UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
This report provides information on the status and development of nuclear power programmes in the United States of America (USA), including factors related to the effective planning, decision making and implementation of the nuclear power programme that together lead to safe and economical operations 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 804.9 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 southeastern USA.
1. COUNTRY ENERGY OVERVIEW
1.1. ENERGY INFORMATION
Energy statistics, projections and analysis are conducted by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), which 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 about 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 that EIA produces is available at www.eia.gov/reports/
1.1.1. Energy policy
The overall direction of the energy sector is determined largely by market forces rather than by formal 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, nuclear licensing and nuclear safety oversight.
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 of America has the largest estimated available fossil fuel reserves in the world. In 2016, estimated recoverable coal reserves were 230 608 million metric tonnes. Total natural gas proved reserves increased by 5% to 9 654 billion cubic metres (m3) from 2015. Proved crude oil and lease condensate reserves remained nearly unchanged from 2015 at 4 803 million metric tonnes.
Through the end of 2016, 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 priced at up to $100 per pound were 130 472 tonnes U3O8 (Table 1).
TABLE 1. ESTIMATED AVAILABLE US ENERGY RESERVES
|Million metric tonnes||Million metric tonnes||Billion m3||Metric tonnes U3O8||TW||TW|
|Total amount in units||230 608||4 803||9 654||130 472||n.a.||n.a.|
|Total amount in exajoules (EJ)||n.a.||n.a.||n.a.||n.a.||n.a.||n.a.|
1 Reflects estimated recoverable reserves as of 31 December 2016.
2 Reflects crude oil and lease condensate proved reserves as of 31 December 2016.
3 Reflects proved reserves of wet natural gas as of 31 December 2016.
4 Reflects uranium reserves as of 31 December 2017, and assumes a $100 per pound ($220 per kg) forward cost for U3O8.
Source: US Energy Information Administration.
n.a.: Data not applicable.
1.1.3. Energy statistics
Statistical data on energy and electricity supply and demand between 1970 and 2017 illustrate long term trends in production and consumption. Total energy production and exports increased in recent years, from 2010 to 2017.
The USA became a net exporter of natural gas in 2016, effectively reversing an industry outlook for increased foreign imports. This change is largely the result of continual innovation in natural gas and shale gas extraction techniques, which led to significant supply increases.
Nuclear power generation remained constant from 2010 to 2017, despite recent plant retirements, as a result of increased efficiency in plant operations and diminished outage times, growing at an average rate of 0.4% per year from 2000 to 2017.
Production of energy from non-hydro renewables such as wind and solar experienced the largest average growth rate of 15.5% from 2000 to 2017. The robust growth is a result of federal and state policies and incentives such as the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC), and state level Renewable Portfolio Standards, and declining capital costs for renewables.
TABLE 2. US ENERGY STATISTICS (EXAJOULES)
|Year||1970||1980||1990||2000||2010||2017||Average annual growth rate 2000–20174|
1 Solid energy consumption and production consist of coal, coke, biomass wood and biomass waste.
2 Liquid energy consumption and production consist of petroleum and biofuels; however, no biofuel data are available for 1970 or 1980.
3 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.
4 Average annual growth rate calculated using unrounded values. Exajoule conversion factor rounded to 1.0551 (EJ).
Source: US Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, May 2018.
1.2. THE ELECTRICITY SYSTEM
The US electric power sector is a complex market involving firms that generate, transmit and distribute electricity through intricate infrastructure networks involving a large number of participants. The electric power industry is the backbone of US economic sectors, supplying energy for transportation, water, emergency services, telecommunications and manufacturing.
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 were 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. Section 3.2.1 contains a complete listing of relevant electricity and nuclear power legislation.
1.2.2. Structure of the electric power sector
The electricity sector consists of regulated and unregulated markets. Some states have regulated markets in which generation, transmission and distribution of electric power are provided by a single utility. Other states have unbundled generation, transmission and distribution to allow for competitive wholesale and retail power market participation.
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. Interstate electricity trade does occur; however, no single system or market structure dominates another.
FIG. 1. Electricity supply chain.
