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Deadline: March 8, 2011
Comment on the Petition
Related Nuclear Information
APS Council Nuclear Energy Statement (1993)
"Nuclear Power and Proliferation Resistance: Securing Benefits, Limiting Risks"
APS/POPA Report (2005)
"Readiness of the US Nuclear Workforce for 21st Century Challenges"
APS POPA Report (2008)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering a petition submitted by APS calling for a change in the NRC’s regulations “regarding the domestic licensing of special nuclear material to include proliferation assessments as part of the licensing process.”
Specifically, the rule change would require companies that apply to the NRC for an enrichment or reprocessing license to include an assessment of proliferation risks that their facility might pose. The assessment could help prevent the spread of nuclear technology to a nation seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Until now, there has been no requirement for a company to undergo a specific nonproliferation assessment; however, the NRC has argued that the “net effect” of all the rest of the licensing process should ensure the safety of nuclear secrets.
Francis Slakey, APS associate director of public affairs, said that NRC docketed the APS petition in late December asking for a specific nonproliferation assessment requirement. APS members interested in reading the petition and submitting a comment can either go to the regulations.gov webpage and search for the document “NRC-2010-0372-0003” or find a link on the APS homepage. The commission’s open-comment period extends until March 8.
“APS is concerned about nuclear weapons proliferation and the development of covert enrichment facilities,” Slakey said. “With its petition, APS wants to limit the possibility that other countries might acquire more advanced technologies.”
In February of 2010, APS’s Panel on Public Affairs released a report calling for proliferation risk assessments for companies applying for a permit to enrich nuclear materials. The report, Technical Steps to Support Nuclear Downsizing, highlighted the concern that new, easily concealed technologies could make it easier for a country to hide its clandestine nuclear weapons program. One such example is the recently developed technique known as SILEX, which uses lasers to enrich uranium. To prevent sensitive technology from spreading to unfriendly regimes, the report recommended that NRC “elevate the priority of non-proliferation in the licensing process.” An effective way to achieve this, according to Slakey, is to require a proliferation assessment.
This is the second petition submitted to the NRC. The first, submitted last summer, was initially rejected. In a public meeting last September with APS staff, NRC staff identified additional information that was needed in order for the petition to be considered. The revised petition was submitted last November.
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