[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 98 (Friday, May 22, 2009)]
[Pages 24049-24050]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-11984]



[NRC 2009-0214]

Announcement of a Proposed Process Change Regarding the Review of 
Research and Test Reactor License Renewal Applications; Notice of 
Public Meeting

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Notice of stakeholder meeting regarding a proposed process 
change for the renewal of research and test reactor licenses.


SUMMARY: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is proposing a 
streamlined review process for license renewal applications (LRAs) for 
research and test reactor (RTR) licenses with the objective of 
expeditiously resolving the backlog of LRAs while maintaining safety 
standards. Draft Interim Staff Guidance (ISG) proposed to be 
implemented will be published for public review prior to the meeting on 
the NRC Public Meeting Schedule Web site, http://www.nrc.gov/public-involve/public-meetings/index.cfm.

DATES: A public meeting for stakeholders will be held June 4, 2009, 
commencing at 1 p.m.

ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held at the Legacy Hotel and Meeting 
Center, 1775 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Alexander Adams Jr., Division of 
Policy and Rulemaking, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, U.S. 
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, telephone 
(301) 415-1127, e-mail [email protected]; or Marcus Voth, 
Division of Policy and Rulemaking, Office of Nuclear Reactor 
Regulation, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-
0001, telephone (301) 415-1210, e-mail [email protected].



    At the present time 21 of the 32 RTRs licensed to operate in the 
United States have LRAs before the NRC. Several issues have contributed 
to the large backlog, including NRC licensing staffing levels, emergent 
issues, limited licensee resources, existing license infrastructure, 
regulatory requirements, and the broad scope of the RTR license renewal 
process as discussed in SECY-08-0161, ``Review of Research and Test 
Reactor License Renewal Applications,'' dated October 24, 2008. In a 
staff requirements memorandum (SRM) dated March 26, 2009, the staff was 
directed to streamline the current license renewal process 
incorporating concepts discussed in SECY-08-0161 among other measures. 
These documents can be found on the NRC Agencywide Documents Access and 
Management system (ADAMS) under accession numbers ML0825501403 and 
ML0908501591, respectively. The staff is presently developing proposed 
guidance along with the rationale for the focused license renewal 
process for RTRs.
    The traditional process currently being used for reviewing LRAs is 
to perform a full review based on the standard review plan for RTRs, 
NUREG-1537, ``Guidelines for Preparing and Reviewing Applications for 
the Licensing of Non-Power Reactors, Part 2,'' February 1996. The 
standard review plan addresses all of the topics required to be 
addressed in applications by 10 CFR 50.33 and 50.34, the same process 
as used for an initial license issuance. The staff is proposing to 
continue this full review process for those LRAs well into the renewal 
review process and for RTRs licensed for power levels equal to or 
greater than 2 megawatts. The staff proposes to apply the new focused 
review process to the remaining LRAs in the backlog.
    Two public meetings were held to discuss formulation of the 
proposed process with stakeholders, the first on September 15, 2008, 
and a second on March 25, 2009. In each meeting the staff presented 
aspects of the proposed streamlined review process and addressed 
questions from the public.

Objectives of the Focused Review Process for RTR License Renewal

    The objective of the focused review process for license renewal is 
to provide a process that ensures that applications are properly 
evaluated, documented, and implemented in accordance with the following 
     To ensure the continued health and safety of the public 
and protection of the environment,
     To provide public confidence in the regulatory oversight 
     To propose an effective, efficient, and timely method of 
processing the existing LRA backlog,
     To develop, document, and implement Interim Staff Guidance 
(ISG) for a focused review process,
     To acknowledge the safe operating histories of RTRs 
demonstrated over the facility lifetime documented in reports of 
periodic NRC inspections, and
     To meet requirements of Section 104.c of the Atomic Energy 
Act calling for ``* * * only such minimum amount of regulation of the 
licensee as the Commission finds will permit the common defense and 
security to protect the health and safety of the public and will permit 
the conduct of widespread and diverse research and development.''
    The staff is proposing that a focused approach be implemented for 
those facilities in the current LRA backlog that have been reviewed in 
the past and found to have low risk to the public health and safety. 
ISG is being prepared that will define a focused review process which 
meets regulatory requirements and the goals stated above while taking 
credit for previous reviews of structures, systems, and components. 
Likewise, a Safety Evaluation Report will be prepared that contains 
fewer than the entire 18 topics addressed in the standard review plan 
but at a minimum will address the three areas most critical to safety; 
reactor design and operation, accident analysis, and technical 
specifications. The staff is proposing that the ISG not be applied in 
the following two situations.
    First, the staff proposes that the traditional full review process 
be used for RTRs licensed for greater than 2 megawatts. The licensed 
maximum thermal power levels of the RTRs range from 5 watts to 20 
megawatts. The staff routinely uses a graded approach to apply 
regulations commensurate with the risk of licensed RTRs. A long-
standing demarcation used by the staff has required additional 
regulatory attention to RTRs licensed for 2 megawatts or greater. Part 
of the technical basis for this threshold is that reactor power is 
related to the potential fission product inventory which in turn 
determines the potential dose consequence of an accident.
    Second, the review of some LRAs which are currently nearing 
completion using the traditional full review process will continue to 
be performed in that manner rather than using the ISG to allow for the 
efficient use of staff resources. In implementing the proposed ISG the 
staff may find that one or more exemptions to certain regulations may 
be required. If a need for an exemption should arise it is proposed to 
be processed using existing provisions in the regulations for granting 

[[Page 24050]]

Follow-on Actions

    During implementation of the streamlined review process the staff 
will be considering other regulatory improvements to the RTR LRA 
process. Specific areas being considered are requirements for 
maintaining a periodically updated facility Safety Analysis Report and 
the requirement for earlier submittal of a LRA, allowing time for the 
licensee to make revisions in the event the NRC determines that the 
content of the application does not meet the regulatory requirement.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 18th day of May 2009.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Kathryn M. Brock,
Chief, Research and Test Reactor Branch A, Division of Policy and 
Rulemaking, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.
 [FR Doc. E9-11984 Filed 5-21-09; 8:45 am]