Accident Tolerant Fuel Project Plan
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While the NRC may license accident tolerant fuels (ATF), including, higher burnup and increased enrichment fuels, 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 fuel designs that addresses the complete fuel cycle, including consideration of fuel fabrication, fresh fuel transport, in-reactor requirements, and spent fuel storage and transportation. 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 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 technical and policy 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 is taking steps to enhance its regulatory framework (i.e, rules and guidance) in parallel with the industry's research and development efforts. The staff will continue to communicate with NRC stakeholders throughout this process, so that transparency is maintained and regulatory expectations are clearly communicated to the applicant as early as possible in the process.
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-concept, higher burnup, and increased enrichment fuels. The current and previous versions of the plan are accessible, below.