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Review of Doe’s Nuclear Energy Research and Development Program
is appropriately market driven. There is a strong focus on demonstrating the regulatory processes, finalizing and standardizing the designs, and implementing the EPAct05 standby support provisions, all of which are essential front-end activities. Yet, other activities essential to ultimate success do not seem to have achieved that same focus in planning, let alone implementation.
Although progress has been made on the licensing of demonstration projects, the pace is far slower than that proposed in the near-term roadmap, and there has been further slippage against the original NP 2010 schedules. This slippage does not suggest the high priority DOE has given to NP 2010.
Recommendation. NE should make the successful completion of the NP 2010 program its highest priority. It should take all necessary steps to ensure that guidance for the loan guarantee program authorized by the EPAct05 is finalized.
USNRC and industry need to improve the presently planned pace of COL reviews, avoiding review of already-settled issues and setting a more challenging schedule. In spite of the substantial effort that USNRC and the industry are devoting to preparing for the COL reviews, the planned schedules are still too long. Detailed milestones and schedules need to be established at the outset of the COL hearings and reflected in a binding order issued by the USNRC at the time each application is formally docketed. The ITAAC process needs to be defined fully and demonstrated to avoid construction delays caused by questions about licensing compliance or by litigation.
Recommendation. DOE should propose and support a joint DOE/industry/USNRC high-level working group to ensure that the following transpire:
High-quality, complete applications are submitted and response times to requests for additional information are met as stipulated in USNRC’s design-centered licensing review approach.
The schedules for review of DC, ESP, and COL applications, including the legal review by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, are clearly established, complete, contain mechanisms for monitoring progress, show 3 years or less for review and approval of the initial COL applications, and show shorter durations for subsequent same-design applications.
The ITAAC is being developed so that its implementation will minimize interruptions in construction and preoperational litigation delays.
Common safety and licensing issues among the families of reactor designs are fully standardized.
Standardized Design Completion
While it is expected that a COL application could be standardized for each reactor design, it is not clear that common safety and licensing issues would allow the COL applications to be standardized among the families of designs. Schedules for completion of the full designs need to be accelerated to be consistent with the goal of estimating costs and construction times, and completing design before the start of construction. Design standardization efforts also need to be expanded to cover
Construction, operational, and maintenance efficiencies,
Protocols, such as form-fit-function, to permit competitive bidding on the great variety of smaller plant components, and
Change processes and operational standards for the plant life.
Recommendation. DOE should work with the industry consortia to increase efforts to standardize safety and licensing issues across all families of reactor designs. DOE should also provide additional cost-shared funds to accelerate the schedules in the NP 2010 Five-Year Plan.
Deployment and Infrastructure Issues
DOE and the consortia have not devoted sufficient effort to critical deployment issues such as preoperational testing, advanced construction technology or processes, and operational training.
Recommendation. NE should immediately initiate a cooperative project with industry to identify problems that have arisen in the construction and start-up of new plants and define best practices for use by the industry.
The 25-year-long suspension of new plant construction in the United States has badly weakened the infrastructure needed to support a robust and growing nuclear power industry. So far, little effort in NP 2010 has been devoted to this issue.
Recommendation. DOE should include within the NP 2010 program a DOE/industry workshop to identify activities that would revitalize infrastructure for the construction of new nuclear plants, including the nuclear qualification of vendors and constructors; manufacturing capacity; and the availability of professional staff, skilled craftspeople and construction personnel. Additional tasks that merit further DOE support should be identified at this workshop.