Source: US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, US Department of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.
In 2017, total installed net summer capacity was 1 075 gigawatts (GW), and the average price of electricity to end users was $0.1023/kilowatt-hour (kWh). In 2017, power plant operators generated about 8.2 million terawatt-hours (TW) of electricity. Most end users receive electricity from centralized power plants that use a variety of fuels to generate electricity. The largest sources of electricity generation in 2017 were coal (1.2 TWh), natural gas (1.3 TWh), nuclear power (0.8 TWh).
The 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. Market participants include:
Investor owned utilities (IOUs) — 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 IOUs have multifuel generators and multistate operations.
Publicly owned utilities (POUs) — 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 (IPPs) — Generate electricity from a portfolio of power plants and do not provide local distribution services or retail sales to end users. Although an IPP may sell its power through brokers, it can also sell directly to the utilities and marketers. IPPs generally operate in the unregulated electricity markets.
Cooperative utilities — Owned by their end users and governed by a board of directors elected from the membership that 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 (PMAs) — Federal entities that market wholesale power. Some agencies may also own power plants.
Wholesale power suppliers — Do not own individual plants; these suppliers buy power from multiple suppliers on a long term or spot market basis and then resell it. Brokers may be used to facilitate these transactions.
Retail power marketers — Buy and sell electricity, but usually do not own or operate generation facilities. Electricity is sold directly to end users, such as households and small to medium sized commercial enterprises.
The power grid consists of three large, interconnected systems that synchronously move electricity around the lower 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. The Eastern Interconnection is the largest interconnected grid in the USA, connecting 39 states, the District of Columbia and much of Canada; it contains 70% of the US population.
FIG. 2. Map of North American electricity grid interconnections, 2017.
Source: North American Electric Reliability Corporation.
Electrical transmission grids are coordinated, controlled and monitored by electrical transmission system operators, which are traditionally non-profit organizations. Transmission line owners are required to supply transmission access to all electricity generators and wholesale energy customers in the service operator’s area under standardized, open access tariff rates.
Electrical transmission system operators may be either independent system operators (ISOs), which usually operate within a single state, or regional transmission organizations (RTOs) that cover wider areas crossing state lines. An ISO operates the region’s electricity grid, administers the region’s wholesale electricity markets and provides reliability planning for the region’s bulk electricity system.
RTOs perform the same functions as ISOs, but have greater responsibility for the transmission network, as established by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). RTOs coordinate, control and monitor the operation of the electric power system within their territories. RTOs also monitor the operation of the region’s transmission network by providing fair transmission access. In addition, ISOs/RTOs engage in regional planning to make sure the needs of the system are met with the appropriate infrastructure.
FIG. 3. Map of continental US wholesale electricity markets, ISOs and RTOs, 2017.
Sources: US Energy Information Administration, US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
1.2.3. Main indicators
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 through 2050 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||2010||2017||Average annual growth rate 2000–2017|
|Capacity of electrical plants gigawatt hours electrical (GW(e))|
|Total||336.4||578.6||734.1||811.7||1 039.1||1 084.8||1.72|
|Electricity production (TWh)|
|Thermal||1 261.8||1 754.2||2 149.4||2 753.2||2 939.5||2 580.1||-0.38|
|Total*||1 535.1||2 289.6||3 037.8||3 802.1||4 125.1||4 014.8||0.32|
|Total electricity consumption (TWh)||1 392.3||2 094.4||2 837.1||3 592.4||3 886.8||3 820.0||0.36|
*Total electricity production values include inferred other energy sources.
n.a.: Data not applicable.
Sources: US Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review (April 2018); Electric Power Annual (December 2017).
TABLE 4. US ENERGY RELATED RATIOS
|Energy consumption per capita (GJ/capita)||349||362||357||369||333||316|
|Electricity consumption per capita (kWh/capita)||6 790||9 218||11 373||12 732||12 564||11 722|
|Electricity production/Energy production (%)||8.23||11.64||14.66||18.19||18.80||15.65|
|Nuclear/Total electricity (%)||1.42||10.97||18.99||19.83||19.56||20.05|
|Ratio of external dependency (%)||8.42||15.50||16.65||25.27||22.23||7.61|
Sources: US Census Bureau, Population Division; US Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review (April 2018); Electric Power Annual (December 2017).
