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USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission plans to weaken safety standards for smaller nuclear reactors

 Smaller Nuclear Plants May Come With Less Stringent Safety Rules, npr, August 1, 2020
The NRC is considering whether to shrink emergency planning and evacuation zones around these newer reactors — from a 10-mile radius to, in some cases, the boundary of the plant site.

Nuclear energy critics say that would be a mistake.

“When you’re talking about a reactor that’s never been built or operated, you have to take with a big grain of salt the claims that it’s actually safer or more secure,” says Edwin Lyman at Union of Concerned Scientists.

He says the industry also wants to use weaker reactor containment shells, and in some cases they don’t want to have to keep an operator at the site.

Lyman thinks companies should build plants under current rules first. “You have to work out the kinks of these new plants,” he says. “And then over time you might be able to adjust your requirements accordingly. But you don’t do that at the get-go.”

A National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) official recently echoed some of Lyman’s concerns in comments sent to the NRC. The NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy.

Deputy Under Secretary Jay Tilden called the proposed rule a major departure from “the successful 42-year-old practice of using a 10-mile plume exposure emergency planning zone.” That existing regulation, he wrote, provides “the last layer of a defense-in-depth for low-probability, high-consequence accidents.” ………

The NRC has extended a comment period on the proposed rule to September 25th. A final rule on whether to shrink evacuation zones around plants is expected next year.

August 3, 2020 - Posted by | safety, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA

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