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Nuclear Regulatory Commission Releases List Of Issues To Consider In New Decommissioning Rules

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has narrowed down the issues it expects to address in a new set of rules for the decommissioning of nuclear power plants.The NRC wants to streamline the decommissioning process, and in a report issued last week the commission listed emergency preparedness, physical and cyber security, training requirements for certified fuel handlers and uses of the decommissioning trust funds as some of the issues it wants to address in the new rules.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not have a set of decommissioning rules at the present time, and NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan says federal regulators never established the steps for taking down a nuclear power plant.

Currently companies that are shutting down a reactor have to seek approval for each step as the power plant comes down and ask for exemptions from the federal license that it holds to operate a plant.

Sheehan says plant operators should not have to ask for license exemptions for the issues that were listed in the report.

"One of the things we're hoping to accomplish is to codify the way these changes would be handled so that we don't have to go through this process where each action requires an exemption or a license amendment request," Sheehan says.

The NRC started the process of coming up with rules for decommissioning in 2014, and the latest report focuses in on the areas that the commission hopes to include in the new rules.

Sheehan says plants like Vermont Yankee highlighted the need for the new rules.

"Decades ago there was no focus on decommissioning regulations because that seemed far off in the distance, but we now have had plants that have gone through the decommissioning process," Sheehan said. "So this is a significant development. Now we're talking about those areas that we're going to be focusing in on and why we have decided to act on those particular areas."

The commission will collect public comments on the regulatory basis and then issue its proposed changes next year.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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