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 USA began operation in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. In 1960, Dresden Nuclear Generating Station, in Grundy County, Illinois, became the first full scale, privately financed commercial nuclear power plant in the world.
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 one department and thereby provide the framework for a comprehensive and balanced national energy plan.
The nuclear power industry grew dramatically during the 1960s and 1970s in response to strong electricity demand growth. During this period, the USA added 50 gigawatt electrical (GW(e)) 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.
Watts Bar Unit-2 is the newest commercial nuclear reactor in the US fleet. The 1150 megawatt electrical (MW(e)) reactor was completed in 2016 and is an expansion of the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Spring City, Tennessee. The dual unit facility is owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Construction began on the unit in 1973, but was suspended in 1985 as a result of slower electricity demand growth, rising construction costs and new regulatory requirements stemming from the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979.
Construction on the Virgil C. Summer plant expansion project near Jenkinsville, South Carolina, was cancelled in 2017 as the result of construction delays and cost overruns. The utility, South Carolina Electric & Gas Company, a subsidiary of SCANA, determined that construction would not be completed before 2021 and could have a total cost of $25 billion, compared to the original budget estimate of $11.5 billion.
The Alvin W. Vogtle nuclear plant in Waynesboro, Georgia, is continuing with its expansion, which will add two Westinghouse advanced passive (AP1000) pressurized water reactors (PWRs) with a capacity of 1100 MW(e) each. Vogtle currently has two operating reactors with a capacity of 1150 MW(e) each. Units 1 and 2 both began construction in 1976 and were respectively completed in 1987 and 1989. Westinghouse was originally awarded the construction contract for the construction of Units 3 and 4. However, the company went bankrupt during the course of construction and was replaced by Bechtel.
In 2018, the NRC issued combined licences (COLs) to Florida Power & Light (FPL) for two Westinghouse AP1000 PWRs designated as Turkey Point, Units 6 and 7. Before making the decision to begin construction, FPL will monitor the progress and completion of the underway Vogtle expansion project as well as China’s Sanmen project. Turkey Point is located in Homestead, Florida, 25 miles south of Miami, has two operating 800 MW(e) reactors built in the 1970s, and also includes three natural gas fired units.
2.1.2. Current organizational chart
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is part of the executive branch of the Federal Government and is the principal regulator of the nuclear power industry. The NRC is headed by five commissioners and the executive director for operations, and they formulate policies, develop regulations governing nuclear reactor and nuclear materials safety, issue orders for licences and adjudicate legal matters.
FIG. 4. US Nuclear Regulatory Commission organizational chart.
Source: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The NRC leads consultations in cooperation with other government entities such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to regulate nuclear safety standards and norms. For further details on interactions among regulators, utilities and the NRC, see Sections 2.3.1, 2.3.6, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 2.11 and 3.1.2.
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 (65 pressurized water reactors (PWRs) and 34 boiling water reactors (BWRs)) that have a total capacity of 998 MW(e). Most nuclear facilities are located in the central to eastern part of the USA (Fig. 5). In 2017, nuclear power plants produced 804.9 TW of electricity, accounting for more than 20% of total US electricity generation. The 2017 weighted average unit capability factor for the US nuclear fleet was 92% compared with 75% for the rest of the world.
FIG. 5. Location of operating US nuclear power plants by type, 2017.
Note: Map courtesy of Nuclear Energy Institute as of October 2017.
Source: US Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-860, Annual Electric Generator Report.
Construction of two AP1000 nuclear units at Plant Vogtle located near Waynesboro, Georgia, is ongoing. Construction of two similar units at the VC Summer plant in South Carolina was cancelled due to continued schedule delays and budget overruns. Since 2013, six commercial nuclear reactors in the USA have shut down, and another 12 reactors have announced plans to retire by 2025.
However, 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 increased operator experience.
