New DOE and NRC Agreement Will Lead to Faster Deployment and Licensing of U.S. Nuclear Technologies

From The Office of Nuclear Energy

Office of Nuclear Energy

New DOE and NRC Agreement Will Lead to Faster Deployment and Licensing of U.S. Nuclear Technologies

October 16, 2019

Home » New DOE and NRC Agreement Will Lead to Faster Deployment and Licensing of U.S. Nuclear Technologies

The United States needs to move with a sense of urgency to deploy advanced nuclear energy technologies to meet our energy, environmental, and national security needs.

More than 50 U.S. companies are currently working on new designs that will be smaller and more affordable to build and operate. Advanced reactors have enormous potential to lower emissions, create new jobs and build an even stronger economy.

But if we don’t act soon, we will lose ground to countries like China and Russia in deploying the same technologies that we developed.

That’s why the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently agreed to work with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to accelerate the deployment and licensing of these world-changing technologies.

Understanding Advanced Nuclear
This image simulates flow into an advanced recycling nuclear reactor. Argonne National Laboratory

This image simulates flow into an advanced recycling nuclear reactor. Argonne National Laboratory

DOE will work with the NRC through the Department’s National Reactor Innovation Center, or NRIC. This new initiative was established under the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act of 2017 and is designed to help private developers test and demonstrate their reactor concepts at DOE-owned sites.

This is an excellent opportunity for both federal agencies to share the technical expertise needed to develop the knowledge, data, skills and capacity to perform safety reviews of advanced reactor concepts.

DOE will also open its sites up to NRC regulators to see these reactors in action, including the development of our proposed fast test reactor. This will further broaden NRC’s understanding of advanced technology and inform its approach to licensing new technologies.

Advanced Modeling Capabilities
Coolant-flow pressure distribution simulation. Argonne National Laboratory

Coolant-flow pressure distribution simulation. Argonne National Laboratory

In addition to information sharing, DOE will also provide the NRC access to state-of-the-art computing capabilities and modeling codes to support licensing of advanced nuclear reactors.

These updated codes can help expedite the review process and can be used to predict expected reactor operations, including fuel and material performance.

These capabilities will ultimately reduce the time it takes to validate and certify new designs, enabling a faster commercialization process.

Navigating the Review Process        

Finally, the NRC will provide DOE and the nuclear energy community with accurate, current information on the NRC’s regulations and licensing processes. This knowledge will eliminate any surprises further down the road as these technologies are applying for design certification and licenses.

By keeping everyone on the same page, expectations will be clear throughout the process, allowing the United States to quickly deploy our technologies domestically and globally to more places than ever before.

I look forward to working with industry and the NRC to make advanced nuclear a reality, much sooner rather than later.

photo of Dr. Rita Baranwal

Dr. Rita Baranwal

56 thoughts on “New DOE and NRC Agreement Will Lead to Faster Deployment and Licensing of U.S. Nuclear Technologies

  1. Refreshing and gives me hope for our future to see well educated and industry experienced people like Dr. Rita Baranwal running government programs like this. These things really matter. These are really the important things to get to the next step past fossil fuels. Unlike all the climate change renewable energy propaganda nonsense being funded by Green Slime billionaires and their flying monkey bootlicks.

  2. I wish this would actually help but unfortunately the anti-science anti-nuclear activists and media will just continue the scientifically unsupported propaganda campaign as they have done for decades regarding energy use, emissions and climate science with these campaigns all about liberal political schemes unrelated to real world science and energy outcomes.

    I was the project manager for SCE’s San Onofre Units 2 & 3 1190 MWe nuclear plants from 1973 to 1979.

    These plants went into commercial operation in 1983 and 1984 after years of delay caused by the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979 which by the way caused no injuries, no deaths or dangerous exposures to the public despite a core melt severity event thanks to the containment building integrity.

