|Marcus Nichol and David Young|
In a recent decision, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission directed the agency staff initiate a rulemaking to revise emergency preparedness (EP) regulations and guidance for Small Modular Reactor (SMR) facilities. Small, scalable nuclear energy facilities are anticipated to become an important addition to the nation's electric power grids. However, in order for SMRs to fulfill this promise, it is important that an EP framework for these facilities recognize their advanced design characteristics and safety features.
Nuclear power plants must have plans in place to cope with any possible emergency. For the current fleet of large light water reactors (LWRs), these plans include two Emergency Planning Zones (EPZs) around each nuclear power plant facility – one of about 10 miles for actions to protect from a possible radioactive plume (a plume exposure pathway EPZ) and the other of about 50 miles for monitoring potential contamination of food and water supplies (an ingestion exposure pathway EPZ). Compared to large LWRs, an accident at an SMR facility can be expected to result in a much smaller and slower release of radioactivity to the environment, and thus have significantly reduced offsite consequences. For this reason, an SMR facility should be able to justify EPZs that are smaller than those required for a large LWR, along with a commensurate reduction in the amount of resources directed to EP activities.
|NuScale SMR facility (artist's conception).|
|Clinch River site (approximately 40 miles west of Knoxville)|
We look forward to engaging with the NRC and other stakeholders to define EP requirements for SMRs in support of industry’s upcoming SMR applications.