RadWaste Monitor Vol. 17 No. 6
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February 09, 2024

Final decommissioning rule could be ready by August; commissioners reviewing rule now

By Dan Leone

After nearly a decade, Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff on Jan. 31 turned over to the commissioners a final recommendation for a new nuclear power plant decommissioning rule, according to a recent letter.

The rule could be ready before summer is over, an NRC spokesperson wrote Tuesday in an email to the Exchange Monitor.

“The staff projects the end of August for potential publication of the final rule,” an NRC spokesperson wrote Tuesday evening in an email. But “any estimate of how long the Commission will deliberate on a rulemaking package is just that – an estimate. The Commissioners take the time necessary to give appropriate attention to such an important and complex rulemaking.”

In a letter to a representative of the Chickasaw Nation, an NRC official confirmed staff had sent their final recommendations to the four remaining commissioners last week.

“[S]taff provided the final rulemaking package to the Commission on January 31, 2024,” Kevin Williams, director of NRC’s division of materials safety, security, state and tribal programs in the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, wrote in a Feb. 1 letter to Karen Brunso, tribal historic preservation officer for the Chickasaw Nation. “The Commission will review the package and provide direction to the staff related to the final rule.”

NRC staff previously thought the final rulemaking package would go to the commission in October 2023. “The delay was necessary because we extended the public comment period by 105 days at the request of several stakeholders,” the commission spokesperson said Tuesday.

The NRC directed staff to start working on a new decommissioning rule in 2014. It was once expected to be finalized as early as 2019.

Broadly, the rule would ease some of NRC’s security and emergency preparedness requirements for plants being decommissioned.

Supporters say a nuclear power plant that has been shut down does not have the same hazards as an operating plant and that decommissioning companies should not be subject to the same strict standards as electric utilities.

Critics, including former NRC Commission Jeffrey Baran and several anti-nuclear lawmakers on Capitol Hill, have said the proposed rule defangs the NRC and gives the industry too much say-so about its own behavior.

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