The NRC staff is moving forward with development of the 10 CFR Part 53 rulemaking, which will establish a new framework for licensing and regulating advanced nuclear reactors (and potentially also extending to fusion systems).  The agency is taking a novel approach to rule development on an expedited schedule, including hosting frequent public meetings and releasing strawman rule language early to encourage public comment.

Novel Rulemaking Approach

The  NRC staff initially proposed in SECY-20-0032 a roughly seven-year rulemaking plan, going through the standard rulemaking process with an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in October 2020, issuance of a proposed rule in 2025, and then a final rule to be published in 2027.

However, the Commission in response to SRM-SECY-20-0032 directed the NRC staff to complete the rulemaking by 2024.  Moreover, instead of taking a standard approach, the Commission encouraged the NRC staff “implement the development and intermittent release of preliminary draft rule language, followed by public outreach and dialogue, and then further iteration on the language until the staff has established the rudiments of its proposed rule for Commission consideration.”  This approach allows for an iterative development of the Part 53 rule, with multiple opportunities for public input.

First Steps

On Wednesday, the NRC announced its first major public virtual meeting on the Part 53 rule, to occur on November 18 in the afternoon.  The first meeting will outline the rulemaking’s strategy and schedule, as well as a key part of the new rule – technology-inclusive safety requirements.  The NRC released early draft proposed safety requirements the prior day for the new rule.  It is expected that this will be the first of many ongoing public meetings, with meetings to be held every 4-6 weeks over the next 12 months.

In line with the upcoming meetings and ongoing release of proposed rule language, the NRC staff on Friday also opened up docket NRC-2019-0062 on the Federal Register, with a public comment period to be held open until November 2021.  This will allow the public to make comments on the released draft language and in response to the public meetings on an ongoing basis.

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For more information about the Part 53 rulemaking process, please contact the authors.