There is considerable interest on the part of the U.S. Government to support the economic viability of emerging advanced reactor technologies. But for these reactors to be successful in domestic and international markets, the U.S. must reconsider regulatory requirements that were initially developed for the existing U.S. fleet of large light water reactors.
Design features of these advanced reactors – including robust, self-contained TRISO fuel spheres, smaller special nuclear material (SNM) inventories, passive safety systems, low SNM to fuel mass ratio, and below-grade construction – make reactors like the Xe-100 from X-energy an ideal technology for the implementation of novel security approaches.
The Xe-100 (a pebble bed, high-temperature gas-cooled reactor) is bringing enhanced safety, efficiency, and economics to the nuclear energy industry. Due to its innovative design and fuel, the security needs around this advanced reactor and others like it are fundamentally unique. To find out how current security requirements might necessitate amendments for this new type of reactor, including the need for exemptions and alternate approaches, USA Nuclear’s Joe Rivers prepared an in-depth analysis of the project.
With decades of experience as a Senior Level Advisor in Security for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Mr. Rivers is uniquely poised to offer insights and analysis. He provided a critical perspective into the current security regulations for nuclear power plants and the current thinking of the NRC on how to adjust those requirements to regulate the security of advanced reactors more appropriately.
What did the analysis reveal?
Developers of security approaches for new reactor designs should focus on the smaller size of the reactor and the inherent safety and security features inherent in the design. This review will help determine if the design of the reactor itself is sufficient defense against the NRC design basis threat for radiological sabotage. In addition, there is a need to understand what level of security performance is expected to be achieved from the prescriptive regulatory requirements so that alternative performance measures can be implemented for the security of the new reactor design.
The potential elimination of the use of onsite armed responders, relying instead on response from local law enforcement agencies, may be key to the economic viability of these reactors. Critical to the success of this project and others that will follow, Mr. Rivers work is ongoing. The effort will continue by providing more specific details on the design of the security program for the Xe-100 reactor. As always, USA Nuclear is at the forefront of nuclear infrastructure safety and security.