The Council on Environmental Quality is proposing major changes to its regulations concerning the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), that if implemented could have impacts on advanced reactor licensing.  These changes, if put into effect, will be among the most monumental revisions to the NEPA process since 1978, and come at a time when the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is already looking at streamlining advanced reactor environmental reviews.

NEPA requires federal agencies, including the NRC, to review the environmental impact of major federal actions.  NEPA is the reason why the NRC, for example, issues Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) when licensing new reactors, and applicants must submit environmental reports with their applications.  NEPA is a cornerstone of environmental law and serves a very important role in protecting the environment.  NEPA sets forth a process to gather information on, analyze, and document the potential environmental effects of a proposed project before it is approved by the government.

However, there is a bipartisan understanding that some aspects of the statute can create significant burdens without any commensurate benefit.  For example, NEPA is a process statute—it does not mandate a specific outcome, only that the government analyzes the environmental impacts of a project it plays a major role in.  Yet despite the fact that the NEPA review has no role in evaluating safety, and does not mandate any specific outcomes, following the process of the review can take up a third of NRC staff resources related to new reactor license applications.  These issues are described more in our paper with the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, Nuclear Innovation and NEPA (Nuclear & NEPA).

CEQ helps agencies implement their NEPA obligations by issuing regulations interpreting the statute, and CEQ’s views are looked upon deferentially by agencies and the courts—thus its changes here are being closely scrutinized.  Many of the proposed changes are very contentious and will undoubtedly be challenged in court. However, certain other changes represent more practical and targeted reforms in the NEPA process, which align with recommendations from Nuclear & NEPA.  We highlight a sample below:

 

  • Alternatives: The proposed rule would change the definition of “reasonable alternative” to one that must be technically and economically feasible and be within the jurisdiction of the lead agency. This latter requirement in particular may lead to significant reductions in the scope of NRC alternatives analyses—the NRC EIS for the Vogtle expansion project, for example, evaluated in some form at least ten different energy technology alternatives instead of nuclear power, despite that fact that the application to the NRC was for a nuclear reactor at an already-operating nuclear power plant.  Nuclear & NEPA at 16.
  • Applicant-Drafted Environmental Evaluations: The proposal appears to give agencies an avenue to allow applicants to take a lead role in preparing environmental evaluations, such as EISs, as long as the agency independently evaluates the applicant’s work. Right now for major NRC licensing actions an applicant drafts a very lengthy “environmental report,” which is then duplicated by the NRC staff into the formal agency EIS—essentially doubling much of the work for no gain.  Nuclear & NEPA at 25.
  • Mitigated FONSIs: The proposed rule would try to codify a practice adopted by some agencies (although less so the NRC) to use mitigation measures committed to as part of the application and agency review to find that there will be no “significant” impact on the environment from the proposed project as mitigated—so-called “mitigated FONSIs.” This process often allows the agency to be able to issue a much shorter Environmental Assessment (EA) instead of the much larger EIS.  As advanced reactors will employ many passive mitigation measures to reduce their impact on the public and environment, this feature of NEPA, if built out more, could prove very useful for streamlining NRC environmental reviews.  Nuclear & NEPA at 20.

 

The CEQ proposal, of course, makes many other suggestions as it touches on all aspects of NEPA.  Hogan Lovells’ environmental practice has issued a thorough client alert on this proposed rulemaking, which we encourage interested persons to read.  But just to provide a sample of other changes that may impact nuclear reactor environmental reviews:

 

  • Page Length: The proposal establishes a presumptive 75 page limit for EAs that can be overcome in writing by an agency official. It also enforces the original page limits given for EISs of less than 150 pages for normal proposals, with extensions up to 300 pages with written agency approval.  To provide a comparison, the EIS and related documentation for the Vogtle and Fermi expansion projects numbered between 1500 and 2000 pages (including responses to comments).
  • Narrowed NEPA Review Trigger: The proposed rule would narrow the circumstances triggering NEPA’s review requirements, by changing the definition of “major federal action” to specifically exclude non-federal projects with minimal federal funding or involvement.  This could impact DOE NEPA review requirements when supporting new nuclear projects.

