The Nuclear Regulatory Commission can sometimes seem like a mysterious black box, but every year in March, the agency holds a “Regulatory Information Conference”—three days of speeches by the commissioners alongside smaller break-out sessions on a variety of topics and panel discussions that include speakers from the agency, companies in various aspects of the nuclear business, and from outside experts. Among those experts this year will be Breakthrough Institute’s Adam Stein and Rani Franovich.
The conference, which runs from March 14 to 16, is hybrid: held at the Montgomery County Convention Center, across the street from NRC headquarters, in North Bethesda, Maryland, and online. Registration is free. Online attendees won’t get to cruise the exhibit hall to see vendor displays or collect nifty knick-knacks, but all the sessions will be livestreamed. For people with an interest in nuclear energy, or some particular aspect of the field, it’s a chance to drop in.
It's also a chance to hear from the Breakthrough Institute.
On Wednesday at 1:30, Stein, Director of the Nuclear Energy Innovation program at the Breakthrough Institute, will join a panel titled “Perspectives on Risk-Informed Licensing of Advanced Reactors.” The term “advanced reactors” covers a wide range of designs, but all of them differ from existing reactors in a few key ways. He argues that a new perspective is needed to effectively and efficiently license these new designs. Among other points, he will talk about what risk-informing means in the process of licensing advanced reactors, what a viable risk-informed regimen could look like, and why it is in the public interest to get it right.
Of the other panels and events, Stein recommends checking out:
- Setting a Course for the Future of Emergency Preparedness, Tuesday at 1:30;
- Building a Strong Foundation: A voyage through Risk Informed Decision-Making, Tuesday at 3:30;
- Million Person Study – Human Health Radiation Risk Assessment in the Nuclear Power and Industrial Radiographer Worker Cohorts, Wednesday at 3:30; and
- Constructing Our Energy Future: Opportunities and Challenges for Advanced Reactor Construction, Thursday at 10:30.
Franovich, who was a resident inspector for the NRC before she came to the Breakthrough Institute as a Senior Policy Advisor on the Nuclear Energy Innovation team, will give a presentation at 8:30 on Thursday for a panel discussion titled, “Beyond Guns, Gates, and Guards: Innovative Approaches to Securing Advanced Reactors.” In the United States, today’s advanced reactors are the first to be designed in the post 9/11 world. Their inherently passive safety features make these new technologies not only more robust and economically viable than the exceedingly safe fleet of large light-water reactors they will eventually replace, but also more resistant to threats.
During her presentation, Franovich will discuss the NRC’s regulatory posture and practices for the currently operating fleet and the implications of the regulator’s nuclear security culture for new and advanced reactors once they are licensed, constructed, and commissioned.
Franovich also recommends attending:
- “Transformation and Modernization of NRC Environmental Review Processes: Meeting the Challenge,” Tuesday at 1:30;
- “Building on a Strong Foundation: A Voyage through Risk Informed Decision-Making,” Tuesday at 3:30;
- “Empowering Advanced Nuclear Deployment with Non-Power Reactors,” Wednesday at 3:30 (Non-power reactors are research and test reactors that do not supply electricity to the grid);
- “International Collaboration on New Reactor Licensing,” Thursday at 10:30. (The NRC has an agreement with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for limited cooperation in evaluating one small modular reactor that could be deployed on both sides of the border.)