UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
This report provides information on the status and development of nuclear power programmes in the United States of America (USA or US), including factors related to the effective planning, decision making and implementation of the nuclear power programme that together lead to safe and economical operation of nuclear power plants.
The CNPP summarizes organizational and industrial aspects of nuclear power programmes and provides information about the relevant legislative, regulatory and international framework in the USA.
The USA currently has 99 operating nuclear power reactors, which produce 805.7 TWh (terawatt-hours) of electricity annually, and is in the process of building two AP1000 (Advanced Passive) nuclear units at Plant Vogtle located near Waynesboro, Georgia, in the south-eastern United States.
1. COUNTRY ENERGY OVERVIEW
1.1. Energy Information
The United States of America has a market driven economy. Decisions affecting resources, prices, technology development and other matters pertaining to energy are made primarily by the private sector within the context of government laws and regulations. Federal and local governments encourage the development and use of selected energy resources through funding of research and development, tax allowances, service charges, regulations, and demonstration projects. Many of the main features of federal energy policy are established by the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT1992) and the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT2005). Section 3.2.1 provides a more complete list of the federal laws that impact electric power. These federal laws establish energy efficiency standards, nuclear power incentives, alternate fuels development and renewable energy incentives.
Energy statistics and projections for the United States are published by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). EIA is the statistical and analytical agency within the US Department of Energy (DOE). EIA collects, analyses, and disseminates independent and impartial energy information to promote sound policymaking, efficient markets and public understanding regarding energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment. EIA is the nation’s premier source of energy information and, by law, its data, analyses, and forecasts are independent of approval by any other officer or employee of the US Government. A complete list of reports and publications produced by EIA is available at www.eia.gov/reports/.
1.1.1. Energy Policy
The overall direction of the US energy sector is determined largely by market forces rather than government policy. However, federal policies and regulations do influence specific aspects of energy production and transmission, including, but not limited to, air and water quality, interstate commerce, mine safety, leasing of federal lands, support for research and development activities, investment incentives, income taxes, tax incentives, as well as nuclear licensing and safety oversight. Examples of recent federal regulations directly affecting the energy sector include:
In August 2015, the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan for Existing Power Plants (CPP), which proposes a 36% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2040, based on 2005 emissions levels.
Federal tax incentives also impact the technological diversity of the energy sector:
The federal business energy investment tax credit (ITC), amended most recently in December 2015, provides 30% tax rebates for solar, fuel cells and wind. The ITC also provides a 10% rebate for geothermal, microturbines and combined heat and power. The extended ITC could enable an additional 25 GWe of solar photovoltaic capacity over the next five years, which is 54% greater than a scenario in which the ITC expires.
The renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC), which is an inflation adjusted per-kilowatt-hour (kWh) tax credit of US $0.023/kWh in 2015 for wind, closed loop biomass and geothermal energy resources and US $0.012/kWh for open loop biomass, landfill gas, municipal solid waste, qualified hydroelectric, and marine and hydrokinetic energy resources. The PTC expires on 31 December 2019 and is adjusted for inflation.
The nuclear energy PTC of US $18/megawatt-hour (MWh) is available for the first 6 000 MWe of eligible deployed nuclear power capacity. The PTC is not adjusted for inflation. To be eligible for the PTC, construction of a nuclear power plant must have commenced by 1 January 2014, and commercial operations must commence by 1 January 2021. The PTC is available during the first eight years of reactor operation. In September 2016, legislation was introduced in Congress to remove the deadline for awarding the PTC for new nuclear capacity.
Renewal of the Price–Anderson Act, which requires each operator of a nuclear power plant to obtain the maximum primary coverage of liability insurance. This first tier coverage is provided by insurance pools, which are groups of insurance companies. In 2015, the annual premium paid by all owners of nuclear power plants was US $375 million; this is the maximum amount of insurance available through private insurance companies. Damages exceeding that amount are funded with a retroactive assessment (self-insurance) on all owners of commercial reactors, based on the number of reactors a utility owns. This second tier coverage is not to exceed US $13.2 billion; the amount of second tier coverage is periodically adjusted for inflation. Congress has the ability to determine whether additional disaster relief is required if all funds are depleted or whether to retroactively increase nuclear utility liability.
Standby support insurance, whereby DOE is authorized to issue insurance to six reactors to cover delays in operations attributed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing reviews or litigation.
Loan guarantees aimed at accelerating the deployment of innovative clean energy projects across the United States. Technologies considered for loans or loan guarantees include: biomass, hydrogen, solar, wind, hydropower, nuclear, advanced fossil energy coal, carbon sequestration practices/technologies, electricity delivery and energy reliability, alternative fuel vehicles, industrial energy efficiency projects and pollution control equipment. To date, the DOE Loan Program Office has a portfolio of more than US $30 billion in loans, loan guarantees and commitments covering more than 30 projects across the United States.
In addition to the federal role, state agencies formulate policies and issue regulations affecting the energy sector within each state. State involvement is generally related to air and water quality, mine safety and permitting, severance or other taxes, tax incentives, and renewable portfolio standards. States may regulate the electric power sector through public utility commissions, associated integrated resource planning, and rate setting procedures.
1.1.2. Estimated Available Energy
The United States has the largest estimated recoverable reserves of coal in the world. Coal is produced in 25 states spread across three major coal producing regions. According to EIA’s Annual Coal Report 2014 (published in March 2016), the number of producing mines in the United States continued to decline in 2014, dropping 7.2% to 985 mines compared with 2013. In 2014, US coal production increased to 907 million metric tons, a 1.5% increase from the 893 million metric tons produced in 2013.
Estimates of US crude oil and lease condensate proved reserves rose for the sixth consecutive year in 2014, increasing by 9.3% to 5 447 million metric tons, according to EIA’s U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Proved Reserves (2014) report released in November 2015; this level makes 2014 the fourth highest year on record. The increase is attributable primarily to extensions to existing fields. Sustained low prices for crude oil and natural gas are expected to reduce proved reserves in EIA’s next report. As US crude oil proved reserves and production increased in 2014, imports of crude oil declined for the fourth consecutive year.
US proved reserves of total natural gas (including natural gas plant liquids) increased 10% in 2014 and reached a record high. The reserves were added in the 48 contiguous states from ongoing exploration and development in several of the nation’s shale formations. Rocky Mountain natural gas reserves declined in 2014. US production of total natural gas in 2014 increased 6% over 2013, setting a record high for the United States and representing the ninth consecutive annual rise in US natural gas production (total or marketed).
Shale natural gas is found in formations containing both the source rock and the producing reservoir. Proved reserves of US shale natural gas increased in 2014 by 25% over 2013. The share of shale gas relative to total US natural gas proved reserves increased from 45% in 2013 to 50% in 2014. Estimated production of shale natural gas increased 18% in 2014.
Uranium reserves are estimated quantities of uranium in known mineral deposits of such size, grade and configuration that the uranium could be recovered at or below a specified production cost (forward cost) with currently proven mining and processing technology and under current laws and regulations. Forward costs include the costs for power and fuel, labour, materials, insurance, severance and ad valorem taxes, and applicable administrative costs. The forward costs used to estimate US uranium ore reserves are independent of the price at which uranium produced from the estimated reserves might be sold in the commercial market. Through the end of 2015, US uranium reserve estimates for 70 mines and properties by status, mining method, and state are provided in EIA’s Domestic Uranium Production Report (DUPR). Estimated uranium reserves at up to US $100 per pound were 139 165 tonnes U3O8 (Table 1).
TABLE 1. ESTIMATED AVAILABLE US ENERGY RESERVES
|Million metric tons||Million metric tons||Billion m3||Metric tons U3O8||TW||TW|
|Total amount in specific units||232 021||5 447||11 004||139 165||n.a.||n.a.|
|Total amount in exajoule (EJ)||n.a.||n.a.||n.a.||n.a.||n.a.||n.a.|
1 Reflects estimated recoverable reserves as of 31 December 2014.2 Reflects crude oil and lease condensate proved reserves as of 31 December 2014.3 Reflects proved reserves of wet natural gas as of 31 December 2014.4 Reflects uranium reserves as 31 December 2015 and assumes a US $100 per pound ($220 per kg) forward cost for U3O8. Source: US Energy Information Administration.
1.1.3. Energy Statistics
US energy consumption slowed recently and is not anticipated to return to growth levels seen in the second half of the 20th century. Domestic consumption is expected to grow at a modest rate through 2040. Energy used in homes has been essentially flat, and transportation consumption is expected to decline slightly; energy consumption growth will be concentrated in US businesses and industries.
Electric generation capacity additions since 2000 were made under market conditions that differ significantly from those that existed for much of the 20th century. In the last half of the 20th century, additions to new generation capacity could serve growing electricity demand, and plant operators could reliably count on electricity sales to increase as demand for electricity consuming appliances and equipment grew. On a net basis, the United States added an average of 18.3 GW of additional capacity annually from 1950 to 2015. Two time periods of above average additions occurred during the oil price crisis of the 1970s and the natural gas fired capacity buildout of the early 2000s. As electricity demand growth slowed, new capacity additions also slowed. The increase in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, which are often encouraged by federal tax credits and state level mandates to increase generation using renewable resources, has also affected the amount of new capacity.
While the overall US energy history is one of significant change as new forms of energy were developed, the three major fossil fuels — petroleum, natural gas and coal, which together provided 87% of total US primary energy over the past decade — have dominated the US fuel mix for well over 100 years. Recent increases in the domestic production of petroleum liquids and natural gas have prompted shifts between the uses of fossil fuels (largely from coal fired to natural gas fired power generation), but the predominance of these three energy sources is likely to continue. Table 2 shows historical US energy statistics in exajoules (EJ). EIA data were converted from quadrillion Btu to EJ using a conversion factor of 1.0551.
TABLE 2. US ENERGY STATISTICS (EJ)
|Year||1970||1980||1990||2000||2005||20151||Average annual growth rate 2000–2015
2 Solid energy consumption and production consist of coal, coke, biomass wood and biomass waste.
3 Liquid energy consumption and production consist of petroleum and biofuels; however, no biofuel data are available for 1970 or 1980.
4 Renewable energy consumption and production consist of wind, solar and geothermal and are assumed to be equal to one another; however, no wind or solar data were available for 1970 or 1980.
Sources: US Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, May 2016.
1.2. The Electricity System
The US electricity system consists of generation, transmission and distribution systems, as well as end users. The relationships between these elements of the system vary by state and region. Although there is interstate electricity trade, no single system or market structure dominates.