 

Comments on the CEQ proposal are due by March 10, 2020.  We encourage interested parties to comment and reach out about how to do so.  We also encourage those interested in NEPA streamlining to show your support for a recent NRC proposal to draft a generic EIS for advanced reactors, which can materially improve NRC new reactor reviews.  For more information, please refer to our previous blog entry.

If you have any questions related to the NRC and environmental reviews, please feel free to contact the blog authors.

The year 2019 comes to an end with some positive news on the advanced reactor licensing front, including the upcoming issuance of a US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Early Site Permit, grant of a US Department of Energy (DOE) Site Use Permit, and updates on the regulatory reform front:

  • Clinch River Early Site Permit: The NRC Commission recently authorized the issuance of an Early Site Permit to the Tennessee Valley Authority for deployment of a small modular reactor (SMR) project at the Clinch River site in Roane County, Tennessee.  This represents one of the first licensing activities related to the deployment of SMRs, as the permit is predicated on development of two SMRs at the Clinch River site. As a complement to the Clinch River project, the Utah Associated Municipal Power systems is already planning to license a 12-module SMR plant in the next decade, which is anticipated to use NuScale’s SMR technology. NuScale, a leading SMR developer and also a potential candidate for the Clinch River project, recently completed the fourth phase of its NRC design certification application review, with only two phases remaining.
  • Oklo Site Use Permit: Earlier in December, DOE granted Oklo a Site Use Permit for deployment of its advanced reactor, Aurora.  This is the first DOE Site Use Permit to be issued for a non-light water reactor, and would apply to Idaho National Laboratory (INL), for which NuScale obtained the first-ever Site Use Permit for deployment of a modern nuclear reactor. Oklo’s Aurora reactor, among other things, utilizes a fission battery that can produce ~1.5 NW of power and heat, does not require cooling water to operate, and can produce power for decades without refueling. Oklo has stated that it is preparing to submit a license application for Aurora to the NRC in the near term.
  • NRC Proposes Advanced Reactor Emergency Preparedness Rule:  Also last week, the NRC announced a proposed rule to revise its Emergency Preparedness requirements for SMRs and other advanced reactors. The proposed rule seeks to establish a risk-informed, performance-based Emergency Preparedness framework for next-generation reactors. A key aspect of the proposed rule is that it would embrace a scalable offsite emergency planning zone (EPZ) for such reactors, with the potential to permit EPZs limited to the site boundary for certain reactor designs and siting choices. A right-sized EPZ could significantly reduce costs to a future reactor operator.  The text of the proposed rule as recently revised by the Commission can be found here, and an earlier staff paper discussing the proposed rule can be found here.

We also want to take this opportunity to reemphasize that the innovator community should get out to support the NRC’s proposal to draft a generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) for advanced reactors, which could have a significant positive impact on the NRC licensing process for advanced reactors. We are happy to discuss with any interested parties how to draft comments in support of this initiative.

For more on any of the above topics, please contact the authors.

In time for the Thanksgiving long weekend, we want to draw your attention to a number of interesting reports on advanced reactor developments that have come out over the past couple months:

  • Most recently, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) issued a thoughtful white paper on regulatory and licensing issues for micro-reactors, in advance of the first round of micro-reactor applications expected to be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) next year.  The paper highlights the safety benefits of micro-reactors, which generally boast a much smaller inventory of fission products compared to existing reactors, possess automatic or remote operations and monitoring, and often rely on inherent and passive safety features.

    The paper argues that NRC regulations for larger reactors would be unduly burdensome if applied to micro-reactors, given the latter’s relative simplicity and safety.  Instead, the NRC should develop a flexible and accommodating regulatory approach to micro-reactors.  It could borrow in part from how research and test reactors (RTRs) are regulated, as both micro-reactors and RTRs present similarly low risks to public health and safety.

