NRC Proposes Changes to Regulations on Spent Fuel Cask Fabrication, Hearing Scope

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No. 99-230
Thursday, October 28, 1999

NRC Proposes Changes to Regulations
on Spent Fuel Cask Fabrication, Hearing Scope

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is proposing to amend its regulations in 10 CFR Part 72 for storage of spent fuel from nuclear power plants to allow cask manufacturers to begin fabrication--at their own risk--before NRC approves use of the cask. The proposed rule would require NRC approval of the quality assurance program before cask fabrication can commence.

The proposed amendments would also provide that previously approved cask designs could not be challenged during a licensing hearing.

While maintaining adequate assurance of cask design sufficiency and quality assurance, these changes would facilitate reducing the regulatory burden and provide flexibility to both applicants and licensees.

NRC has two processes for approving spent fuel storage: (1) a specific license for an independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI), in which NRC conducts a detailed review of an application to build and operate the installation on a specific site and (2) a general license, in which a nuclear power plant licensee may use storage cask designs previously approved by the NRC, without having a specific license or detailed review by NRC (although certain site-specific issues are examined).

The NRC anticipates that it may receive applications for specific licenses for ISFSI's that will propose using cask designs already approved by the NRC for use under a general license. Under current regulations, the adequacy of these previously approved cask designs could be at issue during a licensing hearing.

The proposed rule states that if a specific license application for an ISFSI incorporates information on the design of an NRC-approved spent fuel storage cask, the scope of any public hearing held to consider the application will not include any cask design issues previously addressed by the Commission.

This would eliminate the need for repetitious reviews by a hearing board. In addition, the public would have already had an opportunity to comment on each cask design before it was approved for use under a general license, because the Commission issues a Federal Register notice seeking public comments before deciding whether to incorporate a design into its regulations as approved for use.

With regard to cask fabrication, current regulations prohibit a general licensee and its contractor and an applicant for NRC approval of a cask design for use under a general license from beginning fabrication of the cask before the NRC issues a certificate of compliance. Applicants for a specific license for an ISFSI, in contrast, are permitted to begin early fabrication of casks before the license is issued. The proposed revisions to the regulations would eliminate this differing NRC treatment between general and specific licensees.

Early fabrication would be at the risk of the applicant, who would have to bear the costs of any actions required to conform a fabricated cask to the conditions of the NRC certificate of compliance.

Interested persons are invited to submit comments within 75 days of publication of a Federal Register notice on this subject, which is expected shortly. Written comments should be sent to the Secretary, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, Attention: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff.

Comments may also be submitted electronically via the NRC's interactive rulemaking web site.

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