Nuclear industry faces regulatory setback

The nuclear industry was dealt a major blow Friday when its top federal regulatory agency announced it was delaying the approval of the most-popular reactor design pending before the agency.

The design is included in six out of a total of 13 pending applications at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission right now. The application for the design, known as AP1000, was submitted in 2007 by nuclear equipment and design company Westinghouse. If the six applications are approved, 12 reactors could get built with the AP1000 design. In total, 21 reactors are pending before the agency.

NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko said in a statement that in reviewing the design, the agency uncovered "additional technical issues."

"Westinghouse must resolve the issues before we can consider finalizing NRC certification of the design." Jaczko said. He did not say how long of a delay this would create. "The agency will determine what impact this effort may have on the schedule for the AP1000 design amendment and related license application reviews."

Jaczko said the agency now as more questions about the reactor design's shield building and the "peak accident pressures expected within containment."

The announcement Friday afternoon carries with it symbolic and regulatory repercussions for an industry that hasn't seen an American reactor built in more than 30 years. The delay exacerbates the regulatory bottleneck the NRC has faced ever since it reformed its approval process following the partial core meltdown at a nuclear plant at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979.

On top of regulatory issues, nuclear power companies face significant steep upfront capital costs to build a reactor. And in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis, the American nuclear industry must also reassure the public and the government that it operates in a safe manner. Jaczko underscored that in his statement.

"The NRC will always place its commitment to public safety and a transparent process before any other considerations," Jaczko said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.