    I left the nuclear power field with great disgust in 1979 because of frustration with the media’s completely incompetent anti-nuclear propaganda against nuclear power that continues even today with the same ilk of anti-science propaganda now contaminating the field of climate science, energy use and emissions realities.

    The premature shutdown of SONGS Units 2 & 3 resulted from engineering and design errors of the replacement steam generators by Mitsubishi Manufacturing in Japan.

    The idiot politicians in California celebrated the early shutdown of the zero emissions San Onofre Units 2 & 3 plants demonstrating how energy and emissions clueless these alarmists have become in California.

    Even now idiot anti-nuclear activists in San Clemente fight to stop the safe temporary long term disposal of nuclear fuel at the site in natural circulation cooling concrete vaults even though the Federal government failed to meet its responsibilities to provide such long term storage 30 years ago and for which it collected tens of billions of dollars.

    As long as Democrats run things in our state and the Federal governments rational energy and climate policy actions are impossible because of the monumental ignorance, incompetence and stupidity of these idiots.

    California government clearly demonstrated its colossal incompetence in dealing with energy issues or any other technical related areas with the great energy debacle that started in1998.

    I left SCE on a leave of absence in January 2001 and work as California Energy Construction Czar for Governor Gray Davis for 3 months in Sacramento to help the state deal with self inflicted energy debacle. The states politicians drove this debacle based on their pure incompetence in understanding energy reality.

    The same situation exists today regarding climate and energy issues. As long as Democrats control things political lunacy prevails regarding energy and climate issues.

    This is proven through actual experience and results.

    • Not only Dems but all politicians Dems and Cons are ignorant about energy needs. Wars have been initiated and maintained for the fossil fuels. Can you think for a moment what will happen when the world will accept SMRs to fulfil the need for energy and propulsion? SMRs to produce hydrogen with which the cars, the ships etc will run on?

  3. Excellent. Dr. Rita Baranwal has the education and experience to move this project forward. Not a politician. Thank you for accepting this challenge.

  4. Sounds good. And that is just the problem, it is all talk.
    Hey everybody, let’s set up a new division, populate it with bureaucrats and spend even more money. The problem really is that NRC has not licensed a new reactor from paper to operation in forty years. Yet in all that time, they have never stopped churning out new rules and whole labyrinthine regulatory structures. Getting a truly new reactor approved is probably physically impossible. By new, I mean that is one the NRC has never regulated before, and therefor will make up a whole new regulatory structure on the fly, just for this new case. The process takes decades. Everybody knows it and nobody can afford it. Many also believe that the process is designed to make the applicant spend money, burn time, and then deny the application anyway. The system needs total reform.

    Total Reform:
    1) Pave the way for change. Get the message out to the public and congress both, that the NRC has not licensed a new reactor in forty years, therefor they have nothing to do. After all, all the regulations needed for the current fleet were written decades ago.
    2) Eliminate the jobs of 50% of NRC staff, top to bottom.
    3) Let it be known that another RIF (Reduction In Force) of the remaining staff is coming if NRC does not find any reactors needing licensing.

    I bet you would find tons of reactors would jump from the theoretical planning stage to the prototype build stage overnight. All it really takes in a plausible pathway to regulatory success for companies to move forward. And this is the one thing we have not had for forty years.
    The way things are now, getting something new like a MSR or Th reactor approved, forget it, never going to happen. After all, these “new” reactors have actually been around since the earliest days. If NRC was in any way disposed to license them, they would have done so by now.
    As far as I can see, this new NIRC is just putting lipstick on the pig.

      • Dec. 7, 1941 – Japanese forces attack Pearl Harbor, HI. The next day, the US enters the War.
        Aug. 15, 1945 – Japan accepts Allied terms of surrender. War ends.
        World War II – Total elapsed time: 3 years, 9 months.

        Chance — Given!
        Let’s see what happens in say, one half the time it took to fight and win WWII, fair enough?
        Otherwise – Pig, meet lipstick.

