The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has directed staff to publish a proposed rule establishing a licensing process for advanced nuclear power plants, the “first regulatory framework developed for advanced technologies and designs that includes non-light-water reactors.”

The proposed rule, to be published in the Federal Register in about six months, would create a new Part 53 section under the NRC’s regulations as an alternative to the existing, large light-water reactor licensing approaches under Parts 50 and 52.

“This proposed rule leverages significantly more risk insights than our existing regulatory framework in making safety determinations,” said NRC Chair Christopher Hanson. “Applicants can use our existing regulations today, but this proposed rule will provide future nuclear developers a clear, additional pathway for licensing.”

The rule, in meeting the requirements of the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, would give plant designers and plant operators flexibility in determining how their nuclear power plant will meet safety criteria, NRC said.

It would set out criteria in areas including reactor siting requirements; analyzing potential accidents; defining safety functions; categorizing structures, systems, and components; addressing construction and manufacturing requirements; providing defense in depth; and protecting the public and plant workers during normal operations.

The proposed rule also would modify agency regulations for operator licensing, employee fitness-for-duty, physical security and site access authorization.

NRC staff said it has conducted extensive public engagement on the proposed rule and plans to seek public feedback when the rule is issued later this year.

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