NEI: NRC needs new regulations for small modular reactors, other innovations

An artist's rendering of a cross-section from a small modular reactor design
An artist's rendering of a cross-section from a small modular reactor design | Courtesy of the Department of Energy/NuScale Power
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), on its website (www.nei.org), encouraged the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) this week to develop regulations that cover new technologies, including small modular reactors (SMRs).

The NEI said current regulations relating to safety and security for commercial nuclear reactors are based on larger reactors and have yet to be updated to account for design and technological enhancements that have led to SMR designs.

The NEI expects licensing for these new reactor types to be initiated within the next year. Due to the smaller size and decreased complexity, the SMR design is expected to be safer than current models of nuclear reactors.

“Small modular reactors and other new technologies are capable of significantly reducing the risk of radiological sabotage, while also reducing or eliminating reliance on human actions,” NEI Senior Director for New Plant Licensing Russell Bell said.

In response to these developments, the NEI has requested that the NRC hold public discussions as soon as possible to consider rule changes that recognize and support these new developments in nuclear technology. The NEI said SMR manufacturers have stated their intentions to apply for regulatory approval for designs.

The NEI said the SMR design is expected to offer increased efficiency in manufacturing and cost due to their smaller size and less-complex operational design.

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