TABLE 5. STATUS AND PERFORMANCE OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
|NINE MILE POINT-1||BWR||613||Operational||EXELON||GE||1965-04-12||1969-09-05||1969-11-09||1969-12-01||94.6|
|NINE MILE POINT-2||BWR||1277||Operational||EXELON||GE||1975-08-01||1987-05-23||1987-08-08||1988-03-11||99.3|
|THREE MILE ISLAND-1||PWR||819||Operational||EXELON||B&W||1968-05-18||1974-06-05||1974-06-19||1974-09-02||94.1|
|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|
|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 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.|
*UCF represents unit capability factor, which is a form of utilization factor similar to load and capacity factors.
2.2.2. Plant upgrading, plant life management and licence renewals
Licensees in the USA 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, which include enhanced techniques for calculating reactor power, are typically less than 2%.
Stretch power uprates are typically less than 7% and do not usually involve major plant modification.
Extended power uprates require significant modifications to most plant equipment, might take place over several refueling outages and can be as much as 20%.
US nuclear plants are licensed by the NRC to operate for 40 years, after which plants can extend their operating licences for up to 20 years at a time. Most US nuclear power plants have already renewed their operating licence once.
Several plants will be nearing the end of that 20 year extension by 2029 and will be seeking to renew their licences a second time for another 20 year period. The NRC has so far received subsequent licence renewal (SLR) applications for Turkey Point Units 3 and 4. By 2021 the NRC expects to receive SLR applications from Peach Bottom Units 2 and 3, Surry Units 1 and 2 and North Anna Units 1 and 2.
(See Section 2.11 for post-Fukushima plant safety upgrades.)
2.2.3. Permanent shutdown and decommissioning process
The retirement process for nuclear power plants involves disposing of nuclear waste and decontaminating equipment and facilities to reduce residual radioactivity, making it much more expensive and time consuming than retiring other power plants.
As of 2017, 11 commercial nuclear reactors in the USA have been successfully decommissioned, and another 20 reactors are currently in different stages of the decommissioning process. Licensees may choose from three decommissioning strategies: DECON, SAFSTOR or ENTOMB.
DECON (immediate dismantling) begins soon after the nuclear facility closes. Equipment, structures and the portions of the facility that contain radioactive contaminants are removed or decontaminated to a level that permits release of the property and termination of the licence.
SAFSTOR, often referred to as deferred dismantling, is when a nuclear facility is maintained and monitored in a condition that allows the radioactivity to decay. Once the radioactivity reaches a safe level, the plant is dismantled and the property decontaminated.
ENTOMB, is when radioactive contaminants are permanently encased on site in structurally sound material such as concrete. The facility is maintained and monitored until the radioactivity decays to a level permitting restricted release of the property. To date, no NRC licensed facilities have requested this option.
The licensee may also choose to adopt a combination of the first two choices in which some portions of the facility are dismantled or decontaminated while other parts of the facility are left in SAFSTOR. The decision may be based on factors besides radioactive decay, such as availability of waste disposal sites.
Decommissioning must be completed within 60 years of the plant ceasing operations. An extension of that time would be considered only when necessary to protect public health and safety under NRC regulations. The decommissioning process is complete when the NRC determines that the dismantlement has been performed according to the plan submitted by the operator at the beginning of the decommissioning process.
The decommissioning process is paid for through a fund that each plant operator creates during construction with funds typically accumulated during the period of commercial operations. About two thirds of the total estimated cost of decommissioning all US nuclear reactors has been collected. The remainder will be collected as newer plants continue to operate and generate revenues. 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.
One of the most recently decommissioned reactors is the 619 MW(e) Connecticut Yankee facility in central Connecticut, which was shut down in 1996 and decommissioned using the DECON method. The decommissioning was completed in 2007 at a total cost of $893 million.
