The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued its seventh National Report for the Convention on Nuclear Safety, claiming the United States “implements a high level of nuclear safety,” through domestic and international awareness and cooperation “and by meeting the obligations of all the articles established by the convention.”
Countries that are parties to the convention meet every three years to discuss safety issues related to nuclear power. The next meeting is to be held in March 2017 in Vienna, Austria, home of the International Atomic Energy Agency. At that point, the NRC will review its own report and the peer feedback that comes around as a result of a peer review that is underway.
On the docket will be six challenges addressed in the report: post-Fukushima Daiichi related safety factors, transition from risk-informed fire protection regulations, ensuring continuity during the oversight transition from plant construction to operation, nuclear industry strategy, status of periodic safety reviews, and an update on NRC's work on license renewals beyond 60 years. In addition, the discussions touch on digital instrumentation and control systems, open-phase conditions in electric power systems, spent fuel pool neutron-absorbing materials and plant transition from operation to decommissioning.
The report notes the regulatory challenge involves a readiness framework that addresses specific hazards that are associated “with each nuclear site.”
The report then notes that more than three-quarters of U.S. plants have had their operating licenses renewed. “Based on statements from industry representatives,” the report says, “the Commission expects nearly all sites to apply for license renewal.”
As reported in the previous convention report, 18 reactors at that time had entered their 41rst year of operation between 2011 and 2013. By the end of 2016, 20 additional reactors will have entered the period of extended operations – moving beyond their 40-year initial operating license. In addition, Indian Point Nuclear Generating Station's Units 2 and 3 are operating beyond the 40-year licensing period under a timely renewal provision that allows for extended operations if the application for an additional 20 years license was handled in a timely manner by the plant's operator – in this case by Entergy Nuclear Operations.
The international convention entered into force in 1996 and was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1999.
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