Security & Safety

US / Reform Of NRC’s Fee Model Will Unlock Advanced Reactor Innovation, Says Report

By David Dalton
24 May 2021

Reform Of NRC’s Fee Model Will Unlock Advanced Reactor Innovation, Says Report
Reform of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s user-fee model for new licence applicants, combined with more funding for advanced reactor licensing and regulatory infrastructure, will unlock innovation and support US leadership in advanced nuclear energy, a report by the Nuclear Innovation Alliance says.

The 38-page report says the NRC’s fee model inhibits carbon-free advanced nuclear innovation in two main ways. First, it limits the agency’s resources, flexibility, and efficiency; and second, the open-ended costs associated with paying fees impose barriers to new entrants.

Given the importance of developing advanced reactors for decarbonisation, Congress should reevaluate the licensing fee recovery system, according to the report. “User fees can be effective models to internalise regulatory costs of regulated industries, but they can also discourage innovation and limit agency capabilities and flexibility,” it says.

The report calls for Congress to significantly reform, modify, or replace the licensing fee cost recovery model to exclude or substantially reduce fees for new licence applicants at NRC. Alternatively, options should be expanded for Department of Energy funding of advanced reactor licensing.

“While this would not fully address the challenges of the current NRC structure, Congress could consider appropriating funds for this authorisation, as well other measures such as licensing prizes, fee caps, and fee deferrals,” the report says.

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