Construction Inspection Program for New Reactors

After issuing a combined license (COL) for a new reactor, in accordance with the provisions of Title 10, Part 52, of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR Part 52), the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) implements a stringent construction inspection program (CIP) during the period between licensing and initial operation and issues inspection reports documenting the results of the CIP. Developed by the Division of Construction Inspection Programs (DCIP) at the NRC's headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, the CIP is primarily implemented by the Region II Office in Atlanta, Georgia. Region II dispatches as many as five resident construction inspectors to a new reactor site during the pre-operational phase of construction to oversee the day-to-day activities of the licensee and its contractors, and may supplement this inspection staff with additional personnel from Region II and other regional offices, and Headquarters technical staff, as needed to ensure that the as-built facility conforms to the conditions of the COL. NRC resources are carefully managed to ensure that construction inspection activities do not in any way detract from the ongoing oversight of operating reactors.

The NRC's onsite construction inspectors devote significant time and resources to verify the licensee's completion of the requisite inspections, tests, analyses, and acceptance criteria (ITAAC). The introduction of ITAAC into the new reactor licensing process under 10 CFR Part 52 created a design-specific pre-approved set of performance standards that the licensee must meet to the NRC's satisfaction. Under Inspection Manual Chapter (IMC) 2503, the NRC uses these direct inspections and other methods to confirm that the licensee has met these performance standards, as set forth in the COL, before allowing the licensee to begin loading fuel for initial plant startup and operation. In addition, under IMC 2504, the CIP inspects licensee construction programs (including Quality Assurance activities), pre-operational testing activities, and readiness of programs that will be required during operations. The inspections conducted in parallel under these two IMCs ensure that facilities are constructed correctly and that licensees will have the appropriate programs in place to operate safely. At the appropriate time, the CIP will also facilitate a smooth transition of NRC oversight to the Reactor Oversight Process.

As part of the CIP, the NRC conducts Vendor Quality Assurance Inspections to ensure that products and services furnished to U.S. reactors meet established regulatory requirements for quality and other safety factors.

In addition to its inspection functions, the CIP staff monitors construction and operational experience, as it applies to new reactors, and communicates relevant information to key stakeholders. The CIP staff also reviews allegations and implements the NRC's Enforcement Policy, as applicable for new reactor construction, using IMC 2505.

For additional information about the NRC's Construction Inspection Program for new reactors, see the following related pages: