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NRC Taking Steps to Improve Dry Cask Storage Licensing Process

Oct. 24, 2013—The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sufficient resources to address the increase in dry cask used fuel storage licensing requests, NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane said in response to query from a bipartisan group of senators.

Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) had expressed concern with the “timeliness and efficiency” of dry cask storage licensing and recommended that the NRC consider the petition for rulemaking (PRM 72-7) that NEI submitted in October 2012 to address this concern (see Nuclear Energy Overview, Sept. 16).

Macfarlane’s Oct. 9 reply provided updates on ongoing agency actions related to dry cask storage regulations.

In December 2010, the commission approved an agency staff plan to evaluate the adequacy of fuel storage and transport regulatory programs and to identify ways to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Those efforts are still under way, Macfarlane said, but the agency already has enhanced internal coordination, initiated more communication with applicants and licensees, and improved tracking processes and technical reviews.

The NRC also has solicited feedback during public meetings from stakeholders such as NEI, which Macfarlane said has resulted in an expedited process for minor revisions to dry cask storage certificates of compliance.

She also said the NRC is considering NEI’s October 2012 petition, which notes the need for a more risk-informed, performance-based approach to used fuel storage regulation in line with agency initiatives. She said that the agency published the petition in the Federal Register for public comment, and the staff intends to provide recommendations to the commission by August.

“The NRC agrees that the agency can continue to work towards regulatory efficiencies in the dry cask licensing process while still ensuring public safety is maintained,” Macfarlane said.