1.2.1. Policy and Decision Making Process
The US electric utility industry is regulated at the federal and state levels. Several pieces of legislation have been enacted to address national policies, end user needs, and environmental protection. Legislation also forms the basis for federal regulation of transmission and wholesale electric power transactions. Some important acts include the:
Federal Power Act (1935), which put wholesale electricity sales (i.e. sales for resale) and interstate electricity transmission regulation under the purview of the Federal Power Commission;
Atomic Energy Act (1954), which is the fundamental law governing both civilian and military uses of nuclear materials, including commercial nuclear power;
National Energy Act (1978), whereby the government encouraged conservation efforts and opened electric markets to alternate power producers;
Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (1978), which encourages energy conservation, reliability, and efficiency in the delivery and generation of electricity as well as equitable retail rates for consumers;
Nuclear Waste Policy Act (1982, as amended in 1987), which addresses the disposal of high level radioactive waste and used nuclear fuel;
Energy Policy Act (1992, as amended in 2005), which reaffirms the US policy of competition in wholesale power markets and provides for the development of strong energy infrastructure;
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (2009), which focuses on funding for projects in support of enhancing energy independence and modernizing energy infrastructure, e.g. smart electrical grid.
US policy for the electricity sector is set by the executive and legislative bodies of the federal government. Policy is also set by state governments. Some important federal regulatory bodies include the:
Department of Energy (DOE), which has the broadest responsibilities in regulating power generation, electric transmission, and distribution in the US;
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which regulates interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil;
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which oversees environmental regulation regarding electric power plant emissions;
Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is in charge of end user protection and the prevention of anticompetitive practices.
In addition to the above governmental bodies, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is a non-profit regulatory authority that addresses the reliability of the of the US electrical system. NERC develops and enforces reliability standards; annually assesses seasonal and long term reliability; monitors the bulk power system through system awareness; and educates, trains, and certifies industry personnel. NERC is subject to oversight by FERC. NERC’s jurisdiction includes operators, owners, and end users of the US electrical system. NERC collaborates with eight regional entities to ensure the reliability of the US electrical system. Members of the regional entities come from all areas of the electric industry: investor owned utilities; independent power producers; federal power agencies; state, municipal and provincial utilities; rural electric cooperatives; power marketers; and end users. The eight entities account for nearly all of the electricity supplied in the United States. Regional entities include:
State regulation extends to most areas of utility operations, rates, and end user issues. Public utility commissions exist in most states and regulate prices for electricity that privately owned utilities may charge to retail customers. Other states allow market mechanisms to determine electricity prices.
1.2.2. Structure of the Electric Power Sector
The structure of the US electric power sector consists of four main components: generation, transmission, distribution, and end users. The role of each component differs by state and region. There is interstate electricity trade; however, no single system or market structure dominates another. The US system consists of traditionally regulated and unregulated competitive markets. Some states have regulated markets in which generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power is provided by a single utility. Other states have unbundled generation, transmission and distribution to allow for competitive market participation.
The 2015 US total installed net summer capacity was 1 069 GW, which closely accommodates the capacity of the electricity system. The average price of electricity to end users in 2015 was US $0.1042/kilowatt-hour. In 2015, the United States generated about 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity. Most end users receive electricity from centralized power plants that use a variety of fuels to generate electricity. The most common forms of US electricity generation in 2015 were coal (33%), natural gas (33%), nuclear power (20%) and other renewables (14%).
The US electric power sector consists of a variety of participants including public, private and cooperative utilities, independent power producers, three regional synchronized power grids, eight electric reliability councils, and thousands of separate engineering, economic, environmental, and land use regulatory authorities. The US power sector is a complex market involving firms that generate, transmit, and distribute electricity through intricate infrastructure networks involving a large number of participants. Market participants include:
Investor-owned utilities (IOU) — large, private companies financed by a combination of shareholder equity and bondholder debt governed by state regulatory authorities that set rates of recovery for ratepayers. Several have multifuel generation and multistate operations.
Publicly-owned utilities (POU) — government or municipally owned utilities that are generally exempt from regulation by state regulatory commissions. POUs have an obligation to consider end user interests when setting rates and service standards.
Independent power producers (IPP) — generate electricity from a portfolio of power plants and do not provide distribution services to end users. Although an IPP may sell its power through brokers, it can also sell its power directly to the utilities and marketers. IPPs generally operate in the unregulated electricity markets.
Cooperative utilities — owned by the end users and governed by a board of directors, elected from the membership, which sets the policies and procedures for the utility. Cooperative utilities are typically established in rural parts of the country where the end user base is small.
Power marketing agencies (PMA) — federal entities that market wholesale power. They usually play a role in transmission and electric power systems. Some agencies may also own power plants.
Wholesale power suppliers — do not own individual plants; they buy power from multiple suppliers on a long term or spot market basis and then resell it. Brokers may be used to facilitate transaction.
Retail power marketers — buy and sell electricity, but they usually do not own or operate generation facilities. Electricity is sold directly to end users, such as households and small to medium commercial enterprises.
The US power grid evolved into three large interconnected systems that synchronously move electricity around the 48 contiguous states: the Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection and the Texas Interconnected System. In general, these systems operate independently, with some limited electrical interconnection points. US electrical transmission grids are coordinated, controlled and monitored by electrical transmission system operators, which are traditionally non-profit. Transmission line owners are required to supply transmission access to all electricity generators and wholesale energy customers in the service operator’s area at standardized, open access tariff rates. Electrical transmission system operators may be either Independent System Operators (ISO), which usually operate within a single state or Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO) that cover wider areas crossing state lines. USA based ISOs and RTOs include:
1.2.3. Main Indicators
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) collects extensive primary data from the electricity industry and publishes the data, together with projections and analyses, on its web site. Specifically, long term US projections (currently through 2040) are published in the Annual Energy Outlook. Short term projections are provided in the Short Term Energy Outlook. Historical data are provided in the Monthly Energy Review. Detailed electric sector data are provided in the Electric Power Annual and the Electric Power Monthly. Tables 3 and 4 summarize some of the energy related data available from EIA.
TABLE 3. US ELECTRICITY PRODUCTION, CONSUMPTION AND CAPACITY
|Year||1970||1980||1990||2000||2005||20151||Average annual growth rate 2000–2015
|Capacity of electrical plants (GWe)6|
|Electricity production (TWh)|
|Thermal2||1 261.8||1 754.2||2 149.4||2 753.2||2 963.8||2 686.7||0.16|
|Total5||1 535.1||2 289.6||3 037.8||3 802.1||4 055.4||4 087.4||0.48|
|Total electricity consumption (TWh)||1 392.3||2 094.4||2 837.1||3 592.4||3 811.0||3 863.3||0.49|
2 Thermal capacity and production include biomass wood and biomass waste.
3 Hydro capacity and production include conventional hydroelectric energy and pumped storage.
4 Other renewable capacity and production consist of solar photovoltaic and solar thermal energy; however, no wind or solar data were available for 1970 or 1980.
5 Total capacity and generation include small amount of capacity and generation associated with “other” energy sources such as batteries, hydrogen, and tire derived fuel not captured by other categories.
6 Gigawatt electrical (GWe).
Sources: US Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review (May 2016), Electric Power Monthly (February 2016).
TABLE 4. US ENERGY RELATED RATIOS
|Energy consumption per capita (GJ/capita)||349||362||357||369||358||319|
|Electricity consumption per capita (TWh/capita)||6 790||9 218||11 373||12 732||12 896||12 019|
|Electricity production/Energy production (%)||8.23||11.64||14.66||18.19||19.93||15.82|
|Nuclear/Total electricity (%)||1.42||10.97||18.99||19.83||19.28||19.50|
|Ratio of external dependency (%)||8.42||15.50||16.65||25.27||30.06||11.08|
Sources: US Census Bureau, Population Division; US Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review (May 2016), Electric Power Monthly (February 2016).
2. NUCLEAR POWER SITUATION
2.1. Historical Development and Current Organizational Structure
The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 assigned the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) the responsibility to explore the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The responsibilities of the AEC were both regulatory and developmental. Numerous joint industry–government groups were established to explore reactor design concepts, and in 1957, the first large scale civilian nuclear power plant in the United States began operating in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. In 1960, Dresden Nuclear Generating Station, in Grundy County, Illinois, became the first full scale, privately financed nuclear power plant in the country.
The US Congress abolished the AEC in 1974 through the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, in order to assign regulatory and energy development responsibilities to separate agencies. Under the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) were established. The NRC was established to serve as the independent regulatory authority tasked with assuring the safety and licensing of nuclear reactors and other facilities associated with the processing, transport and handling of nuclear materials. In 1977, the Department of Energy Organization Act was signed; the ERDA was abolished, and the US Department of Energy (DOE) was established to consolidate most federal energy activities under the control of one department and thereby provide the framework for a comprehensive and balanced national energy plan. DOE undertook responsibility for long term, high risk research and development of energy technology, federal power marketing, energy conservation, the nuclear weapons programme, energy regulatory programmes, and a central energy data collection and analysis programme.
The nuclear power industry grew dramatically during the 1960s and 1970s in response to demand growth. During this period, the United States added 50 GWe of nuclear capacity. The capacity of nuclear units grew significantly during the 1970s and 1980s as utilities hoped to capture economies of scale. The nuclear industry ramped up the size of planned nuclear power units rapidly after the first round of commercial reactors. The construction of large power plants, usually located away from load centers, helped spur investment in high voltage transmission facilities. The need for increased electric generating capacity reserves to backup these larger units fostered reserve sharing agreements among utilities and construction of regional tie lines.
Most of the utilities that built nuclear plants in the United States were vertically integrated, investor owned companies. Siting and rate regulation issues were addressed at the state level. Safety regulation was, and still is, handled at the federal level by the NRC. Rate treatment for privately owned utilities was based on cost of service principles; owners collected sufficient revenues from their customers to cover the cost of construction and an administratively set “market” rate of return on invested capital.
In the late 1970s and 1980s, many nuclear projects were cancelled or deferred as a result of slower than expected electricity demand growth, increased nuclear construction costs, and regulatory uncertainty. Electricity demand dropped even further with the recession in the early 1980s. Inflation doubled or more than tripled the cost of capital for utilities in the midst of the long-lead-time, capital intensive construction projects. The accident at Three Mile Island in 1979 undermined public support for nuclear power and resulted in new regulatory requirements. These situations exacerbated the financial strain on utilities building nuclear reactors, resulting not only in cancellations, but utility bankruptcies and conversion of nuclear projects to fossil projects.
In April 1989, to address the issue of regulatory uncertainty, the NRC streamlined its licensing process for future nuclear power reactors. For new reactor facilities, the NRC reviews applications submitted by prospective licensees, and (when appropriate) issues design certifications for new reactors, early site permits, and combined operating licences. Figure 2 depicts the fundamental steps of the NRC licensing process for new reactors. The licensing process involves safety and environmental reviews by the NRC and its advisory bodies as well as public involvement through formal comments and hearings on applications.
FIG. 2. New reactor licensing process in the United States.
Source: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors.html).
