in the research and development phase than is typical. Data sharing and close engagement with the applicant during the research and development phase should facilitate efficiency in the later licensing phases. This early engagement is designed to identify potential safety issues as soon as possible so that they may be addressed and the staff's overall safety conclusions may be reached within the planned licensing timeframe. The NRC will also refine its regulatory infrastructure (i.e, rules and guidance) in parallel with the industry's research and development efforts. The staff will refine the regulatory infrastructure with significant communication with NRC stakeholders so that transparency is maintained and regulatory expectations are clearly communicated to the applicant as early as possible in the process.

Version 1.0 of the ATF Project Plan

During late 2018 and into 2019, higher burnup and increased enrichment were incorporated by the industry into ATF designs to help further lower the costs of electricity production over the licensed lifetime of an existing commercial nuclear reactor. As a result, the NRC developed Appendix A, "Fuel Burnup and Enrichment Extension Preparation Strategy," to account for the change. With the new Appendix A and several other changes made to account for accomplishments over the past year, the NRC issued Version 1.1 of the plan in October 2019.

Version 1.1 of the ATF Project Plan

The NRC staff periodically reviews the plan to determine when updates will be necessary to inform all stakeholders of the revised NRC approaches to licensing ATF.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, July 23, 2020