TABLE 6. STATUS OF DECOMMISSIONING PROCESS OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
|Reactor unit||Shutdown reason||Decom. strategy||Current decom. phase||Current fuel management phase||Decom. licence||Licence termination year|
|BIG ROCK POINT||Economic||DECON||Partial dismantling||ISFSI||CPC||2007|
|BONUS||Technological||In situ disposal||Final dismantling, licence terminated||Off-site||DOE/PRWR||1970|
|CRYSTAL RIVER-3||Technological||SAFSTOR||Planning||Dry storage||DUKE||2074-e|
|DRESDEN-1||Economic||SAFSTOR||Final dismantling, licence terminated||Dry storage||EXELON||1978|
|ELK RIVER||Obsolete||DECON||Final dismantling, licence terminated||Dry storage||RCPA||1974|
|FERMI-1||Technological||SAFSTOR||Final dismantling, licence terminated||Dry storage||DTEDISON||2025|
|FORT CALHOUN||Economic||SAFSTOR||Planning||Fuel cool||OPPD||2077-e|
|FORT ST. VRAIN||Obsolete||DECON||Partial dismantling||ISFSI||PSCC||1996|
|GE VALLECITOS||Obsolete||SAFSTOR||Final dismantling||Off-site||GE&PGEC||2019-e|
|HADDAM NECK||Economic||DECON||Waste shipment, partial dismantling||ISFSI||CYAPC||2007|
|HALLAM||Technological||SAFSTOR||Partial dismantling||Dry storage||AEC&NPPD||1971|
|HUMBOLDT BAY||Technological||SAFSTOR||Waste conditioning, Waste shipment, partial dismantling||Dry storage||PG&E||2013|
|INDIAN POINT-1||Technological||SAFSTOR||Planning||Dry storage||ENTERGY||TBD|
|KEWAUNEE||Economic||SAFSTOR||Final dismantling, licence terminated||Off-site||DOMINRES||2073-e|
|LACROSSE||Economic||SAFSTOR||Final dismantling||Dry storage||DPC||2020-e|
|MAINE YANKEE||Economic||DECON||Waste shipment off-site||ISFSI||MYAPC||2005|
|PEACH BOTTOM-1||Obsolete||SAFSTOR||Final dismantling||Off-site||EXELON||2034-e|
|PIQUA||Technological||In situ disposal||Licence terminated||Off-site||CofPiqua||1968|
|RANCHO SECO-1||Economic, Technological||SAFSTOR||Licence terminated||ISFSI||SMUD||2009|
|SAN ONOFRE-1||Others||SAFSTOR||Waste shipment off-site||Dry storage||SCE||2008|
|SAN ONOFRE-2||Political, Technological||SAFSTOR||Planning||Fuel cool||SCE||2030-e|
|SAN ONOFRE-3||Political, Technological||SAFSTOR||Planning||Fuel cool||SCE||2030-e|
|SHIPPINGPORT||Licence requirements||SAFSTOR||Licence terminated||Off-site||DOE DUQU||1989|
|THREE MILE ISLAND-2||Operating incident||SAFSTOR||Final dismantling, licence terminated||Off-site||GPU||1979|
|VERMONT YANKEE||Political||SAFSTOR||Planning||Fuel cool||ENTERGY||2015|
|YANKEE NPS||Economic, political||DECON||Waste shipment, partial dismantling||Fuel cool||YAEC||2005|
|YANKEE ROWE||Technological||SAFSTOR||Partial dismantling||ISFSI||YAEC||1991|
|ZION-1||Economic , Technological||SAFSTOR||Final dismantling||Dry storage||CommonEd||1997|
|ZION-2||Economic , Technological||SAFSTOR||Final dismantling||Dry storage||COMMED||1996|
Notes: An independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) is a stand-alone facility within the plant boundary. In situ disposal is the permanent entombment of a facility that contains residual radiological and/or chemical contamination. Estimated licence termination dates will be suffixed with an ‘e’ (example 2070-e).
Sources: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, US Energy Information Administration.
2.3 FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF NUCLEAR POWER SECTOR
2.3.1. Nuclear power development strategy
The DOE Office of Nuclear Energy leads US efforts 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 objectives in its Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap:
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 of 20 years) and ensure the long term reliability, productivity, safety and security of operating plants.
The Next Generation Nuclear Plant, Advanced Reactor Concepts and Advanced Small Modular Reactor (SMR) programmes 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.