  • The NRC and Department of Energy (DOE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in October to share technical knowledge and expertise, including computing resources, with the common goal of deploying advanced reactor technologies.  This important partnership falls under the auspices of DOE’s National Reactor Innovation Center, created by the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act of 2017 (NEICA) to enable the testing and demonstration of reactor concepts from the private sector.  We previous wrote about NEICA here and here.
  • Moltex Energy raised around US$7.5 million in part through an unlikely and unique method, at least for nuclear energy – crowdfunding!  Around 170 investors helped the advanced reactor company blow past its initial target, with Moltex representatives crediting this resounding success to a widespread desire among investors to tackle climate change through advanced reactors.  The capital is designed to help support pre-licensing and development of the company’s fission-based Stable Salt Reactor (SSR) technology.  As private funding for advanced reactors continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how much companies rely on crowdfunding and other novel methods moving forward.
  • The NRC staff released a draft white paper in September to facilitate its review of advanced non-light water reactor (LWR) technologies.  This is part of the NRC staff’s efforts to develop an adaptable, technology-inclusive, risk-informed, and performance-based approach to reviewing non-LWR applications.  Among other things, the paper details vendor approaches to licensing strategy based on reactor design, provides guidance on the scope and focus of the NRC staff’s technical review, and outlines acceptance criteria that could be considered.  It is intended to aid non-LWR applications until the NRC develops a comprehensive regulatory framework by the end of 2027, as required by the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA).  We previously wrote about NEIMA here and here.
  • And speaking of NEIMA, Congress continues to show interest and leadership in promoting advanced reactor development, including the need for the NRC to develop a risk-informed framework for advanced nuclear technologies.  On November 21, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-SV), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, sent a letter to the NRC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency regarding emergency planning requirements.  In the letter, the senators support establishing emergency preparedness requirements for advanced nuclear technologies to account for smaller, safer nuclear reactor designs, explaining:

As part of our efforts to facilitate the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies, Congress passed, and President Trump signed into law, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA). NEIMA requires NRC establish a risk-informed, technology-inclusive regulatory framework to license and oversee advanced nuclear technologies. EP requirements are a part of this framework.

The Commission is currently considering an NRC staff proposal to establish new EP requirements and implementing guidance for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and other advanced nuclear technologies. The proposal is based on a consequence-oriented, risk-informed, performance-based, and technology-inclusive approach. We urge the Commission to support requirements that align with NEIMA’s risk-informed framework and we expect FEMA’s consultation will constructively support achieving this goal.

For more information on these and other developments, please contact the authors.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held two public meetings on November 15th and 20th to solicit feedback as to whether to compile a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for the construction and operation of advanced reactors. GEISs have the potential to materially reduce the licensing burden on NRC advanced reactor applicants, given that environmental reviews can take up to a third of agency resources involved in licensing the construction of an advanced reactor.   We advocated that the NRC turn to GEISs for advanced reactors in our recent article co-authored with the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, entitled Nuclear Innovation and NEPA.

This immediate NRC effort is the result of a request from Senators Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Braun (R-In.), both Members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. In a letter sent on June 25, 2019, the Senators stated that a GEIS “will reduce cumbersome regulatory barriers, expedite the environmental review process, and enable market deployment of innovative nuclear technologies.” During the recent meetings, the NRC acknowledged the benefits of a GEIS, including reducing administrative costs to applicants, streamlining the environmental review process, and encouraging innovation in reactor technologies. A copy of the meeting slides can be found here.

The NRC is requesting interested stakeholders to provide information to help the agency make its decision. In the meetings, the NRC requested basic advanced reactor design information, such as where reactors could be sited, dimensions and power output, fuel requirements, radiological release characteristics, and construction requirements. However, the agency staff also mentioned that they would consider any input.

This is an important effort, and one for which the advanced reactor community should communicate its support—along with actionable recommendations for the agency to consider. As we emphasized in our paper with the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, GEISs can streamline the NEPA process. There are a number of environmental review issues that are common to a large selection of advanced reactor applicants, such as with modular construction, responses to accidents, use of higher-enrichment fuel, and placement below-grade. All of these and more would be better addressed now through a generic process, rather than being left to hold up individual license applications.

As for next steps, the NRC stated that it will hold a workshop in January on possible approaches. In February, the agency plans to release a report summarizing the findings of the comment process and making a recommendation on whether to proceed with a GEIS.

For more information on this topic, please contact the authors.