    • I’ll believe it when I see it. The culture of the NRC has shown no significant change since the agency was created. As an example, it took nearly nine years for the agency to recently issue combined operating licenses for two AP1000 reactors at a cost of over $35 million to review. AP1000 plants are evolutionary designs on plants that were built in the sixties through eighties. Nothing radically new here. After all that time and effort expended, there’s not a chance that those two reactors will ever be built.
      And yet we are to believe that these people are actually going to fast track high temperature gas cooled reactors, liquid metal fast breeder reactors, and molten salt reactors. How about a small modular reactor design? The NRC review of the 12,000-page design certification application for the NuScale reactor has been going on for two years. The reviewers generated around 1,500 questions so far for the applicant to answer.
      For that matter, what exactly do we get for squandering $30 billion annually on the DOE? It’s called the Department of Energy but instead of producing energy it simply shuffles money to academics to do research that the industry could care less about and subsidizes unreliable wind and solar whose increased growth threatens grid stability.
      I’ve met Dr. Baranwal, have great respect for her, and wish her great success. Nevertheless, I contend that the only way move nuclear power forward in this country is to trash the NRC.

      • I agree w/James Miller, TonyL & Larry Hamlin’s above pessimism, at least for the US/Europe. Perhaps the only way forward for nuclear in US/Europe is for China/Russia to have next-gen nukes running safely for a long time (Russia already runs large, commercial sodium-cooled units) and then when the price/availability of FF plants becomes so problematic that the NRC/DOE or whatever exists in that far future has no choice but to build new nukes, prb’ly assisted or even built by China/Russia.

      • RE: “As an example, it took nearly nine years for the agency to recently issue combined operating licenses for two AP1000 reactors at a cost of over $35 million to review. AP1000 plants are evolutionary designs on plants that were built in the sixties through eighties. Nothing radically new here. After all that time and effort expended, there’s not a chance that those two reactors will ever be built.”

        I don’t know which specific reactors you’re talking about, but there are 2 AP1000 reactors well along in the construction process in Georgia.

        The current target operational date for the 1st of the 2 is less than 2 years away (May 2021). Another schedule slip may happen, but it is no longer years and years away from operational.

        I would be very surprised if those 2 AP1000s don’t get operational in the next few years.

    • TonyL

      Sadly, I hear what you are saying. How many other technologies have gone down the plug of bureaucracy.

    • Everyone seems to assume that this is all that will be done. While that may be so, perhaps this is only the first pro-Nuke action of this Administration, with more to come. Support this action.

  5. Living near “the” Hanford area, I do have qualms about nuclear energy. Also, living in this NW area, I know the value of hydro energy. Hydro gets my vote here.

    • Yes, parts of the Hanford area nuclear activities still have grave problems. Most of these can be traced back to the ignorance that prevailed under wartime and post war bureaucrats and legislators.

      With much more actual knowledge I think we can safely and effectively implement nuclear power in several forms.

      BTW, I’ve lived with miles of TMI since before the meltdown. The reason for the meltdown, in brief, was ignorant design of the control system, use of old technology controls barely adequate for a nuclear plant, and, unfortunately, lack of adequate training for the people running the plant. The meltdown occurred because the operators could not understand what was going on inside the reactor due to the poor controls. TMI-1 has operated for 40 years with minimal problems before it was closed down this year due to an uneconomical cost to run. It can’t compete with local PA natural gas.

  6. This is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to done.

    The biggest hurdles in getting next generation nuclear reactors approved and built are: nuclear waste storage facility approval/funding, streamlining testing/certification processes, and getting approval for nuclear power plant building sites..

    China’s plan is to have commercial Thorium MSR reactors available by 2030, after which, China will rapidly start building these to replace their coal-powered power plants.