Design Certifications for New Reactors. Under current licensing regulations, an applicant who seeks to build a new reactor can use an off the shelf reactor design that has been previously approved and certified by the NRC. The streamlined process encourages standard or pre-approved reactor designs. Issuance of a design certification is independent of applications for a construction permit or an operating licence. Design certifications are valid for 15 years and may be renewed for an additional 10 to 15 years.
Early Site Permit (ESP) Applications. Independent of an application for a construction permit (10 CFR Part 50) or a combined licence (10 CFR Part 52), the NRC may approve one or more sites for a nuclear power plant. An ESP remains in effect for 10 to 20 years and may be renewed for an additional 10 to 20 years.
Combined Licence Application. Under current licensing regulations, the NRC may issue a combined licence (COL) for construction and operation. In the past, separate construction permits and operating licences were issued. When the applicant uses an NRC certified design, safety issues related to the design have already been resolved, and the focus of the licensing review is the quality of reactor construction. A COL is valid for 40 years and may be extended for an additional 20 years. By stabilizing the licensing process, the NRC’s objective was to shorten construction lead times and improve the economics of new nuclear power plant licensing and construction.
2.1.2. Current Organizational Chart(s)
The NRC is part of the Executive branch of the federal government (see Section 1.1.1) and is the principal regulator of the nuclear power industry. The NRC formulates policies, develops regulations governing nuclear reactor and nuclear materials safety, issues orders to licensees, and adjudicates legal matters. The NRC is headed by five Commissioners who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for five year terms. One Commissioner is designated by the President to be the Chairman of the NRC, its principal executive officer of and official spokesperson. The Chairman is responsible for conducting the administrative, organizational, long range planning, budgetary and certain personnel functions of the agency, and has ultimate authority for all NRC functions pertaining to an emergency involving an NRC licence. The Executive Director for Operations is the chief operating officer of the NRC and is responsible for discharging the operational and administrative functions necessary for the day to day operations of the NRC, including supervising and coordinating policy development, NRC operational activities, and implementation of NRC policy directives. A brief description of the responsibilities of the NRC is provided below, and a high level organizational chart for the NRC is provided in Figure 3.
FIG. 3. Organizational chart of US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (select offices only).
Source: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/organization/nrcorg.pdf).
The Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS), under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, reviews and advises the NRC on matters related to the licensing and operation of production and utilization facilities and related safety issues, the adequacy of proposed reactor safety standards, technical and policy issues related to the licensing of evolutionary and passive plant designs, and other matters referred to it by the NRC. The ACRS may elect to perform independent reviews of specific safety related issues.
The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel (ASLBP) conducts all licensing and other hearings as directed by the NRC, primarily through individual licensing boards or single presiding officers appointed by either the NRC or the ASLBP Chief Administrative Judge. The ASLBP has no fixed number of positions and is composed of administrative judges (full time and part time) who are lawyers, engineers and scientists. Administrative judges serve as single presiding officers or on three member boards, which generally are chaired by an attorney, for a broad range of proceedings. The ASLBP judges are employees of the NRC and their decisions are subject to NRC oversight; however, the Administrative Procedure Act, as well as longstanding agency policy, grants the ASLBP independence from the NRC.
2.2. Nuclear Power Plants: Overview
2.2.1. Status and Performance of Nuclear Power Plants
The US nuclear power industry is the largest in the world, with 99 operating commercial nuclear reactors. Many services and supplies to the US nuclear power industry are imported. As of 31 December 2015, installed nuclear capacity in the United States totaled 98.7 GWe (net). Data are preliminary and include only the electric power sector. The nuclear share of total capacity in the United States was 9% in 2015 (Fig. 4).
FIG. 4. US electric generating capacity by fuel, 2015.
Note: Data are preliminary and include both electric power sector and commercial and industrial end users of electricity. Totals may not equal sum of components because of independent rounding.
Source: US Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-860, “Annual Electric Generator Report.”
Nuclear Power Generation
In 2015, total electricity generation in the United States was 4 087 net terawatt-hours (TWh), with nuclear power plants generating 797 net TWh, according to preliminary EIA data. Data include only the electric power sector. Nuclear generation comprised approximately 20% of total US generation (Fig. 5). The nuclear share of total generation has remained relatively constant over the years despite a decrease in the total number of reactors; this is largely the result of performance improvements and slower growth in electricity demand.
FIG. 5. US electricity generation by fuel, 2015.
Note: Data are preliminary and include both electric power sector and commercial and industrial end users of electricity. Totals may not equal sum of components because of independent rounding.
Source: US Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-923, “Power Plant Operations Report.”
Status of the Nuclear Power Programme
Nearly 56 years of operational experience and steadily improving licensee performance have changed the way that the United States regulates nuclear power to a more risk informed and performance based approach. To encourage a sustained high level of safety performance at US nuclear plants, important oversight processes have incorporated risk insights from quantitative risk analysis. Efforts continue to revise regulations to focus requirements on plant programmes and activities that reflect the most significant risks. Figure 6 shows the location of nuclear power plants in the United States and the nuclear capacity in each state. Table 5 summarizes the status and performance of operating nuclear power plants in the United States. The following sections describe progress made during 2015 in the US nuclear power programme.
FIG. 6. Location of operating US nuclear power plants, 2015.
Note: Data are preliminary.Source: US Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-860, “Annual Electric Generator Report.”
TABLE 5. STATUS AND PERFORMANCE OF OPERATING US NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
|NINE MILE POINT-1||BWR||613||Operational||EXELON||GE||1965-04-12||1969-09-05||1969-11-09||1969-12-01||99.3|
|NINE MILE POINT-2||BWR||1277||Operational||EXELON||GE||1975-08-01||1987-05-23||1987-08-08||1988-03-11||90.3|
|THREE MILE ISLAND-1||PWR||819||Operational||EXELON||B&W||1968-05-18||1974-06-05||1974-06-19||1974-09-02||96.9|
|BIG ROCK POINT||BWR||67||Permanent Shutdown||CPC||GE||1960-05-01||1962-09-27||1962-12-08||1963-03-29||1997-08-29|
|CRYSTAL RIVER-3||PWR||860||Permanent Shutdown||PROGRESS||B&W||1968-09-25||1977-01-14||1977-01-30||1977-03-13||2013-02-05|
|ELK RIVER||BWR||22||Permanent Shutdown||RCPA||AC||1959-01-01||1962-11-01||1963-08-24||1964-07-01||1968-02-01|
|FORT CALHOUN-1||PWR||482||Permanent Shutdown||EXELON||CE||1968-06-07||1973-08-06||1973-08-25||1973-09-26||2016-10-24||98.2|
|FORT ST. VRAIN||HTGR||330||Permanent Shutdown||PSCC||GA||1968-09-01||1974-01-31||1976-12-11||1979-07-01||1989-08-29|
|GE VALLECITOS||BWR||24||Permanent Shutdown||GE||GE||1956-01-01||1957-08-03||1957-10-19||1957-10-19||1963-12-09|
|HADDAM NECK||PWR||560||Permanent Shutdown||CYAPC||WH||1964-05-01||1967-07-24||1967-08-07||1968-01-01||1996-12-05|
|HUMBOLDT BAY||BWR||63||Permanent Shutdown||PG&E||GE||1960-11-01||1963-02-16||1963-04-18||1963-08-01||1976-07-02|
|INDIAN POINT-1||PWR||257||Permanent Shutdown||ENTERGY||B&W||1956-05-01||1962-08-02||1962-09-16||1962-10-01||1974-10-31|
|MAINE YANKEE||PWR||860||Permanent Shutdown||MYAPC||CE||1968-10-01||1972-10-23||1972-11-08||1972-12-28||1997-08-01|
|PEACH BOTTOM-1||HTGR||40||Permanent Shutdown||EXELON||GA||1962-02-01||1966-03-03||1967-01-27||1967-06-01||1974-11-01|
|RANCHO SECO-1||PWR||873||Permanent Shutdown||SMUD||B&W||1969-04-01||1974-09-16||1974-10-13||1975-04-17||1989-06-07|
|SAN ONOFRE-1||PWR||436||Permanent Shutdown||SCE||WH||1964-05-01||1967-06-14||1967-07-16||1968-01-01||1992-11-30|
|SAN ONOFRE-2||PWR||1070||Permanent Shutdown||SCE||CE||1974-03-01||1982-07-26||1982-09-20||1983-08-08||2013-06-07|
|SAN ONOFRE-3||PWR||1080||Permanent Shutdown||SCE||CE||1974-03-01||1983-08-29||1983-09-25||1984-04-01||2013-06-07|
|SHIPPINGPORT||PWR||60||Permanent Shutdown||DOE DUQU||WH||1954-01-01||1957-01-01||1957-12-02||1958-05-26||1982-10-01|
|THREE MILE ISLAND-2||PWR||880||Permanent Shutdown||GPU||B&W||1969-11-01||1978-03-27||1978-04-21||1978-12-30||1979-03-28|
|VERMONT YANKEE||BWR||605||Permanent Shutdown||ENTERGY||GE||1967-12-11||1972-03-24||1972-09-20||1972-11-30||2014-12-29|
|YANKEE NPS||PWR||167||Permanent Shutdown||YAEC||WH||1957-11-01||1960-08-19||1960-11-10||1961-07-01||1991-10-01|
|BLACK FOX-1||BWR||1150||Cancelled Constr.||PSCO||GE||1978-07-01||1982-02-01|
|BLACK FOX-2||BWR||1150||Cancelled Constr.||PSCO||GE||1978-07-01||1982-02-01|
|FORKED RIVER||PWR||1070||Cancelled Constr.||JCPL||CE||1973-08-01||1980-11-01|
|GRAND GULF-2||BWR||1250||Cancelled Constr.||MP&L||GE||1974-05-01||1990-12-01|
|HARTSVILLE A-1||BWR||1233||Cancelled Constr.||TVA||GE||1976-04-01||1984-08-01|
|HARTSVILLE A-2||BWR||1233||Cancelled Constr.||TVA||GE||1976-04-01||1984-08-01|
|HARTSVILLE B-1||BWR||1233||Cancelled Constr.||TVA||GE||1976-04-01||1982-08-01|
|HARTSVILLE B-2||BWR||1233||Cancelled Constr.||TVA||GE||1976-04-01||1982-08-01|
|HOPE CREEK-2||BWR||1067||Cancelled Constr.||PSEG||GE||1976-03-01||1981-12-01|
|MARBLE HILL-1||PWR||1030||Cancelled Constr.||PSI||WH||1977-07-01||1984-01-01|
|MARBLE HILL-2||PWR||1130||Cancelled Constr.||PSI||WH||1977-07-01||1984-01-01|
|NORTH ANNA-3C||PWR||907||Cancelled Constr.||VEPCO||B&W||1971-06-01||1982-11-01|
|NORTH ANNA-4C||PWR||907||Cancelled Constr.||VEPCO||B&W||1971-12-01||1980-11-01|
|PHIPPS BEND-1||BWR||1233||Cancelled Constr.||TVA||GE||1977-10-01||1982-08-01|
|PHIPPS BEND-2||BWR||1233||Cancelled Constr.||TVA||GE||1977-10-01||1982-08-01|
|RIVER BEND-2||BWR||934||Cancelled Constr.||GSU||GE||1975-08-01||1984-01-01|
|YELLOW CREEK-1||PWR||1285||Cancelled Constr.||TVA||CE||1978-02-01||1984-08-01|
|YELLOW CREEK-2||PWR||1285||Cancelled Constr.||TVA||CE||1978-02-01||1984-08-01|
|Data source: IAEA - Power Reactor Information System (PRIS).|
|Note: Table 7 is completely generated from PRIS data to reflect the latest available information and may be more up to date than the text of the report.|
1 Preliminary data reflecting units that were either operating or capable of being operated on 31 December 2015. 2 Capacity factor represents the ratio of power actually generated to the maximum potential generation. The factor is calculated by multiplying the summer capacity by the number of hours (24) in a day by the number of days in a year (365 or 366) and then dividing that amount into the amount of actual generation. The result is then multiplied by 100 to express the value in percentage terms. Source: US Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-860, “Annual Electric Generator Report” and Form EIA-923, “Power Plant Operations Report.”
