Full Title: Improving the Efficiency of NRC Power Reactor Licensing: The 1957 Mandatory Hearing Reconsidered
Author(s): Matt Bowen, Rama T. Ponangi, and Stephen Burns
Publisher(s): Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University SIPA
Publication Date: November 21, 2023
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Nuclear energy can play a vital role in helping the US—and the globe—meet mid-century climate goals. But any such role for nuclear depends on overcoming the significant if under-appreciated challenges posed by the current nuclear licensing process in the US. Put simply, getting a new nuclear project licensed is time-consuming and expensive. This report focuses on a singular element of the licensing process that has drawn particular scrutiny for the resources it demands: the so-called mandatory hearing.
Dating to a 1957 amendment to the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954, the mandatory hearing was put in place during the early period of nuclear reactor regulation as a way of forcing the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to be more transparent with the public about projects under consideration for development. It was intended to provide an open forum in which the details of reactor project applications were aired publicly and debated. But today, well over half a century since the 1957 amendment to the AEA, there are several compelling reasons to reconsider the mandatory hearing requirement.