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Regulations, Guidance, and Communications for New Reactors

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) conducts its new reactor licensing activities through a combination of regulatory requirements and regulatory guidance. The applicable regulatory requirements are found in Chapter I of Title 10, "Energy," of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Chapter I is divided into Parts 1 through 199. Regulatory guidance is generally contained in regulatory guides, interim staff guidance, standard review plans, office instructions, and review standards. For detail, see the following topics on this page:

See also, information on all NRC Rules and Petitions.

The NRC welcomes Public Involvement in Rulemaking, and invites the public to comment on proposed rules and policies, licensing actions, and draft technical documents.  We announce public comment opportunities in the Federal Register and on our Documents for Comment page.

Governing Regulations

Of the NRC's existing regulations, the following are most relevant to the design, siting, construction, and operation of new commercial nuclear power facilities:

  • 10 CFR Part 51, "Environmental Protection Regulations for Domestic Licensing and Related Regulatory Functions"
  • 10 CFR Part 52, "Licenses, Certifications, and Approvals for Nuclear Power Plants"

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Existing Guidance Documents

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Regulatory Guides (RGs), which the NRC issues in 10 broad divisions, provide guidance to licensees and applicants on implementing specific parts of the NRC's regulations, techniques used by the NRC staff in evaluating specific problems or postulated accidents, and data needed by the staff in its review of applications for permits or licenses. Of these guides, the following are most relevant to the design, siting, construction, and operation of new commercial nuclear power facilities:

The NRC's Interim Staff Guidance Associated with Combined License (COL), Design Certification (DC), and Early Site Permit (ESP) Applications for New Reactors also provides valuable insights for prospective applicants and other agency stakeholders.

The following guidance documents may also be useful to prospective applicants and other stakeholders:

  • NUREG-0800, "Standard Review Plan for the Review of Safety Analysis Reports for Nuclear Power Plants"
  • NUREG-1555, "Standard Review Plan for Environmental Reviews for Nuclear Power Plants"
  • Office Instruction NRO-REG-100, "Acceptance Review Process for Early Site Permit, Design Certification, and Combined License Applications"
  • Review Standard RS-002, "Guidance for Processing Applications for Early Site Permits"

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Ongoing Rulemaking and Regulatory Guidance Development

The NRC is proposing several changes to its regulations that are pertinent to new reactors. These and other proposed rule changes, as well as changes to associated NRC regulatory guides, are accessible through the Rulemaking page. The following links are particularly relevant to new reactors:

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The Environmental Review Process FAST-41 and EO 13807

The NRC's regulations in Chapter 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) Part 51 "Environmental Protection Regulations for Domestic Licensing and Related Regulatory Functions" implement the agency's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. In accordance with 10 CFR Part 51, the NRC prepares an environmental impact statement in support of certain licensing actions. Some of those licensing actions also meet the definition of a major infrastructure project under EO 13807. The includes the following: The NRC's regulations in Chapter 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) Part 51 "Environmental Protection Regulations for Domestic Licensing and Related Regulatory Functions" implement the agency's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The NRC must prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) as part of its review for the following major infrastructure projects as defined in EO 13807:

  • Construction permit (CP) under 10 CFR Part 50, "Domestic Licensing of Production and Utilization Facilities,"
  • An early site permit or combined license (COL) under 10 CFR Part 52 "Licenses, Certifications, and Approvals for Nuclear Power Plants",
  • Certain front-end of the fuel cycle facilities licensing actions under 10 CFR Part 40 "Domestic Licensing of Source Material," and 10 CFR Part 70 "Domestic Licensing of Special Nuclear Material."

Currently, the NRC staff estimates that the environmental review process will take approximately 24-36 months. This includes scoping, issuance of the draft EIS, a comment period, and issuance of the final EIS. The NRC staff currently conducts its environmental reviews using NUREG-1555, "Environmental Standard Review Plan" (ESRP) and NUREG-1748, "Environmental Review Guidance for Licensing Actions Associated with NMSS Programs".

On December 4, 2015, the Fixing American's Surface Transportation Act was enacted. Title 41 (FAST-41) of this law applies to infrastructure projects, including certain energy production activities, being reviewed by the federal government. FAST-41 was established to increase efficiency, transparency and consultation in the Federal environmental review and authorization process. On August 15, 2017, the President signed Executive Order (EO) 13807 titled 'Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects," (82 FR 40463). This EO has a similar objective of streamlining the Federal ERA process. More information about FAST41, EO13807 and the NRC's environmental review process is available at NRC's Environmental Review Process.

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New Reactor Lessons Learned

The NRC staff continues the practice of conducting lessons learned reviews of the experience implementing Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 52, "Licenses, Certifications, and Approvals for Nuclear Power Plants." The staff has evaluated the initial licensing as well as post licensing construction. These reports are available in ADAMS and also consolidated here for ease of access:

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Other Resources

For additional information, see the following related resources:

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Wednesday, September 05, 2018