Spent Fuel Reprocessing

CourtNuclear Regulatory Commission
Citation86 FR 40764
Record Number2021-16173
Publication Date29 Jul 2021
Federal Register, Volume 86 Issue 143 (Thursday, July 29, 2021)
[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 143 (Thursday, July 29, 2021)]
                [Rules and Regulations]
                [Pages 40764-40765]
                From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
                [FR Doc No: 2021-16173]
                10 CFR Parts 50 and 70
                RIN 3150-AJ53
                Spent Fuel Reprocessing
                AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
                ACTION: Discontinuation of rulemaking activity.
                SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is discontinuing
                a rulemaking activity that would have amended the NRC's regulations to
                add a new part to the existing regulatory framework specific to nuclear
                spent fuel reprocessing facilities. The purpose of this action is to
                inform members of the public that this rulemaking activity is being
                discontinued and to provide a brief discussion of the NRC's decision.
                This rulemaking activity will no longer be reported in the NRC's
                portion of the Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions
                (the Unified Agenda).
                DATES: As of July 29, 2021 the rulemaking activity discussed in this
                document is discontinued.
                ADDRESSES: Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2015-0016 when contacting the
                NRC about the availability of information for this action. You may
                obtain publicly-available information related to this action by any of
                the following methods:
                 Federal Rulemaking Website: Go to https://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2015-0016. Address
                questions about NRC dockets to Dawn Forder; telephone: 301-415-3407;
                email: [email protected]. For technical questions, contact the
                individual listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of
                this document.
                 NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System
                (ADAMS): You may obtain publicly-available documents online in the
                ADAMS Public Documents collection at https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. To begin the search, select ``Begin Web-based ADAMS
                Search.'' For problems with ADAMS, please contact the NRC's Public
                Document Room (PDR) reference staff at 1-800-397-4209, 301-415-4737, or
                by email to [email protected]. For the convenience of the reader,
                instructions about obtaining materials referenced in this document are
                provided in the ``Availability of Documents'' section.
                 Attention: The PDR, where you may examine and order copies
                of public documents, is currently closed. You may submit your request
                to the PDR via email at [email protected] or call 1-800-397-4209
                between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Easter Standard Time (EST), Monday
                through Friday, except Federal holidays.
                FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Boyce, Office of Nuclear Material
                Safety and Safeguards, telephone: 301-415-7335; email:
                [email protected]; U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC
                I. Background
                 Industry interest was the primary impetus for the NRC to update the
                regulatory framework for reprocessing light-water reactor spent fuel.
                In Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM)--SECY-13-0093, ``Staff
                Requirements--SECY-13-0093--Reprocessing Regulatory Framework--Status
                and Next Steps,'' the Commission approved the NRC staff's
                recommendation to develop a reprocessing-specific rule. It directed the
                staff's ``continued development of the regulatory framework should be
                limited in scope--for the time being--to the resolution of Gap 5,
                `Safety and Risk Assessment Methodologies and Considerations for a
                Reprocessing Facility.' '' Gap 5 focused on the development of
                analytical methods for the quantitative assessment of risks associated
                with reprocessing facility accidents to inform the basis for the
                development of regulatory requirements and regulatory guidance.
                 From 2013 to 2016 the staff focused its efforts on assessing the
                quantitative risk associated with reprocessing facility accidents
                (i.e., Gap 5). In 2016, the staff found that industry interest in
                constructing and operating a commercial light-water reactor spent fuel
                reprocessing facility had declined. As a result, in 2016, the NRC
                suspended work on the spent fuel reprocessing regulatory framework
                because of other higher priorities related to spent fuel storage and
                transportation, as well as budgetary constraints.
                II. Discussion
                 To inform its decision making, the NRC reached out to stakeholders
                to determine the degree of stakeholder interest in constructing,
                operating, and licensing a spent fuel reprocessing facility.
                Specifically, the NRC held a Category 3 public meeting on March 4,
                2020; participating stakeholders included the Nuclear Energy Institute
                (NEI), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Union of Concerned
                Scientists (UCS), industry representatives, environmental groups, and
                private citizens. The NEI and industry representatives voiced their
                support for continuing the rulemaking primarily on the basis of a need
                for a clear and stable regulatory framework for reprocessing and to
                support advanced reactor licensing. However, no industry stakeholders
                indicated that they plan to submit an application to the NRC for a
                reprocessing facility in the foreseeable future. Other stakeholders,
                such as UCS and members of the public, indicated they do not support
                the continuation of the rulemaking because of proliferation and other
                 In May 2020, after the public meeting, the NEI and the American
                Nuclear Society (ANS) sent letters to the NRC with further feedback on
                the need for rulemaking. The NEI stated that developers with advanced
                reactor designs that may eventually source their fuel from the spent
                fuel of other reactors are generally not planning to do so in the near
                future. The NEI encouraged the NRC to assess the technologies for
                advanced reactors before making any decisions on the reprocessing
                rulemaking. It also suggested that the NRC should not charge existing
                facilities with fees for work on a reprocessing rule. ANS encouraged
                the NRC to continue with the rulemaking and stated that the lack of an
                efficient, technically robust, and technology-inclusive regulatory
                foundation for reprocessing and recycling is a barrier to innovation in
                advanced reactor designs.