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) late last week published two papers on recommendations for addressing regulatory challenges related to advanced reactor licensing:

The blog authors had the pleasure of working with NIA to contribute to the first article, on NEPA reform, leveraging years of experience with NRC licensees and advanced reactor innovators on this challenging topic.  NEPA, as implemented by the NRC, requires that an environmental impact statement (EIS) be created for every reactor license application—an extremely costly and time-consuming process as currently structured, with uncertain benefits.  The NRC’s environmental review process, which has increased in scope over the years, can take up a third of agency resources related to the licensing of a new reactor, and delay licensing—and yet it remains an often underlooked area of potential improvement in the NRC licensing framework.

NIA’s paper examines NEPA’s impact on nuclear licensing, and how it could hamper advanced reactor innovation if left out of the regulatory reform conversation.  It then makes four recommendations to  help Congress and the NRC right-size NEPA reviews for the future:

  1. Reevaluate the Presumption that Advanced Reactor Demonstration Projects Require EISs
  2. Tailor the Scope of NEPA Reviews for Demonstration Projects
  3. Increase Use of Generic Environmental Impact Statements to Address Common Advanced Reactor NEPA Questions
  4. Allow Applicants to Draft EAs and EISs

NIA’s second paper, developed with contriubtion from Jensen Hughes, tackles the establishment of interfaces for Standard Design Approvals (SDAs).  SDA’s are being explored as a method to stage NRC licensing, specfically by seeking SDAs for “major portions” of a reactor design in separate chunks, as opposed to submitting an application for approval of a reactor design all at once.  In that regard, “[i]nterface requirements can be thought of as boundary conditions for the portion of the design for which an SDA is being sought.”  The paper provides guidance on the creation of these interfaces, so SDAs can be better leveraged as part of an advanced reactor licensing plan.

For more questions on the application of NEPA environmental reviews to advanced reactor licensing, and on licensing of advanced reactors generally, please reach out to the blog authors.

On Wednesday Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) hosted a meeting on the Hill about how to enhance the development of nuclear energy by finding its “SpaceX” moment.  The meeting relates to NIA’s new publication, In Seach of a SpaceX for Nuclear Energy.  The talk was led by three experts: Dr. Matt Bowen, formerly Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and currently with the Clean Air Task Force; Dr. Daniel Rasky, from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program; and Dr. Per Peterson of Karios Power, representing the nuclear innovation community.  The panel was moderated by Dr. Ashley Finan from NIA.

What struck us the most about the talk was the number of ways the speakers were able to draw parallels between the aerospace sector and nuclear power, and from those parallels draw insights about ways to apply recent spaceflight innovation successes to advanced reactor development.  And the importance of disrupters—both within and outside of government—to make that happen.

With one of our blog authors being a past aerospace engineer, we appreciate that although the parallels may not always be perfect, the public-private partnership that was NASA’s COTS program does have strong lessons to teach the nuclear industry.  Some key insights from the presentation include:

  • COTS was driven by a clear national mission—resupplying the International Space Station following the wind-down of the space shuttle program.  Nuclear power, too, has a key national mission both in the context of national security and climate change.

 

  • COTS was actually a backup to the primary NASA program (using Ares rockets).  Likewise, any DOE program to support nuclear power based on a COTS-type program need not be the only play in the playbook.  A nuclear power COTS-like program, according to Dr. Bowen, would cost anywhere between $100 to $150 million a year, a sizable amount but well within the current DOE Office of Nuclear Energy budget.

 

  • A key aspect of the COTS program was its ability to do “pay for performance” or milestone-based funding, which offered clarity to companies and investors as to goals to meet.  That is, NASA provided a milestone and left it up to the private sector to determine how it was going to achieve it.  This was based on input from venture capitalists (VCs)—and frequently mirror how the blog authors see payments ramp up from the VC community in private sector investments.  These are not completely new concepts to DOE.  The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), an independent group within DOE, already exercises “pay for performance” milestone based funding, and created its programs with strong influence from the venture capital community.  So it can be done, and more can be done to develop a COTS-like program specific for nuclear power.

 

  • NASA also offered non-financial assistance that was critical to private space entrepreneurs, such as launch capabilities, flexibility in contracting, and teams of experts to come around and help as needed.  DOE is moving in this direction with its GAIN program, which opens up DOE labs to help provide non-financial assistance to companies.  ARPA-E also provides technical assistance to innovators.  DOE has unique contracting authorities in the federal government that allows it to develop customized contractual solutions.