Early Site Permit (ESP): As of 31 December 2015, the NRC had issued ESPs for four sites. The NRC did not issue any new ESPs in 2015 or receive any new applications. During 2015, one ESP application was under review.
New Reactor Design Certification: As of 31 December 2015, the NRC had issued design certifications for four designs, including the Westinghouse AP 600 and AP1000, the General Electric Nuclear Energy Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) and the GE-Hitachi Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). In addition to several amendments to previously certified designs, the NRC is currently reviewing the applications for three additional design certifications, including the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. US Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor (US-APWR), the AREVA NP, Inc. US Evolutionary Power Reactor (US EPR), and the Korea Electric Power Corporation and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., Ltd. Advanced Power Reactor 1400 (APR1400).
Small Modular Reactors (SMR): In March 2012, DOE announced its intention to provide US $452 million in funding to assist in the initial development of SMR technology that has the potential to be licensed by the NRC and to achieve commercial operation by 2025. In November 2012, DOE announced the selection of Babcock & Wilcox (B&W), in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Bechtel International, to cost share the work to prepare a licence application for up to four BWXT mPower SMRs at TVA’s Clinch River site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. TVA submitted an ESP application to the NRC in May 2016 and expects to submit a COL application in 2018. Each mPower SMR is expected to have a capacity of 195 MWe. The first mPower SMR could be operating by 2026.
In December 2013, DOE announced the selection of NuScale Power, LLC as the recipient of the second award. Each NuScale SMR is expected to have a capacity of 50 MWe; the reactor building is designed for 12 SMRs. The project will be sited at the Idaho National Laboratory outside Idaho Falls, Idaho. The NRC expects to receive a Design Certification Application in late 2016, and NuScale expects the first SMR to be operating by the middle of 2024.
Combined Operating Licence (COL): A total of 18 COL applications were filed between 2007 and 2009; no applications for COLs have been filed since 2009. As of 31 December 2015, five COLs were withdrawn, four COLs were suspended, and five COLs were under active review. On 30 April 2015, the NRC voted to approve Detroit Edison Company’s COL to build a new Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR), Fermi, Unit 3, near Newport City, Michigan. On 12 February 2016, the NRC voted to approve South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company’s COL to build two new Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR), South Texas Project, Units 3 and 4, in Matagorda County, Texas. As of 31 December 2015, Southern Nuclear Operating Company’s two new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, Vogtle Units 3 and 4, near Augusta, Georgia, and South Carolina Electric & Gas Company’s two new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, Virgil C. Summer Units 2 and 3, near Columbia, South Carolina, were under construction.
Table 6 provides a list of planned nuclear power plants and identifies those plants that are under construction. The locations of nuclear power plants that are under construction or that have recently received a COL are shown in Fig. 7.
TABLE 6. PLANNED AND UNDER CONSTRUCTION US NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
|Station/Project name||Type1||Units||Capacity||Application submitted||Application status||COL/OL issued||Expected commercial year|
|Bell Bend||US-EPR||1||1 600||10 October 2008||Suspended|
|Bellefonte, Units 1 and 22||AP 1000||2||2 520||14 May 1973||Suspended|
|Bellefonte, Units 3 and 4||AP 1000||2||2 234||30 October 2007||Suspended|
|Callaway, Unit 2||US-EPR||1||1 600||24 July 2008||Withdrawn|
|Calvert Cliffs, Unit 3||US-EPR||1||1 600||13 July 2007||Withdrawn|
|Comanche Peak, Units 3 and 4||US-APWR||2||3 400||19 September 2008||Suspended|
|Fermi, Unit 3||ESBWR||1||1 520||13 September 2008||Issued||2016||TBD|
|Grand Gulf, Unit 3||ESBWR||1||1 520||27 February 2008||Withdrawn|
|Levy County, Units 1 and 2||AP 1000||2||2 234||30 July 2008||Under review|
|Nine Mile Point, Unit 3||US-EPR||1||1 600||30 September 2008||Withdrawn|
|North Anna, Unit 3||US-APWR||1||1 500||27 November 2007||Under review|
|River Bend Station, Unit 3||ESBWR||1||1 520||25 September 2008||Suspended|
|Shearon Harris, Units 2 and 3||AP 1000||2||2 234||18 February 2008||Suspended|
|South Texas Project, Units 3 and 4||ABWR||2||2 700||20 September 2007||Issued||2016||TBD|
|Turkey Point, Units 6 and 7||AP 1000||2||2 234||30 June 2009||Under review|
|Virgil C. Summer, Units 2 and 3||AP 1000||2||2 200||27 March 2008||Under construction||2012||2019, 2020|
|Vogtle, Units 3 and 4||AP 1000||2||2 200||28 March 2008||Under construction||2012||2019, 2020|
|Watts Bar, Unit 22||PWR||1||1 218||n.a.||Issued||2015||2016|
|William States Lee III, Units 1 and 2||AP 1000||2||2 234||12 December 2007||Under review|
1 ABWR: Advanced Boiling Water Reactor; AP 1000: Advanced Passive 1000 reactor; EPR: Evolutionary Power Reactor; ESBWR: Economic
Simplified Boiling Reactor; US-APWR: US Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor.
2 Licence was issued under 10 CFR Part 50, which is a two step process involving the issuance of a construction permit and then an operating licence.
Source: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
FIG. 7. New US nuclear power plant construction.
Source: US Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-860, “Annual Electric Generator Report”, and US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Licence Renewal: The NRC has the authority to issue initial operating licences for commercial nuclear power plants for a period of 40 years. The decision to apply for an operating licence renewal is made by nuclear power plant owners, and it is typically based on economics and the ability to meet NRC requirements. Operating licences are renewed by the NRC for a period of 20 years. NRC regulations do not limit the number of licence renewals a nuclear power plant may be granted. The nuclear power industry is preparing applications for licence renewals that would allow continued operation beyond 60 years, i.e. second or subsequent licence renewals. However, applications for second or subsequent licence renewals are not expected in the near future. As of 31 December 2015, the NRC had granted licence renewals to 81 of the 99 operating US reactors. The NRC is currently reviewing licence renewal applications for 12 reactors to operate for 60 years and expects to receive applications from five more reactors between 2017 and 2022.
Power Uprates: Power uprates are implemented to increase reactor capacity by increasing the maximum power level at which a nuclear reactor may operate. During 2015, the NRC approved no power uprates. As of 31 December 2015, the NRC had approved 156 power uprates, which, once implemented, could add about 7 326 MWe to US nuclear generating capacity (Fig. 8). Not all approved uprates have been implemented at US reactors. Uprates are under review and pending approval for three reactors, totaling nearly 489 MWe. In addition to those already under review, the NRC expects to receive a further seven requests for power uprates between 2016 and 2019, totaling nearly 127 MWe.
FIG. 8. Approved US nuclear uprates 1977 to 2015.
Note: Data for 2015 are preliminary.Source: US Energy Information Administration, based on data from US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Retirements: No nuclear power plants were retired in 2015. Announced early retirements include: the 615 MWe Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station (New Jersey) in 2019; the 678 MWe Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station (Massachusetts) in 2019; the 1 065 MWe Clinton Nuclear Generating Station (Illinois) in 2017; the 1 819 MWe Quad Cities Nuclear Power Plant, Units 1 and 2 (Illinois) in 2018; the 479 MWe Fort Calhoun Nuclear Generating Station (Nebraska) in 2016; and the 2 240 MWe Diablo Canyon Power Plant, Units 1 and 2 (California) in 2025. Table 9 provides the status of currently shutdown nuclear power plants in the United States.
TABLE 9. STATUS OF SHUTDOWN US NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
|Reactor name||Type||Net summer capacity (MWe)||Operator||Licence terminated||Licence status1, 2, 3||Reactor supplier||Construction date||Grid date||Shutdown date|
|Big Rock Point||BWR||67||Consumers Power Co.||ISFSI||General Electric||5/1/1960||8 December 1962||29 August 1997|
|Crystal River-3||PWR||860||Progress Energy||SAFSTOR||Babcock & Wilcox||6/1/1967||30 January 1977||20 February 2013|
|Dresden-1||BWR||197||Exelon||SAFSTOR||General Electric||5/1/1956||15 April 1960||31 October 1978|
|Enrico Fermi-1||FBR||65||Detroit Edison Co.||SAFSTOR||UEC||8/1/1956||5 August 1966||29 November 1972|
|Fort St. Vrain||HTGR||330||Public Service Co. of Colorado||ISFSI||General Atomics||9/1/1968||11 December 1976||29 August 1989|
|Haddam Neck||PWR||560||Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Co.||ISFSI||Westinghouse||5/1/1964||7 August 1967||5 December 1996|
|Humboldt Bay||BWR||63||Pacific Gas & Electric Co.||DECON||General Electric||11/1/1960||18 April 1963||2 July 1976|
|Indian Point-1||PWR||257||Entergy Nuclear South||SAFSTOR||Babcock & Wilcox||5/1/1956||16 September 1962||31 October 1974|
|Kewaunee||PWR||556||Dominion Energy Kewaunee, Inc.||SAFSTOR||Westinghouse||8/1/1968||8 April 1974||7 May 2013|
|Lacrosse||BWR||48||Dairyland Power Cooperative||DECON||Allis-Chalmers||3/1/1963||26 April 1968||30 April 1987|
|Maine Yankee||PWR||860||Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co.||ISFSI||Combustion Eng.||10/1/1968||8 November 1972||1 August 1997|
|Millstone-1||BWR||641||Dominion Generation||SAFSTOR||General Electric||5/1/1966||29 November 1970||1 July 1998|
|Peach Bottom-1||HTGR||40||Exelon||SAFSTOR||General Atomics||2/1/1962||27 January 1967||1 November 1974|
|Rancho Seco-1||PWR||873||Sacramento Municipal Utility District||ISFSI||Babcock & Wilcox||4/1/1969||13 October 1974||7 June 1989|
|San Onofre-1||PWR||436||Southern California Edison Co.||SAFSTOR||Westinghouse||5/1/1964||16 July 1967||30 November 1992|
|San Onofre-2||PWR||1 160||Southern California Edison Co.||SAFSTOR||Combustion Eng.||3/1/1974||20 September 1982||7 June 2013|
|San Onofre-3||PWR||1 080||Southern California Edison Co.||SAFSTOR||Combustion Eng.||3/1/1974||25 September 1983||7 June 2013|
|Shoreham||BWR||820||Long Island Power Authority||Yes||Licence Terminated||General Electric||11/1/1972||1 August 1986||1 May 1989|
|Three Mile Island-2 (4)||PWR||880||General Public Utilities||SAFSTOR||Babcock & Wilcox||11/1/1969||21 April 1978||28 March 1979|
|Trojan||PWR||1 095||Portland General Electric Co.||ISFSI||Westinghouse||2/1/1970||23 December 1975||9 November 1992|
|Vermont Yankee||PWR||617||Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC||SAFSTOR||General Electric||12/1/1967||20 September 1972||29 December 2014|
|Yankee Rowe||PWR||167||Yankee Atomic Electric Co.||ISFSI||Westinghouse||11/1/1957||10 November 1960||1 October 1991|
|Zion-1||PWR||1 040||Exelon||DECON||Westinghouse||12/1/1968||28 June 1973||1 January 1998|
|Zion-2||PWR||1 040||Exelon||DECON||Westinghouse||12/1/1968||26 December 1973||1 January 1998|
1 ISFSI stands for Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation. An ISFSI is a stand alone used nuclear fuel storage facility. Once the reactor is permanently shut down, the operating licence includes only the ISFSI.
