Before Licensing Floating Nuclear Power Plants, Many Answers Are Needed

EMD-78-36: Published: Sep 13, 1978. Publicly Released: Sep 13, 1978.

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The predecessor to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) received an application in 1973 to manufacture eight standardized floating nuclear power plants near Jacksonville, Florida, and received a separate application in 1974 to station two of the eight plants off the New Jersey coast. Because the floating plants will be built at a location other than where they will be operated, NRC issued new regulations requiring a license for the manufacture of the plants. Approximately $300 million has been spent by the applicants on activities related to the applications, and the first application is more than 3 years behind its original licensing schedule.

NRC staff has made several management decisions that have complicated and contributed to the 3-year delay in its review of the application to manufacture floating nuclear power plants. Factors inhibiting the licensing review process incude: (1) preparation of a generic environmental statement which adds little to the licensing process; (2) NRC failure to evaluate siting possibilities in a timely manner; and (3) NRC failure to evaluate a reactor core melt in a timely manner. The following questions concerning floating nuclear power plants remain: (1) whether more information needed on the risks of a core-melt accident; (2) whether the site will meet requirements for a floating nuclear plant; (3) whether the weight of the plant represent a problem; (4) whether methods been developed for the handling and recovery of nuclear fuel and radioactive waste; (5) whether a method has been developed for decommissioning the floating plant; and (6) whether a floating plant will minimize the environmental effect of power plant operation.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: Before concluding its review of the manufacturing license, the Chairman, NRC, should: (1) establish an acceptable level of risk for a core-melt accident on a floating nuclear plant; (2) identify those changes which must be made to the design to achieve that level of risk; and (3) require that weight parameters be developed for the safe operation of the power plant. Before concluding its review of a license to operate the plants, the Chairman should: (1) identify specific methods of handling the loading and offloading of radioactive material; (2) require specific procedures for mitigating the consequences of a core-melt accident; (3) require that a specific decommissioning plan be prepared for the floating plant and the breakwater, including a funding mechanism to ensure that the facility owner pays the costs of decommissioning; and (4) reanalyze the effect of the power plant on tourism.

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