The NRC Staff sent a report on August 1 to the Commissioners that evaluates four options for revising regulations and guidance on physical security for advanced reactors. The Staff is recommending a limited-scope rulemaking that retains the current overall framework for security requirements in 10 CFR Part 73, but provides alternatives for advanced reactors for physical security. The Staff estimates that such a rulemaking could be completed within 44 months of the Commission’s authorization.

The NRC’s physical security requirements for large light-water reactors (LWRs) are intended to protect against attacks and sabotage. In addition to other measures, commercial power reactor licensees meet physical security requirements through the use of an armed guard force at an estimated cost in excess of $5 million per year at a given site.

Stakeholders in the advanced reactor community have asserted that, because advanced reactor designs are less prone to attack and sabotage (due both to their designs and the fact that they will require a smaller footprint for operation, among other reasons), the NRC should consider generic rule changes for physical security at advanced reactor sites. Stakeholders assert that revising the regulations could result in a clear, predictable, and stable licensing process that would promote physical security and cost competitiveness of advanced reactor facilities.

The NRC Staff’s report to the Commissioners assesses four options:

  • Option 1: Maintain the status quo
  • Option 2: No changes to NRC regulations; instead, the Staff would prepare guidance or endorse industry guidance or generic topical reports for processing requests for proposed alternatives or exemptions to physical security requirements for advanced reactors
  • Option 3: A limited-scope rulemaking that retains the current overall framework for security requirements, but provides alternatives for advanced reactors to specific regulations and guidance related to physical security
  • Option 4: A broad scope rulemaking to assess and define physical security requirements for advanced reactor designs

After assessing the advantages and disadvantages of each option, the Staff recommended that the Commission pursue the limited scope rulemaking (Option 3). The Staff notes that, if undertaken, changes to a limited scope of requirements related to physical security for advanced reactors would:

  • promote regulatory stability, predictability, and clarity;
  • eliminate the need for future applicants to propose alternatives or request exemptions from physical security requirements;
  • recognize technology advancements and design features associated with the NRC-recommended attributes of advanced reactors; and
  • replace prescriptive regulations with risk-informed, performance-based requirements.

A link to the Staff’s evaluation and recommendation is provided here.