2 DECON stands for Decontamination, which occurs soon after the nuclear facility closes. Equipment, structures and portions of the facility containing radioactive contaminants are removed or decontaminated to a level that permits release of the property and termination of the NRC licence.
3 SAFSTOR (often considered “delayed DECON”) refers to a nuclear facility that is maintained and monitored in a condition that allows the radioactivity to decay; afterwards, it is dismantled and the property decontaminated.
4 According to the NRC, Unit 2 has been placed in post-defueling monitored storage until Unit 1 ceases operation, at which time both units will be decommissioned. Unit 2 holds a possession only licence.
Note: The nuclear power plants in Table 9 are commercial generators only; experimental and research reactors are not included.Source: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
United States Response to the Accident at Fukushima Daiichi: After the March 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the NRC and the US nuclear industry initiated an immediate coordinated response to the accident, as well as long term actions intended to assure the continued safety of operating and planned reactors in the United States. The NRC continues to emphasize that, in all cases, the existing fleet of reactors can continue operating safely while implementing lessons learned from the accident at Fukushima.
The NRC has taken significant actions to enhance reactor safety based on the lessons learned from the accident at Fukushima. These actions are related to accident mitigation strategies, reliable hardened containment venting capability, improved spent fuel pool instrumentation, seismic hazard re-evaluation, flooding re-evaluation, emergency preparedness, mitigation of beyond design basis events, and improvements to the NRC’s regulatory process.
The nuclear industry, through the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), developed its FLEX strategy as a comprehensive, flexible, and integrated plan to mitigate the effects of severe natural phenomena and to take steps to quickly achieve safety benefits. All plants are expected to have implemented the FLEX strategy by the end of 2016. In a meeting with the NRC in April 2013, Dominion Energy estimated that the cost of post-Fukushima actions could be US $30 to US $40 million per unit and US $180 to US $240 million for its fleet of six units. However, the ultimate cost to the nuclear industry of addressing Fukushima related issues remains uncertain, as do the potential impacts on nuclear power plant operations.
Historical perspective and progress on post-Fukushima safety enhancements, including plant specific progress, may be found on the NRC’s website and the prior US Country Nuclear Power Profile, updated through 31 December 2014.
2.2.2. Plant Upgrading, Plant Life Management, and Licence Renewals
Licensees in the United States have implemented power uprates as a means to increase the output of reactors. Power uprates are expressed as a percentage of the original licensed capacity of a reactor. Power uprates are classified by the NRC in three groups:
Measurement uncertainty recapture uprates of less than 2% implement enhanced techniques for calculating reactor power;
Stretch power uprates are typically less than 7% and do not usually involve major plant modification;
Extended power uprates require significant modification to major balance of plant equipment, might take place over several refueling outages, and can be as much as 20%.
More information about the uprate process in the United States may be found on the NRC’s website.
In the United States, initial operating licences are issued for a period of 40 years. Subsequent licence renewals are generally issued in 20 year increments. Historically, demand for additional power in the United States, along with improved economic and safety performance, led most licensees to seek to extend their operating licences for an additional 20 years beyond their initial 40 year licence periods. Crucial to the receipt of a licence renewal is a demonstration that the nuclear power plant continues to meet safety standards set by the NRC. In order to renew an operating licence, technical information must be provided to the NRC that addresses plant ageing and discusses the management of ageing effects for the proposed extended period of operation.
As part of the licence renewal process:
An Integrated Plant Assessment must be prepared and submitted to the NRC; this assessment identifies the structures, systems, and components that will need to be included in an ageing management review.
Time Limited Ageing Analyses (TLAA) are performed for a reactor. TLAAs are calculations or analyses that address the effects of ageing, based on the original 40 year operating licence.
A supplement to the Final Safety Analysis Report for a reactor must be submitted to the NRC; the programmes and activities necessary to manage the effects of ageing must be summarized, and the TLAAs must be evaluated for the extended period of operation.
Technical specification changes or additions must be justified to the NRC and included in the licence renewal application to the NRC.
In addition to the public health and safety reviews conducted by the NRC, the environmental impacts of extended operation must be considered.
2.3. Future Development of Nuclear Power
2.3.1. Nuclear Power Development Strategy
The future of nuclear power will depend on several factors, including research and development to improve economics and safety, greater regulatory certainty, reduction of nuclear construction costs, development of favourable government policies, resolution of nuclear waste disposal issues, and the relative costs of other energy options.
The mission of the US Department Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Nuclear Energy is to advance nuclear power as a resource capable of meeting the nation’s energy, environmental and national security needs by resolving technical, cost, safety, proliferation resistance and security barriers through research, development and demonstration as appropriate. To achieve its mission, the Office of Nuclear Energy is pursuing four research objectives as detailed in its Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap:
Develop technologies and other solutions that can improve the reliability, sustain the safety, and extend the life of current reactors.
The Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program is developing the scientific basis to extend existing nuclear power plant operating life beyond the current 60 year licensing period (i.e. the initial 40 year licence and a first licence renewal for 20 years) and ensure the long term reliability, productivity, safety and security of operating plants.
Develop improvements in the affordability of new reactors to enable nuclear energy to help meet the Administration’s energy security and climate change goals.
The Office of Advanced Reactor Technologies sponsors research, development, and deployment activities through its Next Generation Nuclear Plant, Advanced Reactor Concepts, and Advanced Small Modular Reactor (SMR) programmes to promote safety, technical, economic and environmental advancements, and next generation nuclear energy technologies. In addition, the SMR Licensing Technical Support Program supports certification and licensing requirements for US based SMR projects through cooperative agreements with industry partners, and by supporting the resolution of generic SMR issues.
Develop sustainable nuclear fuel cycles.
The Office of Fuel Cycle Technologies develops sustainable fuel cycle technologies and options to improve resource utilization and energy generation and to enhance safety and limit proliferation risk. It also develops used nuclear fuel (UNF) management strategies and technologies to support meeting the federal government’s responsibility to manage and dispose of the nation’s commercial UNF and high level waste.
Understand and minimize the risks of nuclear proliferation and terrorism.
All of Office of Nuclear Energy’s R&D programmes are designed to develop more proliferation resistant technologies, while the Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies Program specifically aims to develop new tools and approaches for understanding, limiting and managing the risks of proliferation and physical security for fuel cycle options through its Proliferation and Terrorism Risk Assessment programme.
From a legislative perspective, the EPACT2005 included the renewal of the Price–Anderson Act and incentives for building the first advanced nuclear power plants. Incentives included loan guarantees, production tax credits and standby support insurance related to regulatory delays. The incentives are at various stages of development.
Nuclear Power Loan Guarantees — Congress granted DOE authority to issue US $20.5 billion in guaranteed loans. DOE issued solicitations for US $18.5 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear power facilities and US $2 billion for the “front end” of the nuclear fuel cycle on 30 June 2008. DOE offered a US $2 billion loan to AREVA for an enrichment plant. In February 2014, DOE finalized the first federal loan guarantee for US $6.5 billion with Georgia Power Company and Oglethorpe Power Corporation for the construction and operation of two AP1000 reactors at Vogtle.
Production Tax Credits — With regard to production tax credits (PTCs), the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Bulletin 2006-18 in May 2006. The first 6 000 MWe of deployed nuclear power capacity is eligible for a US $18/MWh production tax credit. To be eligible for the PTC, construction of a nuclear power plant must have commenced by 1 January 2014, and commercial operations must commence by 2021. The PTC is available during the first eight years of reactor operation. The PTC will be applied on a pro rata basis to those reactors qualifying for the credit.
Standby Support (Risk Insurance) — The standby support incentive was formalized via a final rule in August 2006. No contract has been issued. DOE is authorized to issue insurance to six reactors to cover delays in operations attributed to the NRC licensing reviews or litigation.
Research and development, current legislative incentives and streamlining the licensing process (see Section 2.1.1) contribute to the current US nuclear power plant development strategy.
2.3.2. Project Management
Project management of the construction and operations of nuclear power plants is the responsibility of the owners and operators of nuclear power plants. The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) is an industry organization that, among other mission objectives, conducts plant evaluations, supports training and accreditation for nuclear power professionals, assists in the analysis of significant events at nuclear power plants, communicates lessons learned and provides assistance with technical and management issues, at the request of individual nuclear power plant owners or operators.
2.3.3. Project Funding
Nuclear utilities, and in some cases, public utility commissions, are responsible for project financing decisions. Funding is secured from banks and through shareholder equity. As discussed in Section 2.3.1, the federal government, through EPACT2005, does provide incentives for the construction of new nuclear power plants, including production tax credits, loan guarantees and standby support insurance related to regulatory delays.