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.
All of the Office of Nuclear Energy’s research and development (R&D) programmes are designed to develop more proliferation resistant technologies and the Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies Program develops new tools and approaches for understanding nuclear power while limiting and managing the risks of proliferation and physical security.
Nuclear Power Loan Guarantees — Congress granted DOE authority to issue $20.5 billion in guaranteed loans. DOE issued solicitations for $18.5 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear power facilities and $2 billion for the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle on 30 June 2008. In February 2014, DOE finalized the first federal loan guarantee for $6.5 billion with Georgia Power Company and Oglethorpe Power Corporation for the construction and operation of two reactors at Vogtle.
Production Tax Credits – In early 2018, the deadline for production tax credits for advanced nuclear power plants was extended under a budget bill passed by the US Senate and House of Representatives. Section 40501 of the new law allows reactors entering service after 31 December 2020 to qualify for the tax credits (there is no established sunset provision for the credits at this time), and enables the US Secretary of Energy to allocate credits for up to 6000 MW(e) of new nuclear capacity which enters service after 1 January 2021. The extension means that the two Vogtle units under construction will be eligible for the tax credits. Also, other projects, such the planned NuScale Power SMR plant at the Idaho National Laboratory by 2026, will now qualify.
TABLE 7. PLANNED (UNDER CONSTRUCTION) NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
|Reactor unit/Project name||Owner||Type||Capacity in MW(e)||Expected construction start year||Expected commercial year|
|Plant Vogtle Unit 3||Southern Company||PWR||1 100||Started in 2013||2021|
|Plant Vogtle Unit 4||Southern Company||PWR||1 100||Started in 2013||2022|
Source: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
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, at the request of individual nuclear power plant owners or operators
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;
Provides assistance with technical and management issues.
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. The Federal Government, through the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct2005), provides 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
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 9200 electric generating units with more than 1 million MW of generating capacity connected to more than 600 000 circuit miles (965 600 km) of transmission lines. To move forward, the USA is pursuing a grid that will handle rapidly developing digital and computerized equipment and technology.
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.
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 related to numerous technologies, including the Smart Grid.
Currently, three potential sites for nuclear expansion are under consideration. The utilities are waiting on the outcome of the Vogtle project, clarity on the outlook for natural gas supply and higher electricity demand before setting construction start dates and making firm plans.
TABLE 7a. POTENTIAL NUCLEAR CAPACITY EXPANSION
|Station/Project Name||Type1||Units||Capacity||Application submitted||Application status||COL/OL issued||Expected commercial year|
|Fermi, Unit 3||ESBWR||1||1 520||2008-09-13||Issued||2015||TBD|
|South Texas Project, Units 3 & 4||ABWR||2||2 700||2007-09-20||Issued||2016||TBD|
|Turkey Point, Units 6 & 7||AP1000||2||2 234||2009-06-30||Issued||2018||TBD|
1 ABWR — advanced boiling water reactor; AP1000, advanced passive 1000 reactor; ESBWR, is interpreted as economic simplified boiling reactor for the US version, and the US-APWR, US advanced pressurized water reactor.
2.3.6. Public awareness
Civic activism is encouraged in the USA, 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 by providing comments on proposed rulemaking. Civil reactions to nuclear projects range from optimism about clean electricity generation and increased local employment to concerns over construction times, rate increases and water safety.
2.4. ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED IN CONSTRUCTION OF NPPs
A large number of companies provide equipment and services to the US nuclear power industry that cover the entire nuclear fuel cycle. Westinghouse Corporation built most of the PWR units, although Combustion Engineering and Babcock & Wilcox also built some. General Electric designed all of the BWRs currently operating in the USA. Westinghouse is in the process of being sold to Brookfield Business Partners.
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, more than 200 foreign and US companies hold ASME nuclear certificates of authorization.
2.5. ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED IN OPERATION OF NPPs
Most of the 99 operable nuclear reactors in the USA in 2017 were 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.
2.6. ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED IN DECOMMISSIONING OF NPPs
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.