                 The NRC also engaged organizations and vendors in the advanced
                reactor community to assess their interest in and specific needs for
                reprocessing, such as the use of fuel recovered from the existing spent
                fuel feedstock. Based on these interactions, the NRC concluded that, in
                addition to using fresh fuel obtained from enrichment and fabrication,
                some advanced reactor designs have the capability to eventually source
                their fuel from the spent fuel of other reactors, but there
                [[Page 40765]]
                was limited interest in pursuing reprocessing activities in the near
                future (within 10 to 20 years).
                 The NRC also engaged staff from the DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy
                to exchange information regarding developments in reprocessing efforts
                and technologies, particularly in reprocessing of spent fuel for
                advanced reactors. The DOE efforts in the area of reprocessing are
                aimed at providing a limited near-term supply of high-assay low-
                enriched uranium (HALEU) for initial advanced reactor designs. These
                DOE reprocessing initiatives do not require NRC licensing. The NRC is
                not aware of any other DOE initiatives to reprocess light water reactor
                spent fuel or potential commercial efforts to reprocess spent HALEU
                fuel for reuse in advanced reactors.
                 In the event that the NRC receives an application for a commercial
                reprocessing facility, the NRC could use its existing regulatory
                framework under part 50 of title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations
                (10 CFR), ``Domestic Licensing of Production and Utilization
                Facilities'' for any near-term licensing needs, because a reprocessing
                facility is a type of production facility as defined in Sec. 50.2,
                ``Definitions.'' Should an applicant submit such an application, there
                would likely be a need for exemptions from certain 10 CFR part 50
                requirements. In such cases, the NRC could leverage knowledge from the
                gap analysis in SECY-13-0093 in considering any exemptions.
                 The NRC's decision to discontinue this rulemaking is based on the
                estimated costs to conduct the rulemaking and the limited interest
                expressed or expected from industry to submit an application for any
                type of facility involving reprocessing technologies in the near-term.
                The staff estimates that $2.5 million would be needed to complete a
                regulatory basis, develop and issue guidance, and develop a proposed
                and final rule. Therefore, while a rule would provide additional
                clarity for potential applicants, the NRC concludes that it is not
                warranted at this time.
                III. Availability of Documents
                 The documents identified in the following table are available to
                interested persons in the ADAMS Public Documents collection.
                 Document ADAMS Accession No.
                SRM-SECY-13-0093, ``Reprocessing Regulatory ML13308A403
                 Framework--Status and Next Steps,'' dated
                 November 4, 2013.
                Summary of March 4, 2020 Public Meeting to ML20077K146
                 Discuss Status of Spent Fuel Reprocessing
                 Rulemaking, dated March 16, 2020.
                SRM-SECY-15-0129, ``Commission Involvement in ML16034A441
                 Early Stages of Rulemaking,'' dated February
                 3, 2016.
                E-mail and Letter from R. McCullum: NEI ML20154K554
                 Comments on Spent Fuel Reprocessing
                 Rulemaking, dated May 28, 2020.
                E-mail and Letter from J. Starkey: ANS ML20154K530
                 Comments on Spent Fuel Reprocessing
                 Rulemaking, dated May 28, 2020.
                SECY-21-0026, ``Discontinuation of Rulemaking-- ML20301A387
                 Spent Fuel Reprocessing,'' dated March 5,
                IV. Conclusion
                 The NRC is no longer pursuing rulemaking for spent fuel
                reprocessing facilities for the reasons discussed in this document. In
                the next edition of the Unified Agenda, the NRC will update the entry
                for this rulemaking activity and reference this document to indicate
                that the rulemaking activity is no longer being pursued. This
                rulemaking activity will appear in the completed actions section of
                that edition of the Unified Agenda but will not appear in future
                editions. If the NRC decides to pursue similar or related rulemaking
                activities in the future, it will inform the public through new
                rulemaking entries in the Unified Agenda.
                 Dated July 26, 2021.
                 For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
                Annette L. Vietti-Cook,
                Secretary of the Commission.
                [FR Doc. 2021-16173 Filed 7-28-21; 8:45 am]
                BILLING CODE 7590-01-P

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