Before Licensing Floating Nuclear Power Plants, Many Answers Are Needed

Gao ID: EMD-78-36 September 13, 1978

The predecessor to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) received an application in 1973 to manufacture eight standardized floating nuclear power plants near Jacksonville, Florida, and received a separate application in 1974 to station two of the eight plants off the New Jersey coast. Because the floating plants will be built at a location other than where they will be operated, NRC issued new regulations requiring a license for the manufacture of the plants. Approximately $300 million has been spent by the applicants on activities related to the applications, and the first application is more than 3 years behind its original licensing schedule.

NRC staff has made several management decisions that have complicated and contributed to the 3-year delay in its review of the application to manufacture floating nuclear power plants. Factors inhibiting the licensing review process incude: (1) preparation of a generic environmental statement which adds little to the licensing process; (2) NRC failure to evaluate siting possibilities in a timely manner; and (3) NRC failure to evaluate a reactor core melt in a timely manner. The following questions concerning floating nuclear power plants remain: (1) whether more information needed on the risks of a core-melt accident; (2) whether the site will meet requirements for a floating nuclear plant; (3) whether the weight of the plant represent a problem; (4) whether methods been developed for the handling and recovery of nuclear fuel and radioactive waste; (5) whether a method has been developed for decommissioning the floating plant; and (6) whether a floating plant will minimize the environmental effect of power plant operation.


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