Federal agencies oversee the entire nuclear decommissioning process:
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (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 US 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 ensure the safety of workers at nuclear power plants undergoing decommissioning.
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates the shipment of radioactive materials, including those resulting from decommissioning a nuclear power plant.
State and local agencies are also involved as regulators of worker and public health and safety. The Electric Power Research Institute and the decommissioning industry cooperate to develop decontamination techniques.
2.7 FUEL CYCLE, INCLUDING WASTE MANAGEMENT
EIA publishes data on the nuclear fuel cycle in its Domestic Uranium Production Report and its Uranium Marketing Annual Report. The NRC publishes background and licensing information on fuel cycle operations.
FIG. 6. The fuel cycle for light water nuclear reactors, June 2017.
Notes: Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, including mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, is not practiced in the USA. The NRC has no regulatory role in mining uranium; regulations are primarily left to the states and the Bureau of Land Management.
Source: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Drilling: In 2017, total uranium drilling was 420 holes with total footage of 0.2 million feet, which is 64% fewer holes than in 2016. Expenditures for uranium drilling were $4 million, an 82% decrease compared with 2016.
Mining and production: US uranium mines produced 1.2 million pounds of U3O8 in 2017, 55% less than in 2016. Six in situ leach mining operations produced solutions containing uranium in 2017, two fewer than in 2016. Total production of uranium concentrate in 2017 was 2.4 million pounds of U3O8, 16% less than in 2016, from seven facilities.
Conversion: The USA 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).
Enrichment: Uranium enrichment in the USA is accomplished by gas centrifuge, although laser separation technology is under development for possible use to enrich uranium. Currently, the only gas centrifuge commercial production plant is the URENCO USA facility licensed as Louisiana Energy Services in Eunice, New Mexico. Two other licences were granted by the NRC for the construction of commercial gas centrifuge facilities. The status of these licences is available on the NRC web site.
Fuel fabrication: Three companies fabricate nuclear fuel 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.
Spent fuel storage: Most spent nuclear fuel is safely stored in specially designed pools at reactor sites around the country. Plant operators may also store spent nuclear fuel in dry cask storage systems when they approach their pool capacity limits at independent spent fuel storage facilities. Operators may also store spent nuclear fuel in dry cask storage systems away from the reactor at independent spent fuel storage facilities.
Reprocessing: Commercial reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, including mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, is not practiced in the USA, although it has been allowed in the past.
Spent fuel disposal: In 2011, federal funding for Yucca Mountain, the US permanent disposal repository for spent nuclear fuel, was cancelled. Re-opening the repository is currently under federal and state review. Commercial nuclear power reactors 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 2235 tHM (tonnes heavy metal), and the UNF inventory was about 75 137 tHM as of 31 December 2013. (Data to be updated late 2018.)
2.8. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
2.8.1. R&D organizations
Nuclear 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 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 oversees 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
DOE NE supports R&D to improve safety and reliability to help extend the life of current reactors and to 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, 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 promotes 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. There are currently two SMR projects under development. In 2017, DOE NE granted a permit to support a small modular reactor project at the Idaho National Laboratory site. Also, TVA is planning an SMR demonstration project at its Clinch River site.
Finally, DOE is supporting the development of advanced reactor technologies, focusing on high temperature, natural 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 that use coolants such as liquid metal, fluoride salt or natural 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 (HLW).
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 starting an integrated management plan to: implement interim storage, improve the overall integration of storage as a planned part of the waste management system and 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 Research and Development conducts R&D related to the storage, transportation and disposal of UNF and HLW.
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. 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, negotiated R&D agreements, memoranda of understanding, technical action plans, working groups and the International Nuclear Cooperation framework.
Multilaterally, the USA cooperates with international partners through the Generation IV International Forum, the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation.
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.
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 International Nuclear Regulators Association;
The Cooperative Severe Accident Research Program;
The Code Applications and Maintenance Program;
The Steam Generator Tube Integrity Program;
The Radiological Computer Code Analysis and Maintenance Program.
