RELEASE: Organizations Call on NRC to Act on Delayed Rule

Organizations urge the NRC to finalize the emergency preparedness rule for advanced reactors that is years overdue

Washington, D.C. - It has been nearly two years since the staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) finished work on a rule to modernize emergency preparedness requirements and tailor them to the technical characteristics of new reactors, a process that was mandated by Congress in 2021. However, without explanation, the Commission has not acted, and the resulting delays are putting an undue burden on new reactor developers as well as the NRC staff.

Now organizations supporting the development of advanced reactors are calling on the NRC to follow the Commission's own operating principles and take prompt action on the rule.

The Commission’s existing emergency planning rule is designed for a specific type of reactor—large reactors that are cooled with water at high pressure. The reactors under development now are substantially different. Congress acknowledged these differences and mandated making emergency preparedness and other areas appropriate for new designs by 2021. The modernized rule, which requires a vote by the commissioners to take effect, is the product of extensive consultation between the NRC staff, the public, and reactor developers.

Without a new rule in place, companies seeking to license their advanced reactor designs face major regulatory uncertainty regarding what requirements will be in place for applications. To prepare, several companies have started to prepare two sets of documents, one for the modernized rule that has yet to be issued and a contingency that meets the existing rules. Under existing rules, applicants can apply to the NRC for exemptions from current requirements or develop their own entirely unique approach to emergency preparedness, but that adds costs and time for both the companies and the NRC staff.

When the NRC began planning for the new rule, it anticipated completion by April 2020. The staff finished its work in December 2021, and the Commission has repeatedly delayed voting; it now anticipates publishing the new rule on January 3, 2024, which means it will have sat on the Commissioners' desks for two years.

Eight Commissioners have been in office since this rulemaking started. The current commissioners have pledged timely, efficient regulation. NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson, told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee in June of this year, "I have said multiple times — we shouldn't be an impediment to the deployment of new nuclear." Commissioner Bradley Crowell said at the Regulatory Information Conference in March of this year, "to achieve success I believe the NRC must execute its mission on a timeline that supports the U.S. Government's energy and climate goals."

Finalizing the emergency preparedness rule for advanced reactors is an opportunity for the Commissioners to move forward with those goals.

Click here to read the full letter.


Breakthrough Institute

Clean Air Task Force


Nuclear Innovation Alliance

Third Way