On July 12, 2023, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a public meeting to update progress on developing a regulatory framework for fusion energy. As the first meeting following the April NRC decision that separated fusion from fission regulations in the United States, it kicks off the progress that will be made as a result of the vote.
NRC staff has commenced work on a proposed rule to develop a regulatory framework, sustaining efforts to fulfill Section 103 of the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA), which requires “NRC to establish a technology inclusive regulatory framework for fusion energy systems by December 31, 2027.”
At the current stage of determining regulatory framework for fusion, the NRC staff is developing a draft for the proposed rules based on stakeholder input, cost and benefit analysis, and environmental analysis.
Meeting presenters included:
- Andrew Holland, Fusion Industry Association
- Laila El-Guebaly, University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Sachin Desai, Helion Energy
- Tyler Ellis, Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS)
You can find all presentations here.
The FIA has long supported a risk-informed regulatory framework for fusion. In particular, the FIA believes that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Byproduct Materials framework, under the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 30 (10 CFR 30), would most effectively regulate fusion energy facilities while ensuring public safety. At this meeting, the FIA touched upon key definitions for rule-making, and proposed the following amendment to adjust the definition of particle accelerators:
“Particle accelerator means any machine capable of accelerating electrons, protons, deuterons, or other charged particles in a vacuum and of discharging the resultant particulate or other radiation into a medium at energies usually in excess of 1 mega electron volt, including fusion energy machines. For purposes of this definition,accelerator is an equivalent term.”
The FIA also supports the creation of a fusion-specific volume of NUREG-1556 about possession licenses for production of radioactive materials and a new guidance that could be endorsed by the NRC.
Subsequent to the meeting, the NRC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that outlines the process and timeline. They expect to publish the proposed rule for public comment in early 2025.
FIA applauds the commitment and collaborative efforts that the NRC has demonstrated in the past three years. As the unified voice of the growing fusion industry, the FIA will continue working to ensure risk-informed regulations for fusion energy.