NRC responds on SMRs; UN backs Iran deal; Russia, Saudi Arabia sign accord

NRC revises emergency rules for Small Reactors

Credit: Dmitrii Guzhanin

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is to seek approval from its executive commission for revised "emergency preparedness regulations" for small and advanced reactors, it said.

The new rules respond to enhanced safety features of the reactors.

The emergency regulations focus mainly on evacuation from a plant and sheltering that would protect the public from exposure to radiation in the unlikely event of an accident.

The revised emergency regulations are to be submitted by NRC staff to the organisation's top level commission. NRC staff have backed the introduction of a variable distance for emergency planning zones (EPZ’s) for small and advanced reactors.

Currently, for the US's light water reactor nuclear power fleet, the NRC requires designated EPZs to span around ten miles from the plant boundary.

This is to shelter the public from ground and airborne radiation exposure.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is expected to submit to the NRC early in 2016 an early site permit for a Small Modular Reactor facility at its Clinch River site in East Tennessee.

The application will include a proposed site boundary and a 2-mile emergency planning zone.

NRC staff have supported revised rules for the new reactor types due to their “relatively smaller releases of fission products and slower release of fission products” in comparison to large reactors, according to the NRC.

Also, the NRC staff have proposed that small reactor applicants show how their designs comply with protective dose limits agreed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Iran, global powers agree nuclear deal

The UN Security Council unanimously endorsed July 20 a new nuclear deal agreed between Iran and 6 world powers.

The resolution authorises lifting economic sanctions on Iran in return for Iran curbing certain nuclear activities.
Iran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement with US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany on July 14.

The global powers pursued the deal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, although Iran has said that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only and it has the right to nuclear energy.

Under the JCPOA, Iran will be limited to installing no more than 5,060 of the oldest and least efficient centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, for 10 years.

Iran's uranium stockpile will be reduced by 98%, its level of enrichment will be limited to 3.67% and research and development will only take place at the Natanz facility.

At Fordo, Iran's other uranium enrichment facility, no enrichment will be permitted for 15 years, the underground facility will be converted into a science and technology centre, and the 1,044 centrifuges at the site will produce radioisotopes for scientific and industrial purposes only.

In the agreement, Iran has agreed to redesign a heavy water nuclear facility near the town of Arak, so it cannot produce any weapons-grade plutonium. Spent fuel will be exported from the country.

The International Atomic Energy Agency will play a key role in the process, by continuously monitoring Iran's declared nuclear sites.

Iran will not see sanctions lifted until the IAEA confirms that it has followed through with its end of the JCPOA.

Russia, Saudi Arabia sign nuclear agreement

Russian and Saudi Arabia signed June 18 a cooperation agreement on nuclear power

The document was signed by Sergey Kirienko, the director general of state-owned Rosatom, and Dr. Hashim Abdullah Yamani, President of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy.

Both parties said the deal will open up possibilities to advance the design, construction, operation and decommissioning of operational and research reactors.

The cooperation agreement includes nuclear fuel cycle services for nuclear power plants and research reactors, spent nuclear fuel, and radioactive waste management.

A coordination committee will be formed to study the use of atomic energy for non-military purposes. 

Joint working groups will conduct specific research projects, in addition to seminars and workshops.

Indian Point boosts New York Economy

Entergy's two 1 GW nuclear power reactors at the Indian Point Energy Centre in New York contributed an estimated $1.6 billion to New York State’s economy in 2014 and $2.5 billion nationwide, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Local and state property taxes amounted to $30 million, and the total state and federal tax revenue paid was nearly $340 million, NEI said in a study entitled “Economic Impacts of the Indian Point Energy Centre."

This made the Indian point site one of the largest tax contributors in the Westchester County area of New York.

The annual payroll for the 1,000 employees who work at the site amounted to $140 million.

A further 2,800 indirect jobs in surrounding counties, and 1,600 in other industries in New York, are also created by Indian Point.

The nuclear plant also produces about 24% of New York State's carbon free electricity and around 10% of total power production.