NRC Considers Changes to Regulations for Renewing or Amending USEC Certificates

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No. 98-162

September 10, 1998


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking public comment on proposed changes to regulations that govern uranium enrichment plants operated by the U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) at Portsmouth, Ohio, and Paducah, Kentucky.

NRC first issued regulations in 1994 to establish the process by which it would assume regulatory authority for the 43-year-old gaseous diffusion plants, which previously operated under the authority of the Department of Energy and the Atomic Energy Commission. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 directed that USEC operate the plants and required the NRC to certify them periodically to ensure compliance with its safety, safeguards and security requirements. The NRC assumed regulatory jurisdiction over the plants' operations in 1997, after issuing initial certificates of compliance to USEC.

In implementing the certificate renewal and amendment processes, the NRC staff has identified several improvements that should be made. The proposed revisions would:

(1) Give NRC officials discretion as to whether to publish a Federal Register notice when an application for certificate renewal is received. Presently such publication is mandatory. Under the revisions, for example, if the renewal application does not address any new safety issues or there have not been any major changes to the facility or its operating procedures that would substantially increase the risk, the NRC might decide that a Federal Register notice is not necessary.

(2) Allow responsibility for granting or denying an amendment application to be delegated to the appropriate NRC branch chief, a lower level of management than currently required. Decisions by a branch chief could be appealed to the Office Director and, if necessary, to the Commission. (Currently, decisions on amendment applications are made by the Office Director and can be appealed to the Commission.)

(3) Eliminate the current distinction between "significant' and "not significant" amendments.

(4) Make NRC staff decisions on certificate renewal requests effective upon issuance, give the staff discretion as to whether to publish a Federal Register notice announcing such decisions, and increase the Commission's review time from 60 to 90 days.

(5) Eliminate restrictions as to who may file a petition seeking review of NRC's approval or denial of a certificate of compliance or a plan for achieving compliance for a gaseous diffusion plant. Also, the proposed changes would extend the time to file a petition from 15 to 30 days after a Federal Register notice is published.

Further details of the proposed changes will be contained in a notice to be published in the Federal Register shortly. Interested persons are invited to submit written comments within 60 days of the notice to the Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, Attention: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff. Comments may also be submitted electronically, via the agency's interactive rulemaking web site at

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