    China will build a few MSR mega factories churning out prefabricated modules which will allow scalable MSR facilities to be built all over China in months, compared to the US system which will have 100’s of small pork-barrel MSR facilities arbitrarily spread out over many Congressional districts. It will also take many years to get MSR building sites approved and many more years to build MSR plants given all the bureaucratic red tape involved.

    Guess who wins that race…

    • I’m pro-Thorium MSR also, but the physical reactor can also run off of Uranium (only the salt composition differs), we could deploy MSRs on existing nuclear plant sites, fuel them with “spent” uranium fuel rods, while the Thorium processing is worked on. This bypasses getting the building sites approved (they already are licensed) and addresses the high-level nuclear waste. “Spent” fuel only has about 5% extract-able energy used, so there’s enough fuel on-site for centuries.

      • Do you happen to know to what degree spent fuel rods have to be processed before they can by used in an MSR? In other words, can it be done on site?

        • You wouldn’t want to. You’d have to build the chemical plant in every location and it would only be used once. Much better to be a central processing plant or a few regional ones so they get used efficiently. You’ll still need (well want) some makeup enrichment too.

          • Then you’re transporting radioactive waste cross country by highway. If the lab is only used once, can’t you make mobile labs?

  7. Sooo… One government agency just agreed to work with another government agency. As if they were two different companies or two different countries. And people wonder why nuclear has stalled for 40 years?

    How’s this for an agreement: roll NRC into DOE and cut both of their work forces by half. Then the people who get real work done (not the DOE and NRC) will be free to, um, get real work done.

    • Keep in mind that it is the NRC and international nuclear agencies defined Thorium as a “Source” material, putting China in the catbird seat on Rare Earths:

  8. This won’t matter unless Trump wins again.
    Then another “denier” will need to run and win 2 terms.
    By then the CO2 thing might go bust.
    And/or the “advanced nuclear energy technologies” will
    have proven useful and acceptable.

  9. A while ago I observed that the French had demonstrated that nuclear could work economically. Several other posters explained why. So, we know it works and we know why. We should do that.

  10. Very interesting post.
    And some first rate comments.

    Firstly about the bureaucracy, secondly about the left / green ‘anti-nuclear campaigners.

    Here in the UK our Beloved Leaders have just thrown fracking under the bus.

    Like, who needs technology that works and doesn’t require massive subsidies, anyway?

    If you really can’t sell fracking to the Beloved Leaders,
    what chance is there of getting them interested in new types of reactors?

    How much better to pour Billions into Ruinables that anyone can see don’t really work?

    I keep repeating:-
    A pessimist is someone who thinks things will get worse.
    An optimist is someone who thinks things can’t get any worse.

    And as I say to my wife – I’d rather be Grumpy than Dopey.

  11. Does any of you know if the new threat at Fukushima radioactive material reaching the ocean is serious or not, after the Hagibis Typhoon?

    • There are millions of 1-ton bags filled with radioactive soil scattered across Japan. The recent typhoon washed some unknown number of them into the river at one location. The radioactive water sitting in about a thousand storage tanks at Fukushima is safe I’m sure, but it will eventually be gradually dumped into the ocean because they have no choice.

      • My understanding is that there are higher levels of potentially harmful radioactivity in the bananas and tea or coffee people eat and drink everyday than in most of the “contaminated” soil scraped up and stored in bags in and around Fukushima Daiichi and in assorted places mostly in Fukushima Prefecture and to a lesser extent in seven other prefectures—Iwate, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, and Chiba—in the Tohoku and Kanto regions. They are not scattered across Japan. There are none at all in 39 of the county’s 47 prefectures or in six of the eight traditional Japanese regions.

        As for the tritium water, it is as harmless as harmless can be with the bonus of glowing beautifully in the dark, and in any case, pouring it into the ocean would dilute it to almost homeopathic concentrations.

        Someone a lot smarter than I am worked out that the total tritium inventory from ternary fission in the Fukushima Daichii reactor 1-3 cores should be no more than 1PBq.
        For comparison, about 10000PBq of the 230000PBq of atomic bomb tritium is still in the environment. About 1.6 PBq of this decays every day.