2.3.4. Electric Grid Development
Once electricity is generated — whether by burning fossil fuels; through nuclear fission; or by harnessing wind, solar, geothermal or hydro energy — it is generally sent through high voltage, high capacity transmission lines to local electricity distributors. Transmission is a prominent federal issue, because of a perceived need to improve reliability and reduce costs, transmission’s role in meeting national energy goals (such as increased use of renewable electricity), and the potential efficiency advantages of “Smart Grid” modernization. Transmission development and regulation are complex policy issues that include:
System modernization and the Smart Grid;
The US electric grid was first built in the 1890s and improved upon as technology advanced through each decade. Today, it consists of more than 9 200 electric generating units with more than 1 million megawatts of generating capacity connected to more than 300 000 miles (480 000 km) of transmission lines. To move forward, the United States is pursuing a grid that will handle rapidly developing digital and computerized equipment and technology. One aspect of the Smart Grid is the automation necessary to allow two way communication between the utility and its customers. Numerous agencies and organizations are involved in efforts to modernize the transmission grid. DOE sponsors research and development efforts related to numerous technologies, including the Smart Grid.
The selection of a site for a new nuclear power plant is informed by public health and safety, engineering and design, environmental, economic, and public interest factors. Once a candidate site for a new nuclear power plant is proposed, the NRC determines whether the site is suitable. The decision that a nuclear power plant may be built on a specific candidate site is based on a detailed evaluation by the NRC of the proposed site–plant combination and a cost–benefit analysis comparing it with alternative site–plant combinations. The applicant provides the NRC with a report of its plant selection process that includes an analysis of alternatives whose environmental costs and benefits were evaluated, compared and then weighed against those of the proposed facility. The safety issues discussed include geological, seismic, hydrological, and meteorological characteristics of proposed sites; exclusion area and low population zone; population considerations as they relate to protecting the general public from the potential hazards of serious accidents; potential effects on a station from accidents associated with nearby industrial, transportation and military facilities; emergency planning; and security plans. The environmental issues discussed concern potential impacts from the construction and operation of nuclear power stations on ecological systems, water use, land use, the atmosphere, aesthetics, and socioeconomics. As part of the site selection process, coordination also occurs between applicants for nuclear power stations and various federal, state, local, and Native American tribal agencies.
2.3.6. Public Acceptance
Civic activism is encouraged in the United States, and nuclear power stakeholders have numerous mechanisms for expressing their support for, or opposition to, nuclear power. Stakeholders express their opinions to federal, state and local governments; they are encouraged to participate in regulatory proceedings through formal meetings and provision of comments on proposed rulemaking. In addition, stakeholders may express their views through numerous private organizations, which represent a variety of viewpoints on nuclear power.
2.4. Organizations Involved in the Construction of Nuclear Power Plants
A large number of companies in the United States provide equipment and services to the nuclear power industry covering the entire nuclear fuel cycle. Four companies supplied the nuclear steam supply systems that are now operating in the United States. Westinghouse Corporation built the majority of the pressurized water reactors (PWRs), although Combustion Engineering (CE) and Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) also built PWRs. General Electric (GE) designed all of the boiling water reactors (BWRs) presently operating in the United States.
Reactors that are sold in the United States must either have their designs certified by the NRC or have the equivalent of design certification occur during the COL application process. Westinghouse, GE Nuclear Energy, GE Hitachi, Mitsubishi Heavy Industry and AREVA have submitted reactor designs to the NRC for certification. Steam generators for PWRs and some high quality steel castings for nuclear reactors are no longer made in the United States. Domestic suppliers in the United States often must compete with imports.
To help assure high quality products, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) certifies nuclear equipment suppliers. To obtain a nuclear certificate of authorization (often referred to as an N-Stamp), a company must comply with quality assurance requirements set forth by the ASME. This programme is open to foreign companies. Presently, over 200 foreign and US companies hold ASME nuclear certificates of authorization.
The American Nuclear Society’s annual Buyer’s Guide, published in its journal, Nuclear News, provides a partial list of equipment and service providers to the nuclear industry, including architect–engineering and construction firms.
2.5. Organizations Involved in the Operation of Nuclear Power Plants
The 99 operable nuclear reactors in the United States in December 2015 were primarily privately owned and operated, although nine were operated by government owned entities. Some nuclear power plants are partially owned but not managed by municipal or electric cooperatives. Thirty two companies or management organizations are licensed by the NRC to operate reactors. Table 7 (above) identifies the operators of nuclear reactors in the United States.
2.6. Organizations Involved in Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Plants
When a US power company decides to permanently close a nuclear power plant, the facility must be decommissioned by safely removing it from service and reducing residual radioactivity to a level that permits the NRC to release the property and terminate the operating licence. The process involves dismantling structures, removing contaminated materials to appropriate disposal facilities, and freeing the property for other uses. The site must be decommissioned within 60 years of the plant ceasing operations.
Before a nuclear power plant begins operations, the utility must assure that there will be sufficient funds to decommission the plant. The formulas for determining the estimated minimum funding required for decommissioning are contained in generic NRC regulations, which are periodically reviewed to determine whether formulae should be revised. However, the utility is free to base its estimate on site specific conditions, as long as the site specific estimate is greater than the estimate developed using NRC regulations.
The utility must report to the NRC every two years on the status of funding until the plant is within five years of permanent shutdown, at which time reporting becomes annual. The NRC independently analyses the utility’s report to determine whether there is reasonable assurance that sufficient decommissioning funding is being provided.
The estimated minimum funding requirement is adjusted annually to account for inflation. As of 31 December 2015, an estimated US $53 billion has been set aside for decommissioning by US utilities. The NRC estimates that decommissioning costs for a nuclear power plant range from US $280 million to US $612 million.
Federal agencies oversee the entire nuclear decommissioning process.
The Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRC) establishes regulations and provides oversight of nuclear power plant decommissioning. The NRC maintains the highest level of decommissioning regulatory authority and collaborates with other agencies to supervise decommissioning.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) collaborates with the NRC to establish environmental standards and provide oversight of nuclear power plant decommissioning.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) collaborates with the NRC to assure the safety of workers at nuclear power plants undergoing decommissioning.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates the shipment of radioactive materials, including those resulting from decommissioning a nuclear power plant.
State agencies are also involved in their capacity as regulators of worker and public health and safety. The Electric Power Research Institute and the decommissioning industry cooperate to develop decontamination techniques. Companies that operate nuclear power plants are responsible for decommissioning and usually contract the process to the many international and domestic private sector companies that specialize in nuclear decommissioning.
2.7. Fuel Cycle Including Waste Management
With the exception of reprocessing, all activities of the commercial nuclear fuel cycle are conducted in the United States. Spent fuel reprocessing for waste management in the United States has been discouraged by public policy, and the once through fuel cycle is the present policy along with an active research and development programme on advanced fuel cycle alternatives. Each fuel cycle stage is subject to competition and supply from international sources, which in many cases dominate the industry segment. At present, the US nuclear fuel supply is highly dependent on imports for mined uranium concentrates, uranium conversion, and enrichment. Virtually all fuel fabrication requirements are met by domestic sources. EIA publishes data on the nuclear fuel cycle in its Domestic Uranium Production Report and its Uranium Marketing Annual Report.
2.7.1. Uranium Production and Conversion
According to EIA’s 2015 Domestic Uranium Production Report, US uranium mines produced 1 427 tonnes of uranium (tU) in 2015, 24% less than in 2014. One underground mine produced uranium ore during 2015, one fewer than during 2014. Additionally, seven in situ leach (ISL) mining operations produced solutions containing uranium in 2015, one fewer than in 2014. Overall, there were eight mines that operated during all or part of 2015.
Total US production of uranium concentrate in 2015 was 1 286 tU, a 32% decrease from 2014, from seven facilities: one mill in Utah (White Mesa Mill) and six ISL plants in Nebraska, Texas, and Wyoming (Crow Butte Operation, Hobson ISR Plant/La Palangana, Lost Creek Project, Nichols Ranch ISR Project, Smith Ranch–Highland Operation, and Willow Creek Project). Total shipments of uranium concentrate from US mill and ISL plants were 1 547 tU in 2015, 12% less than in 2014. The NRC is currently reviewing applications for three new facilities and 13 expansions or restarts.
Most of the uranium loaded into US nuclear reactors is imported. Of the US produced uranium sold in 2015, about 39% was purchased by owners and operators of US reactors from US uranium concentrate producers. The remaining 61% was sold by US producers to US and foreign suppliers. Figure 9 shows the country of origin of uranium purchased by owners and operators of US commercial nuclear power reactors in 2015.
FIG. 9. Origin country of uranium purchased by owners and operators of US commercial nuclear power reactors.
Source: US Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-858, “Uranium Marketing Annual Report” (http://www.eia.gov/uranium/marketing/).
The United States has one uranium conversion plant, located in Metropolis, Illinois and operated by ConverDyn, Inc. The ConverDyn facility has a nameplate production capacity of approximately 15 000 tonnes per year of uranium hexafluoride (UF6). Figure 10 shows the country of origin of natural uranium hexafluoride purchased by owners and operators of US commercial nuclear power reactors.
FIG. 10. Origin country of natural UF6 purchased by owners and operators of US commercial nuclear power reactors.
Source: US Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-858, “Uranium Marketing Annual Report” (http://www.eia.gov/uranium/marketing/).
2.7.2. Uranium Enrichment
The URENCO USA centrifuge facility in New Mexico commenced operations in June 2010 and was operating at a capacity of 4.6 million separative work units (SWU) as of 31 December 2015. URENCO USA is the only operational enrichment facility in the United States. The facility is expected to achieve a capacity of 5.7 million SWU by 2020. In November 2012, URENCO USA submitted a licence amendment request to the NRC to increase its enrichment capacity to 10 million SWU; in March 2015, the NRC approved the request.
Although the NRC has licensed facilities with an aggregated capacity of 23.6 million SWU, the future of additional enrichment capacity remains uncertain and is expected to progress at a pace consistent with enrichment market conditions and uranium pricing. In the interim, in addition to those provided in the United States, enrichment services will continue to be imported from facilities in Germany, the Netherlands, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Figure 11 provides a graphic representation of sources of enrichment services for 2015.
FIG. 11. Origin country of enrichment services purchased by owners and operators of US commercial nuclear power reactors (SWU origin).
Source: US Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-858, “Uranium Marketing Annual Report” (http://www.eia.gov/uranium/marketing/).
While new US enrichment facilities are licensed, constructed and operated to produce US origin low enriched uranium, secondary sources of enrichment, such as the Centrus Energy Corporation (Centrus) contract with Techsnabexport (TENEX), will play an important role in the United States. Centrus Energy Corporation (Centrus) signed a 10 year contract with Techsnabexport (TENEX) in March 2011 to supply commercial origin Russian low enriched uranium. An extension of the contract was signed in December 2015. Deliveries under this contract began in 2013 and are slated to continue through 2026. The contract also includes an option to more than double the amount of material purchased. Centrus will pay TENEX the value of the work (measured in SWU) needed to create the low enriched uranium and deliver an equal amount of natural (unenriched) uranium to TENEX. The new contract will provide low enriched uranium that can be used to fabricate fuel for US reactors while new US enrichment facilities are licensed, constructed and operated to produce US origin low enriched uranium.
