On May 15, 2015, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (“NRC”) approved a staff proposal to develop “variable” fees for small modular reactors (“SMRs”) through a subsequent rulemaking process.  The annual fees could then be modified for individual SMRs based on megawatt capacity.  Currently, annual fees are allocated equally among all operating nuclear reactors.  The annual fees are used to fund 90 percent of the NRC’s budget, as required by law.

In addition to staff’s proposal of the SMR variable fee, the proposal also recommended that a single annual fee be assessed to a site with multiple SMRs, rather than an annual fee assessed to each reactor.  Staff also noted that if the variable fee for SMRs is not approved, then SMRs’ fees would be assessed under the current methodology, but that SMRs would be able to petition for a partial exemption if the fee was a disproportionate burden for the SMR.

With the NRC’s approval of staff’s proposal, staff will being preparing an SMR variable fee rulemaking.  According to the proposal, the rulemaking process should begin in September 2015 and end in February 2016.

In commenting on their votes, Commissioners William Ostendorff and Jeff Baran praised staff’s proposal and noted that it would provide regulatory clarity and certainty for SMR applicants.  A copy of the NRC’s vote is available here.  A copy of staff’s proposal is available here.