2.9. HUMAN RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
The USA 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 under way, the number of trained personnel the industry will require in the future is unclear. However, the long term decline in the number of university programmes offering nuclear engineering degrees reversed course in the late 1990s; 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 $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 INVOLVEMENT
Stakeholders in the USA 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-site 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 US 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 web site. The NRC has statutory responsibility for the radiological health and safety of the public by overseeing on-site preparedness and has overall authority for both on-site and off-site 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 facilitator 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.
Each utility is required to conduct emergency preparedness exercises with the NRC, FEMA and off-site 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 is available on the NRC’s emergency preparedness and response web site as well as FEMA’s Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program web site.
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 reevaluation, flooding reevaluation, emergency preparedness, mitigation of beyond design basis events and improvements to the NRC’s regulatory process.
3. NATIONAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS
3.1. REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
3.1.1. Regulatory authority(ies)
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 used to generate electric power and non-power reactors 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;
Transportation, storage and disposal of nuclear materials and waste and decommissioning of nuclear facilities from service.
The DOE serves a secondary, but highly significant, role in administering support to the nuclear power industry. The DOE Office of Nuclear Energy serves to promote civil nuclear technology through research, development and demonstration. The National Nuclear Security Administration maintains and enhances nuclear safety and security and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the USA and abroad. The US Energy Information Administration provides statistical data and analysis for nuclear and uranium.
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is a non-profit regulatory authority that addresses the reliability 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.
3.1.2. Licensing process
The Energy Policy Act of 1992 specified the 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 licence.
Under the current licensing process, the NRC may issue a combined construction and operating licence (COL). 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 additional periods of 20 years each. 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.
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). Most of the ITAAC are from the reactor design certification; the remaining ITAAC are site specific and are included in the COL or ESP application.
Early Site Permit (ESP) Applications: Independent of an application for a construction permit (10 Code of Federal Regulations (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. As of 31 December 2017, the NRC had issued ESPs for five sites.
Design Certifications for New Reactors: The NRC has issued design certifications for six designs, including the Westinghouse AP 600 and AP1000, System 80+, the General Electric nuclear energy advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR), ABWR Design Certification Rule (DCR) Amendment 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 four additional design certifications. Under current licensing regulations, an applicant who seeks to build a new reactor can use an off the shelf reactor design that the NRC has previously approved and certified. 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 years to 15 years.
FIG. 4. New reactor licensing process in the United States of America.
Source: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors.html).
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.
This list is not exhaustive; additional national legislation affecting the nuclear industry also exists. Although the federal government has an extensive role in the nuclear industry, individual states and some local jurisdictions have a regulatory role.
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018: Includes over $1.2 billion in support for the DOE NE programmes and $922 million for the NRC. The bill also allows reactors entering service after 31 December 2020 to qualify for the tax credits (there is no established sunset provision for the credits at this time), and enables the US Energy Secretary to allocate credits for up to 6000 MW(e) of new nuclear capacity which enters service after 1 January 2021.
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. Before this act was passed, electricity generation, transmission and distribution were typically 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, the 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 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 tonnes and annual nitrogen oxide emissions by 2 million tonnes from 1980 levels from all human made sources. Generators of electricity were to be responsible for large portions of the sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide reductions.
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.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT2005): 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 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA 2009): 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.
Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (Public Law 83-703, as amended): The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 encouraged private enterprise to develop and use 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 $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 $112 million.
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 ensure the safety and licensing of nuclear reactors and other facilities associated with the 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.
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 USA 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 USA, and they grant the USA certain consent rights over such materials’ use, alteration, and retransfer.
The USA has entered into agreements with other countries for peaceful nuclear cooperation. Similar agreements have been entered into with international organizations, including the European Atomic Energy Agency (EURATOM) and the IAEA. The USA has also entered into trilateral agreements with the IAEA and other countries for 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
US Nuclear Regulatory Commission
One White Flint North
11555 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852-2738
US Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20585, USA
Reporting organization and contact
US Department of Energy
Energy Information Administration
1000 Independence Avenue, SW, EI-34
Washington, DC 20585, USA
Mr. Slade Johnson, 1-202-586-3945,