DOE and the Bonneville Power Administration initiated a pilot project to re-enrich a portion of DOE’s tails inventory. This project produced approximately 1 940 tonnes of low enriched uranium between 2005 and 2006 for use by Energy Northwest’s 1 190 MWe Columbia Generating Station between 2007 and 2015. In mid-2012, Energy Northwest and USEC, in conjunction with DOE, developed a new plan to re-enrich a portion of DOE’s high assay tails. The 2013 project produced approximately 3 738 tonnes of natural uranium, which will be used over the next 10 years to fuel Energy Northwest and TVA reactors.
2.7.3. Fuel Fabrication
Three companies fabricate nuclear fuel in the United States for light water reactors: Westinghouse Electric Co. in Columbia, South Carolina; Global Nuclear Fuels — Americas, Ltd. in Wilmington, North Carolina; and AREVA NP Inc. in Richland, Washington. All three fabricators supply fuel for US BWRs; AREVA NP Inc. and Westinghouse Electric Co. also supply fuel for US PWRs.
2.7.4. Nuclear Waste Management
Commercial nuclear power reactors currently store most of their used nuclear fuel (UNF) on-site at the nuclear plant, although a small amount has been shipped to off-site facilities. In 2015, US reactors discharged approximately 2 235 tHM (tonnes heavy metal), and the UNF inventory in the United States was approximately 75 137 tHM as of 31 December 2015.
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) of 1982, as amended in 1987, provides for the siting, construction and operation of a deep geological repository for disposal of UNF and high level waste (HLW). The amendments in 1987 directed DOE to focus solely on Yucca Mountain as the future site of a geological repository.
President Obama announced in February 2009 that the proposed permanent repository at Yucca Mountain was no longer an option. In January 2012, the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on America’s Nuclear Future issued its final report that evaluated alternatives to Yucca Mountain. In January 2013, DOE released its Strategy for the Management and Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste (Strategy), which presents a response to the final report and recommendations made by the BRC. Essentially, it provides “…a framework for moving toward a sustainable program to deploy an integrated system capable of transporting, storing, and disposing of used nuclear fuel and HLW from civilian nuclear power generation, defense, national security, and other activities.” The Preliminary Evaluation of Removing Used Nuclear Fuel from Shutdown Sites was issued in October 2014. The report focused on the development of a pilot interim storage facility that could accept UNF from permanently shutdown reactors. As of 31 December 2015, there were 24 shutdown commercial reactors in the United States.
In March and September 2015, legislation was introduced in both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives to address the management, storage and disposal of UNF. In the meantime, private companies continue to pursue the design and licensing of interim storage facilities for UNF.
In April 2016, Waste Control Specialists, LLC submitted a licence application to the NRC for a privately owned and operated interim spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) in Texas; the facility would have a storage capacity of 40 000 tonnes and could receive a licence from the NRC in 2019. Holtec International, in partnership with the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), expects to submit a licence application to the NRC in November 2016 for an underground ISFSI near the existing DOE Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico; the facility would have a service life of up to 80 years and a storage capacity of 75 000 tonnes. Both ISFSIs could be in operation by 2020.
2.8. Research and Development
2.8.1. R&D Organizations
Nuclear energy research and development (R&D) is conducted by private industry, the federal government, and US universities. Private companies are actively investigating reactor technology, enrichment technology and nuclear fuel design. One of the main institutions for private research funding is the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), which, through membership fees, conducts R&D in many nuclear related areas as well as other areas of the electric power industry.
The federal government supports R&D through specific budget allocations for the NRC and for DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). Private companies, under contract with DOE, operate a series of national laboratories. DOE includes 26 laboratories and institutes, many of which are involved with nuclear technologies.
NE’s programme and priority activities are guided by the Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap, which was issued in April 2010. Since the Fukushima Daiichi accident, however, NE has engaged in a number of new research activities to address specific safety related issues, such as the development of accident tolerant fuel forms and accident tolerant instruments. Likewise, to support these activities, NE is also using advanced high performance computing for modelling and simulation.
2.8.2. Development of Advanced Nuclear Technologies
NE supports R&D to improve safety and reliability to help extend the life of current reactors and develop improvements in the safety, affordability and proliferation resistance of new reactors.
In the area of nuclear reactor technologies, NE’s Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program focuses on developing the scientific basis to extend nuclear power plant operating life beyond the current 60 year licensing period while ensuring long term reliability, productivity, safety and security. In addition, NE is supporting the commercialization of US based small modular reactor (SMR) technologies through its SMR Licensing Technical Support Program. The programme aims to promote the accelerated deployment of SMRs by supporting certification and licensing requirements through cooperative agreements with industry partners, and by supporting the resolution of generic SMR issues. Finally, DOE is supporting the development of Advanced Reactor Technologies, focusing on high temperature gas cooled reactors through its Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) programme, advanced SMRs and advanced reactor concepts. This focus is expected to address long term technical barriers for the development of advanced nuclear fission energy systems utilizing coolants such as liquid metal, fluoride salt, or gas.
NE’s Office of Fuel Cycle Technologies (FCT) develops sustainable fuel cycle technologies and options and develops UNF management strategies and technologies to support meeting federal government responsibility to manage and dispose of US commercial UNF and high level waste. Within the FCT programme, the Fuel Cycle Research and Development (FCRD) programme conducts R&D to help develop sustainable fuel cycles to improve uranium resource utilization, maximize energy generation, minimize waste generation, improve safety and limit proliferation risk. The Nuclear Fuels Storage and Transportation (NFST) Planning Project is responsible for developing and beginning the implementation of an integrated management plan to: (1) implement interim storage; (2) improve the overall integration of storage as a planned part of the waste management system; and (3) prepare for the large scale transportation of used nuclear fuel and high level waste, with an initial focus on removing used nuclear fuel from the shutdown reactor sites. The Office of Uranium Management and Policy works to assure domestic supplies of fuel for nuclear power plants. In addition, the Office of Used Nuclear Fuel Disposition R&D conducts research and development related to the storage, transportation and disposal of UNF and HWL. Finally, the Systems Engineering and Integration Program develops and implements analysis processes and tools and performs integrated fuel cycle technical assessments to provide information that can be used to objectively and transparently inform and integrate FCT activities.
2.8.3. International Cooperation and Initiatives
The US government collaborates with international partners to support the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear energy.
US Department of Energy
The Office of Nuclear Energy works both bilaterally and multilaterally to accomplish this work.
Bilaterally, DOE collaborates in civil nuclear R&D and related issues through several vehicles, including the International Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (INERI), negotiated R&D agreements, memoranda of understanding, technical action plans, working groups and the International Nuclear Cooperation (INC) framework.
Multilaterally, the United States cooperates with international partners through the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC).
The United States is currently serving a three year term as chair of the GIF. Through the GIF, the United States works with international partners to address the key technical issues associated with designing, building and operating next generation nuclear energy systems that will support the long term advancement of nuclear power. Currently, DOE is actively involved in collaborative R&D involving two of the GIF’s six Generation IV reactor systems: the sodium cooled fast reactor and the very high temperature reactor.
The United States works closely with the IAEA, including the International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO), an open international forum for studying nuclear energy options, associated requirements, and potential deployment in IAEA member states.
The United States engages with the NEA on matters relating to the NEA’s Steering Committee and its topical meetings and cooperative technical programmes on an ad hoc basis. The NEA provides a valuable multinational forum that helps the United States achieve its international cooperation goals and leverage its research and development expenditures.
IFNEC is a forum of states and organizations that share the common vision of the safe and secure development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes worldwide. IFNEC’s two working groups, the Infrastructure Development Working Group and the Reliable Nuclear Fuel Services Working Group, support the mission of ensuring that the use of nuclear energy proceeds in a safe and secure manner by addressing specific objectives agreed upon by the members.
The Office of International Energy Policy and Cooperation (INEPC) oversees and manages DOE’s international commercial nuclear fuel management initiatives and supports DOE and US government initiatives that foster increased US exports of nuclear fuel and services, as appropriate. INEPC encourages international cooperation between governments and industry to provide commercially attractive fuel service options, including a comprehensive nuclear fuel services approach.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The NRC’s international programme activities are wide ranging, encompassing nuclear policy formulation, international safety cooperation and assistance, international technical information exchange and cooperative safety research. These activities support the NRC’s domestic mission, as well as broader US domestic and international interests. Maintaining a programme of international cooperation enhances the safe, secure and environmentally acceptable civilian uses of nuclear materials in the United States and throughout the world. As a regulator of the world’s largest civilian nuclear programme, the NRC’s extensive experience contributes to international programmes in areas such as nuclear reactor safety, nuclear safety research, radiation protection, nuclear materials safety and safeguards, waste management and decommissioning of nuclear facilities.
The NRC helped found the International Nuclear Regulators Association (INRA) in 1997. There are eight INRA member countries: Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, which gather twice yearly to discuss issues of mutual regulatory interest. The main purpose of the association is to influence and enhance nuclear safety, from the regulatory perspective, among its members and worldwide.
The NRC currently participates in cooperative research with other countries, directly through bilateral agreements as well as multilateral agreements with OECD/NEA member states and the European Union (EU). These programmes examine key technical safety issues in regulating the safety of existing and proposed US commercial nuclear facilities and in the use of nuclear materials. The NRC has close working relationships with 35 countries, and conducts confirmatory regulatory research in partnership with nuclear safety agencies and institutes in more than 20 countries. Research includes, but is not limited to, the following projects and programmes: the Cooperative Severe Accident Research Program, the Code Applications and Maintenance Program, the Steam Generator Tube Integrity Program, and the Radiological Computer Code Analysis and Maintenance Program.
2.9. Human Resources Development
The United States has reversed the trend of declining enrollment at nuclear engineering schools over the past five years. The workforce in the nuclear power industry is ageing; many professional skills may be lost as the staff at nuclear power plants, research facilities, universities and national laboratories retire. With limited nuclear power plant construction underway, it is not clear what level of trained personnel will be required by the industry in the future. The long term trend toward a decline in the number of university programmes offering nuclear engineering degrees reversed course in the late 1990s, and several schools have added programmes in the past few years.
DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy has an active programme to encourage the development of academic programmes related to nuclear power through its Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP). NEUP was created in 2009 to consolidate university support under one initiative and better integrate university research within NE’s technical programmes. NEUP engages US colleges and universities to conduct R&D, enhance infrastructure and support student education, thereby helping to build and sustain an advanced nuclear energy workforce capability. Since 2009, NEUP has awarded approximately US $290 million to 89 colleges and universities in 35 states and the District of Columbia.
In 2007, the nuclear industry developed and began implementing the Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program (NUCP). The NUCP is managed by the Nuclear Energy Institute and is a standardized certificate programme designed to ensure that a well trained workforce is available when needed. Industry partners with two year educational institutions to permit certificate holders to be exempt from some initial training at a nuclear power plant.
