The Nuclear Regulatory Commission Should Consider Stakeholder Consensus on Part 53 Major Topics

A thorough consideration of this consensus by the Commission would greatly improve the Part 53 licensing framework

The NRC is working to develop a new licensing framework for commercial nuclear reactors, as mandated by the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act. The rule should be technology-inclusive, risk-informed, and performance-based and comply with the purpose of NEIMA: to “develop the expertise and regulatory processes necessary to allow innovation and the commercialization of advanced nuclear reactors.”

A draft of the proposed rule was provided to the Commission to consider in March 2023. Several topics related to the draft Part 53 proposed rule have received significant attention from stakeholders, NRC staff, Commissioners, and Congress.

There is a lack of clarity at the NRC on stakeholders’ perspectives in major Part 53 topics. Many stakeholders have expressed concern with the current draft of Part 53. The NRC staff have stated in public meetings and Commission briefings that stakeholders have provided “diverse” feedback and indicated that reconciling this feedback posed a challenge to modification of the draft rule text. However, stakeholders have not had an opportunity to submit comments directly on the Part 53 rule since August 2022 and have not had any opportunity to submit comments on the most recent draft proposed rule that the Commission is currently considering.

A diverse group of stakeholders was convened to reach a collective understanding of perspectives and address the perceived lack of stakeholder alignment on key issues. This report represents findings from seven months of stakeholder engagement to identify key issues and recommendations. Extensive expert elicitation, stakeholder engagement, and workshops were used to evaluate stakeholder perspectives.

There is broad stakeholder consensus on major Part 53 topics, as detailed in this report. The Part 53 rule should be predictable, flexible, enable innovation, and, importantly, be scalable. Part 53 should provide an innovative approach to licensing that is technology-inclusive, risk-informed, and performance-based. It should be transformational, not iterative, of existing licensing pathways.

The Commission should consider this stakeholder consensus when considering the Part 53 draft proposed rule and providing direction to the NRC staff on further development. The Commission should also direct the NRC staff to include an opportunity for public input on the draft proposed rule and Commission direction before entering the formal rulemaking process. This is critical to facilitate the broad and transparent engagement with stakeholders currently absent.