Morning Briefing - April 15, 2019
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April 15, 2019

NRC Terminates Long-Running Rulemaking on Special Nuclear Material Accounting

By ExchangeMonitor

The five members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission unanimously terminated a decade-long program to update federal regulations on material control and accounting (MC&A) of special nuclear materials.

“The Commission has disapproved the draft final rule,” Annette Vietti-Cook, secretary of the commission, wrote in an April 3 memorandum to NRC Executive Director for Operations Margaret Doane. “The staff should discontinue this rulemaking activity. The staff should evaluate the history of this rulemaking activity as a lessons-learned/case study under the agency transformation initiative.”

The commissioners posted their votes from Feb. 15 through March 22, with explanations of varying length. according to the summary of their decisions.

Commissioner Jeff Baran cited three major objections to the proposal, with concurrence from NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki and others: inconsistency on whether the updated rules should be performance-based or prescriptive; the absence of technical support for key elements of the update; and that many recommendations “would not result in any real-world safety or security benefit.”

The 1954 Atomic Energy Act designates plutonium, uranium-233, and uranium enriched in uranium-233 or uranium-235 as special nuclear material. These materials contain fissile isotopes that can be used in nuclear weapons.

The long process began with an April 2008 plan from NRC staff that laid out six options for a rulemaking on MC&A regulations. The next year, the commission selected a limited process to revise, clarify, and augment the standing rules.

Doane last October presented the commission with a draft final rule that, among other things, would: clarify current rules for item control at Category 2 and 3 facilities, those holding special nuclear material of low and moderate security significance; and consolidate general performance objectives and expand them to cover additional facilities, including spent fuel storage pads.