    A key differentiating point between the COTS program and nuclear power is the level of regulation of the nuclear power industry, which inhibits rapid testing.  However, over time non-financial solutions can be found to address and potentially mitigate this important difference.

 

  • The COTS program took advantage of “Other Transaction Authority” (aka “Other Transaction Agreements,” or “OTAs”) to facilitate strong and productive coordination between the private sector and government.  The blog authors would add that OTAs are highly flexible government contracts that can mirror more closely commercial contracts, including on providing sought-after IP protections to the private sector.  These types of contracts are particularly appropriate for developing prototypes.  While other agencies, such as the Department of Defense readily use OTAs to support defense projects, including the development of prototype projects, DOE has largely stayed away from using them for nuclear projects.

 

  • The COTS program facilitated a significant opportunity for cost savings that already existed.  Elon Musk, a key player in the COTS story, saw an opportunity because while for other modes of transportation total costs are only 2-5 times fuel costs, in rocketry that was not the case (total launch costs far far exceeded fuel costs)—this represented an opportunity for huge savings.  Similarly, we heard that while with other power plants, and even cars, overall construction costs are about 10 times the cost of materials, in nuclear power overall construction costs far far exceed the costs of materials (greater than 100x).  This represents an area for savings that a COTS-type program can help achieve.

It was an excellent presentation, and thank you to NIA for putting it together!

On Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee passed a slew of energy related-legislation, including the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA), on a largely bipartisan basis. NELA supports the development and deployment of advanced nuclear reactors and was introduced to the Senate by a bipartisan group on March 27, 2019.

NELA would establish a variety of incentives and programs to promote advanced reactors and the bill’s sponsor Sen. Murkowski touted the bill saying “[t]hese measures will help develop innovative technologies, responsibly reduce our energy and water consumption and protect our economy and national security”.

The legislation directs the Secretary of Energy to take steps to ensure there are at least two operating advanced nuclear reactors by 2025. It also would extend federal power purchase agreements from the current 10 years to 40 years, which provides an incentive for the development of nuclear power reactors at government installations.

For additional information on NELA, please contact the authors.

On June 18, 2019, U.S. Representatives Elaine Luria (D-VA) and Denver Riggleman (R-VA), along with Reps. Rob Wittman (R-VA) and Conor Lamb (D-PA), introduced in the House the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (H.R. 3306), an identical companion bill to the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (S. 903) (“NELA”), which was introduced in the Senate on March 27, 2019.

The bill is designed to help the United States regain its global nuclear leadership and calls on the Department of Energy to create a 10-year nuclear energy strategic plan. But the bill’s resurgence and introduction in the House reflects the current excitement surrounding the advanced nuclear industry and its promise to provide a clean, reliable source of energy.  Use of identical bills will hopefully help expedite its passage once it is reported out of committee. The Senate Energy Committee is also coordinating with the House cosponsors and other House leadership to shepherd the bill through the legislative process.

We covered the details of NELA when it was first introduced in 2018, as well as its reintroduction to the senate in early 2019.

In Rep. Luria’s press release associated with the bill, she says:

As an engineer who operated nuclear reactors on aircraft carriers, I know that ensuring a thriving civilian nuclear industry is vital not only for our economy, but for our national security. Nuclear energy must be part of any solution to transitioning to a clean energy future because nuclear power provides over 55% of our carbon-free energy. That’s why I’m proud to reach across the aisle and introduce this critical bipartisan bill.

On the NRC side, there have been two recent papers issued this June impacting advanced reactor design:

Last but certainly not least, we are excited to pass along that Rita Baranwal has been overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate to be the Assistant Secretary of Energy for Nuclear Energy.  Her strong technical background, successful leadership of the DOE Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear, and overall enthusiasm for nuclear energy make her ideally suited to help usher in the next generation of nuclear reactors.  Congratulations!