The American Nuclear Society, a professional organization, also promotes the expansion of academic programmes related to nuclear power at higher education institutions.
2.10. Stakeholder Communication
Stakeholders in the United States include, but are not limited to, state and tribal governments, local communities, federal agencies, industry, and professional organizations. Communications are timely and open through formal and informal processes.
From a regulatory perspective, formal processes may include:
Public comment on proposed regulations;
Annual meetings with stakeholders at each reactor facility;
Participation in legal proceedings.
The goal of formal regulatory stakeholder communication is to ensure that the public has the opportunity to enhance its understanding of the regulatory process. Stakeholders are provided with advance notice of regulatory meetings in a timely manner.
2.11. Emergency Preparedness
Nuclear utilities; federal, state and local governments; as well as volunteers and first responders work together in the event of an emergency at a nuclear power plant. Each plant is responsible for developing on- and off-site emergency response plans. Federal oversight of emergency preparedness for nuclear power plants is shared by the NRC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The respective roles of the NRC, FEMA, and state and local governments are identified on the NRC’s federal, state, and local responsibilities website. The NRC has statutory responsibility for the radiological health and safety of the public by overseeing onsite preparedness and has overall authority for both onsite and offsite emergency preparedness. As part of its Reactor Oversight Process, the NRC reviews nuclear power plant emergency planning procedures and training. FEMA acts as the federal interface with state and local governments. State and local governments are responsible for determining and implementing appropriate public protective actions during a radiological emergency, and are also responsible for notifying the public to take such protective actions.
Regular drills and exercises are conducted to identify areas for improvement, including the effective coordination of security operations and emergency preparedness. Each utility is required to conduct emergency preparedness exercises with the NRC, FEMA and offsite authorities at least once every two years to ensure state and local officials remain proficient in implementing their emergency plans. Utilities also regularly conduct drills to test the emergency plans.
Detailed information about emergency preparedness is contained in NRC regulations and in a joint publication of the NRC and FEMA entitled “Criteria for Preparation and Evaluation of Radiological Emergency Response Plans and Preparedness in Support of Nuclear Power Plants.” Additional information may be found on the NRC’s emergency preparedness and response website as well as FEMA’s Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program website.
3. NATIONAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS
3.1. Regulatory Framework
3.1.1. Regulatory Authority
The NRC is the principal regulator of the nuclear power industry. The NRC's mission is to regulate the nation's civilian use of by-product, source, and special nuclear materials to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety, to promote the common defense and security, and to protect the environment. The NRC has regulatory responsibility for:
Commercial reactors for generating electric power and non-power reactors used for research, testing, and training;
Uranium enrichment facilities and nuclear fuel fabrication facilities;
Uses of nuclear materials in medical, industrial, and academic settings and facilities that produce nuclear fuel; and
Transportation, storage, and disposal of nuclear materials and waste, and decommissioning of nuclear facilities from service.
3.1.2 Licensing Process
The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT1992) specified a new nuclear power plant licensing process. Under the new licensing procedure, an applicant who seeks to build a new reactor can use off-the shelf reactor designs that have been previously approved and certified by the NRC. After reviewing the application and holding public hearings, the NRC may issue a combined construction and operating licence (COL); under the previous process, construction permits and operating licences were separately issued, at different times. When the applicant uses an NRC-certified design, safety issues related to the design will have been already resolved, and the main concern will be the quality of reactor construction.
Before authorizing power operation at a reactor, certain standards identified in the COL must be satisfied. These standards are called Inspections, Tests, Analyses, and Acceptance Criteria (ITAAC). The majority of the ITAAC are from the reactor design certification; the remaining ITAAC are site-specific and are included in the COL or ESP application.
In 2008, the NRC finalized its rule for the licensing of a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada in 10 CFR Part 63, following the revision of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 40 CFR Part 197 in that same year.
The revised 10 CFR 70, which applies to fuel cycle facilities, became effective on 18 October 2000. The revised safety regulations for special nuclear material provide a risk-informed, performance-based regulatory approach that includes: (1) the identification of performance requirements for prevention of accidents or mitigation of their consequences; (2) the performance of an Integrated Safety Analysis (ISA) to identify potential accidents at the facility and the items relied on for safety; (3) the implementation of measures to ensure that the items relied on for safety are available and reliable to perform their functions when needed; (4) the maintenance of the safety bases, including the reporting of changes to the NRC; and (5) the allowance for licensees to make certain changes to their safety program, if they comply with 10 CFR 70.
3.2. National Laws and Regulations in Nuclear Power
The US Congress has enacted several laws that delineate a comprehensive regulatory programme governing the design, construction, and operation of nuclear energy plants. Transportation and disposal of radioactive waste is a major concern of the industry and the public, and there is specific legislation to address such activities as well.
Legislation outlined in Section 3.2.1 affects the US nuclear industry but also covers the entire electric power industry. The legislation outlined in Section 3.2.2 affects the nuclear power industry specifically. These lists are not exhaustive; additional national legislation affecting the nuclear industry also exists. Although the federal government has an extensive role in the nuclear industry, there is also a regulatory role for the individual states and some local jurisdictions.
3.2.1. Important Legislation Affecting the Electric Power Industry
The Public Utility Holding Company Act was passed to regulate electric utility companies. PUHCA provided for the limitation of utility operations to one state or operation as a single entity that served a limited region. It was intended to prevent utility holding companies from comingling regulated and unregulated activities. PUHCA was repealed with the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT2005), as described below.
The Federal Power Act of 1935 (Title II of the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA))
The Federal Power Act of 1935 was passed at the same time as PUHCA. It provides a federal mechanism, as required by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, for interstate electricity regulation. Prior to this, electricity generation, transmission and distribution were usually a series of intrastate transactions.
The Clean Water Act of 1977 (Public Law 95-217)
The Clean Water Act of 1977 is the primary law governing the discharge of pollutants into all US surface waters. Under this law, EPA requires that a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit be obtained before any pollutant is released.
The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) (Public Law 95-617)
PURPA sought to promote conservation of electric energy in response to the unstable energy climate of the late 1970s. PURPA created a new class of non-utility generators (small power producers), from which, along with qualified cogenerators, utilities were required to buy power.
The Energy Tax Act of 1978 (ETA) (Public Law 95-618)
ETA, like PURPA, was passed in response to the unstable energy climate of the 1970s. ETA encouraged the conversion of oil burning boilers to coal and investment in cogeneration equipment and solar and wind technologies by allowing a tax credit on top of the investment tax credit. ETA was later expanded to include other renewables technologies. These incentives were curtailed in the mid-1980s as a result of tax reform legislation.
The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (Public Law 101-549)
These amendments established a new emissions-reduction programme that sought to reduce annual sulphur dioxide emissions by 10 million tons and annual nitrogen oxide emissions by 2 million tons from 1980 levels for all human-made sources. Generators of electricity were to be responsible for large portions of the sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide reductions. The programme employed a unique, market based approach to sulphur dioxide emission reductions, while relying on more traditional methods for nitrogen oxide reductions. This legislation continues to evolve and specific targets change with national policies.
The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT1992) (Public Law 102-486)
EPACT1992 created a new category of electricity producer, the exempt wholesale generator, which circumvented PUHCA’s impediments to non-utility electricity generation. EPACT1992 also allowed FERC to open the national electricity transmission system to wholesale suppliers. Seven of EPACT1992’s 30 titles contain provisions related specifically to nuclear power and/or uranium.
EPACT2005 contained provisions affecting nuclear power, including the renewal of the Price–Anderson Act and incentives for building the first advanced nuclear power plants. Incentives include production tax credits, loan guarantees and standby support insurance related to regulatory delays.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 created incentives for increased vehicle fuel efficiency, support for biofuels development, end use efficiency improvements, and greenhouse gas reductions through implementation of new technologies.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 directed funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as loan guarantees for renewable energy, including nuclear power.
3.2.2. Important Legislation Affecting the Nuclear Power Industry
Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (Public Law 83-703, as amended)
The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 encouraged private enterprise to develop and utilize nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. This Act amended the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 to allow non-federal ownership of nuclear production and utilization facilities if an operating licence was obtained from the AEC. This Act enabled the development of the commercial nuclear power industry in the Unites States.
Price–Anderson Nuclear Indemnity Act of 1957 (Public Law 83-703, as amended)
The Price–Anderson Act requires each operator of a nuclear power plant to obtain the maximum primary coverage of liability insurance. Currently, the annual premium paid by owners of nuclear power plants is US $375 million per reactor. Damages exceeding that amount are funded with a retroactive assessment on all other owners of commercial reactors, based on the number of reactors they own and not to exceed about US $112 million. However, Price–Anderson places a limit on the total liability to all owners of commercial reactors of about US $12 billion. The US Congress is committed to determine whether additional disaster relief is required if all funds are depleted or whether to retroactively increase nuclear utility liability.
Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-438)
This Act separated the licensing and related functions of the AEC from energy development and related functions. The NRC succeeded the AEC as an independent regulatory authority to assure the safety and licensing of nuclear reactors and other facilities associated with processing, transport and handling of nuclear materials.
Low-level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-573, as amended)
This Act was an important step toward the development of new disposal capacity for low level radioactive waste (LLW). Each state was made responsible for providing, by itself or in cooperation with other states, for the disposal of LLW generated within the state. The Act authorizes the states to form compacts to establish and operate regional LLW disposal facilities, subject to NRC licensing approval.
Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (Public Law 97-425, as amended)
This Act established federal responsibility for the development of repositories for the disposal of high level radioactive waste and used nuclear fuel. It was amended in 1987 to require DOE to begin evaluating the suitability of Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the nation’s permanent high level waste repository. That process was completed and approved by Congress during 2002.
Individual references are provided with hyperlinks. Please see the list below for general sources.
APPENDIX 1: INTERNATIONAL, MULTILATERAL AND BILATERAL AGREEMENTS
Agreements for cooperation provide the legal framework of US trade with other countries in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Agreements establish binding national commitments enforceable under international law, and set the ground rules for civilian nuclear commerce among nations. The guiding principle is that the United States will cooperate in peaceful nuclear trade as long as the other signatories abide by the agreement’s conditions governing the safeguarded and continued peaceful use of nuclear material and technology transferred from the United States, and grants the United States certain consent rights over such material’s use, alteration and retransfer.
The United States has entered into agreements with other countries for peaceful nuclear cooperation. Similar agreements have been entered with international organizations including the European Atomic Energy Agency (EURATOM) and the IAEA. The United States has also entered into trilateral agreements with the IAEA and other countries for the safeguards to equipment, devices and materials supplied under bilateral agreements for cooperation in the use of commercial nuclear power.
APPENDIX 2: MAIN ORGANIZATIONS, INSTITUTIONS AND COMPANIES INVOLVED IN NUCLEAR POWER RELATED ACTIVITIES
Reporting organization and contact