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Senators Ask NRC for More Efficient Dry Cask Storage Licensing

Sept. 16, 2013—A bipartisan group of senators is asking NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane for a more predictable and efficient licensing process for used nuclear fuel cask designs and dry storage facilities.

A Sept. 13 letter from Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) recognizes the NRC’s commitment to increasing regulatory efficiency and transparency but says the agency could  do more.

“We are writing to encourage the commission to also direct that commitment toward enhancing the timeliness and efficiency of the licensing (including amendments and renewals) of dry cask storage facilities and cask designs for used nuclear fuel,” the letter said.

Pointing to industry concerns that reactor owners have often had to wait two years or longer for the agency to approve amendments to dry cask designs, the senators said they believe there are “regulatory efficiencies that [could] make the dry cask licensing process more timely for everyone, while still ensuring that public safety is protected.”

The letter asks the commission to consider certain proposed changes to used fuel storage regulations. It notes the petition for rulemaking NEI submitted to the NRC that acknowledges the need for a more risk-informed, performance-based approach to used fuel storage regulation in line with agency initiatives (see Nuclear Energy Overview, Oct. 4, 2012).

Among other revisions, NEI’s petition calls for standardizing requirements for the format and content of information provided in cask design certificates of compliance.

The senators’ letter asked the NRC for an update on its actions relating to the petition and its own initiatives to make the licensing process more efficient.