RELEASE: Dashed Hopes for More Open Collaboration on Preliminary Part 53

NRC Rebuffs Numerous Requests for Open, Collaborative Development of Preliminary Rule for Licensing Advanced Reactors

On July 22, 2022, Rani Franovich and former NRC Chair and General Counsel, Steve Burns, submitted a letter to Andrea Veil, Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR). Franovich and Burns requested workshops to exchange views with her staff and executive leadership on the preliminary development of 10 CFR Part 53. This was the latest in a series of requests from numerous external stakeholders for more collaborative engagement to resolve disagreements and achieve alignment in advance of the formal rule-making process.

The letter reiterated prior formal requests on May 23, June 15, and June 23, 2022, for workshops to facilitate open collaboration on Framework B. In response to those earlier requests, NRC staff offered stakeholders an opportunity to present during a June 30, 2022, advanced reactor stakeholder meeting. Although Franovich and Steve Nesbit, former President of the American Nuclear Society, presented on June 30, 2022, NRC’s principal management officials did not attend this portion of the meeting.

Stakeholders requested workshops in hopes of using a nine-month extension granted by the Commission to achieve stakeholder alignment. During a July 21 Commission briefing, NRC senior leaders implied the request was for closed-door meetings involving an exclusive set of stakeholders. Franovich and Burns corrected this characterization in their July 22 letter, adding: “We see no legal impediments to holding such workshops. They can be held consistent with the NRC’s public meeting policy.” They also proposed a format, process, and topics for an initial workshop “to fully discuss optional approaches and urged the NRC staff to begin hosting them as soon as practicable. Nevertheless, during a public meeting on July 28, NRC management continued to rebuff requests for workshops and has yet to respond to the requests in writing.

Workshops are far from novel. A search of the NRC’s document accession management system (ADAMS) reveals a multitude of NRC workshops on a wide range of regulatory issues over many decades. A May 11, 2021, workshop on Part 53 guidance involved many of the same stakeholders who have expressed concerns with the Part 53 rule development. As this window for stakeholder engagement closes on August 31, 2022, the NRC’s opportunity to collaborate more openly and substantively with stakeholders evaporates.