On December 15 2023, the FIA sent a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission commenting on the proposed rulemaking that the NRC staff has discussed for fusion energy.
In a series of meetings in October and November, the NRC outlined proposed changes that would clarify fusion energy regulation under 10 CFR, Part 30 for accelerators and the guidance they would issue on how to regulate fusion.
The Fusion Industry Association (FIA), as the voice of the private fusion industry, has been directly engaged as a stakeholder with the NRC in the process that has led to this rulemaking, and will continue to represent the fusion industry before the NRC. On July 17 2023, the NRC issued a “Notification of Proposed Rulemaking” on the Regulatory Framework for Fusion Energy Systems after the announcement in April 2023 of the Commission’s unanimous vote to regulate fusion separately from nuclear fission. The FIA will continue to engage with the NRC as it completes this rulemaking process over the coming years, culminating with the anticipated publication of the rule for comment in March 2025. More details are available on the NRC’s fusion website.
As the FIA has consistently articulated during this process, the Commission’s April 2023 decision specifically was clear in its intent: it called for a “limited-scope rulemaking.”
In this letter, the FIA suggests that the limited scope rulemaking should focus primarily on establishing definitions in regulations, in particular the definition of particle accelerators and the definition of fusion machines.
The Commission’s decision to regulate fusion in Part 30 relies on the legal understanding that all fusion machines meet the definition of particle accelerators. However, the Staff’s proposed rule does not explicitly add fusion to the definition of Particle Accelerator. Our proposal is simple: explicitly add “fusion machines” to the definition of Particle Accelerator.
On how to define a “Fusion Machine,” the FIA agrees with the intent to limit the definition to specific components rather than adopt a facility-wide definition. However, the FIA is concerned the proposed definition is still overly broad and ambiguous. For example: the phrase “associated radiation [and] radioactive material” could be read to describe material such as activated components that are awaiting disposal or spare tritium fuel in storage.
“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 megaelectron volt, including fusion machines. For purposes of this definition, accelerator is an equivalent term.”The italicized text is FIA’s proposed addition to 10 C.F.R. § 30.4
“The term ‘fusion machine’ means a machine that is capable of—
(1) transforming atomic nuclei, through fusion processes, into other elements, isotopes, or particles; and
(2) directly capturing and using the resultant products, including particles, energy, heat, and other electromagnetic radiation, for a commercial or industrial purpose.”
The full letter is below. In the future, the FIA will have further points of discussion on the guidance that the staff is proposing for how to implement this new regulation