        According to this very smart person, this means, that even if all the Fukushima tritium was released in a single day, the total global tritium inventory in the environment would still decline on that day.

        However, if this tritium was released onto the Pacific, Greta and her friends would undoubtedly shout “How dare you!” And none of us wants to expose the poor old Japanese prime minister to that degree of disapprobation, now do we?

  12. Nuclear still has its best days to come. The technology still has such a huge potential for improvement. What we have seen so far was more like the baby age and despite the relatively simple and crude safety mechanisms that were in place, still, not more than has happened. All accidents were absolutely preventable and in today’s culture with multiple layers of control mechanisms, and safety switches that cannot be fiddled wit, the potential for accidents goes towards nil. What we need to take care of are the dinosaur reactors and we need better public relations. Not fancy stories but calm and patient explaining. It’s hard, it’s a long shot but it’s worth it.

  13. I saw Energy Secretary Rick Perry this morning on Fox News Channel and he said he was heading to Brussels for an international meeting on small nuclear reactor technology.

    Perry is very enthusiastic about nuclear power.

  14. Molten salt is the future. Intrinsically safe, well understood, can be mass produced and installed with little site preparation required. Produces power at 4 cents per kWhr. Moltex Energy has a crowdfunded development underway

  15. Yeah, I’ll believe it when it happens. Established bureaucracies are almost impossible to change, except to get bigger & more intrusive.

  16. This sounds like a step in the right direction. I lived in France from 1984 through 1995, and was amazed to find out that a country with very little oil or natural gas, and not a whole lot of coal would generate about 75% of its electricity needs from nuclear fission, with the rest mostly from hydroelectric power in the Alps, while America was obsessing over Three Mile Island and Jane Fonda’s fictional China Syndrome. This is one area where France is miles ahead of most other nations on earth.

    If the global warming scaremongers had any sense, they should be promoting nuclear energy, which doesn’t emit CO2 and generates much more energy per kg of fuel than natural gas or coal. But they have bought into the myth that nuclear energy is too dangerous. Nuclear reactors are very safe if properly built, and not located in an earthquake- or tsunami-prone area.

    Of course, this is one more reason why Trump needs to be re-elected, otherwise Democrats will take us back to the 19th century with their windmills and solar panels (remember Hillary sold 20% of our uranium to Russia for a kickback from Putin). Maybe after five more years of Trump, the nuclear program mentioned in this article can achieve some concrete results, and voters will agree to continue this development, in order to have another energy source in case natural gas becomes scarce in the future.

    • Well the French have problems now, as all their reactors are aging and need substantial updates and their new design is running years late… EDF, the main contractor, is virtually bankrupt and being bailed out by the state.

      Many of the reactors can’t run in summer droughts, due to low water levels and the whole of France was bailed out powerwise by German (mostly renewable) energy in the latest series of shut downs and refits

    • No no, like President Trump says….”If you want to drive the left crazy, keep shouting “12 more years, 12 more years ! ” lol

  17. ‘But if we don’t act soon, we will lose ground to countries like China and Russia in deploying the same technologies that we developed.’

    Stopped reading here. There is no race, no nuclear power production gap.

  18. Irrelevant. The US nuclear sector is dead.
    No new reactor will ever be built there. It’s far too easy for activists to stop anything they don’t like. They’re in free fall to a woke Stone Age.

  19. Any new nuclear generation deployed for commercial operation in the United States will be subject to regional grid operator and federal energy regulatory commission market rules. That alone sinks the investor commitment ship. The backbone of the US electricity system serves the entire nation and every individual and business in it. But wholesale energy is overvalued, helping to pay for capacityless Wind and solar, and driving capital intensive units into the red. The central culprit is called the single clearing price for uniform clearing price auction design.

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