North American Member News May 2023


31 May 2023


Eileen Supko

U.S. NRC Reports to Congress on Preparedness for Accident Tolerant Fuel Licensing

In late April, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a report to Congress on Preparedness for Accident Tolerant Fuel (ATF) Licensing. The report was issued as directed by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023.

The NRC explained that nuclear operating companies are moving forward with plans to seek approval to reload quantities of fuel assemblies with one of two ATF concepts (coated cladding and doped pellets) or with higher burnup limits and increased enrichment by the mid-to-late 2020s. The enrichment, fabrication, transportation, and use of ATF fuel assemblies in some cases requires NRC approval. The NRC has already received licensing action requests for the use of ATF, including for higher burnup limits, both with or without increased enrichment levels.

The NRC is working to complete the licensing of ATF, including higher burnup limits and increased enrichment, in parallel with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) and the industry’s research and development activities. The NRC noted that the use of higher burnups and enrichment assays will require a new environmental review to support future licensing actions involving ATF fuel. NRC is generically evaluating the environmental impacts related to the fuel cycle, transportation of unirradiated ATF, waste and decommissioning rather than address the use of ATF on a site-specific basis. NRC is applying information from past studies to ATF concepts, higher burnup, and increased enrichment designs to develop a generic study of environmental impacts of ATF concepts, increased enrichment and higher burnup fuels.

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