For a more information about the above topic, please contact the authors.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in early May issued a notice seeking comments on a new draft regulatory guide impacting advanced reactor licensing. Draft Regulatory Guide (DG) 1353 (DG-1353) focuses on using a technology-inclusive, risk-informed, and performance-based methodology to inform the licensing basis and content of applications for non-light-water reactors.  It is related to the industry-led Licensing Modernization Project and endorses the principles and methodologies developed under that project as one method for determining the appropriate scope of an NRC license application.  These principles and methodologies are largely embodied in NEI 18-04, Risk-Informed Performance-Based Guidance for Non-Light Water Reactor Licensing Basis Development.

Since the issuance of NRC Vision and Strategy: Safely Achieving Effective and Efficient Non-Light Water reactor Mission Readiness in 2016, the NRC has been actively working to develop guidance for a flexible regulatory review process for advanced reactors. DG-1353 advances that goal. It provides direction to developers and other applicants who are trying to navigate the regulatory review process, and it encourages them to consider regulatory review early in their development processes.

Comments on DG-1353 must be submitted by July 2, 2019. The NRC plans to issue the final regulatory guide in late 2019.

April has seen significant milestones in licensing of advanced reactors.  We take a closer look at these developments, in particular the first submission of an advanced reactor license application in Canada.

On March 20, 2019, Global First Power (GFP), partnered with Ontario Power Generation and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (Ultra Safe), submitted a license application to the CNSC for a “License to Prepare Site” for a future SMR at Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario.  GFP seeks eventually to build an Ultra Safe Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) at the site producing 15MW thermal / 5MW electric.  GFP has been an early leader in response to the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ invitation to site an SMR at one of facilities.  GFP was the first participant to progress through the second stage of the invitation process, and has been invited to participate in certain land and commercial discussions as well.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) licensing process is staged, with separate licensing actions to prepare the site, construct, and then operate a reactor (although the latter two steps can potentially be combined into one licensing action).  The License to Prepare Site is the first step in the process, and evaluates whether the proposed site is suitable for a nuclear reactor of a given general design.  As summarized by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission:

An application for a license to prepare site (LTPS) does not require detailed design information or specifications of a facility. . . . The review of the application focuses on determining whether the site characteristics that have an impact on health, safety, security and the environment have been identified, and that these characteristics have been taken into consideration and will also be considered in the design, operation and decommissioning of the proposed facility.

In this sense U.S. and Canadian licensing processes share many similarities.  For example, the License to Prepare Site mimics the “Early Site Permit” licensing process in the United States.  Under the U.S. nuclear licensing regime laid out in 10 CFR Part 52, companies can first request an Early Site Permit from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and then a “Combined License” to both construct and then operate a reactor on the pre-approved site.

Like in the U.S., the Canadian nuclear regulator will first conduct a sufficiency review to ensure the application has all required elements, before processing it on the merits.  Once the application has been assessed, the CNSC will issue a notice of commencement and the project description will be available to the public for comment as part of the environmental review.  The timeline for completing the license review process for a License to Prepare Site is 24 months, similar to what the NRC advertises for completing many of its related licensing actions.   Both countries have set forth long term visions to lead in siting of advanced reactors (as discussed in prior blog posts for the U.S. and Canada).  Also like in the U.S., the CNSC has set forth guidance as to the licensing process for SMRs, and what an application should contain.

What will be interesting is to see how the Canadian licensing process compares with the U.S. process in implementation, and how both can benefit from lessons learned by each other.  The U.S. arguably has a head start, already reviewing a Design Certification Application for a NuScale SMR, and recently having completed the environmental review for an Early Site Permit for a SMR system of up to 800 MWe next to the Clinch River in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (although a few further steps remain till the permit is granted).

However, the Canadian licensing strategy has received early accolades for offering a graded, and streamlined process, including with its Pre-Licensing Vendor Design Review.  In the U.S., the Clinch River Early Site Permit process is expected to take over 3 years to complete (see timeline), and the environmental review document alone comes in at near 1400 pages, including appendices (keep in mind that the costs of NRC licensing reviews are charged back to the applicant).  Although the U.S. Clinch River project is for a much larger reactor, a key metric to watch will be whether the CNSC meets or exceeds its licensing timelines, and whether it can truly adopt a graded licensing approach given the much smaller size of the GFP MMR project.

To learn more about SMR licensing, please contact the authors.