Governing Regulations and Requirements for Topical Reports

A topical report allows for a single review and (if appropriate) approval by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of a safety-related topic that may apply to multiple nuclear power plants. This increases the efficiency and efficacy of the licensing process and reduces the burden on licensees by minimizing the time and resources that both industry and the NRC staff could expend on redundant licensing reviews. For additional information, see the following topics on this page:

Governing Regulations

The NRC's regulations related to topical reports are set forth in Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations sections 10 CFR 2.390, 10 CFR 21, 10 CFR 50.5, 10 CFR 50.7, and 10 CFR 170.11.

The NRC has also developed internal Office Instruction LIC-500, "Topical Reports Process" to standardize the process of reviewing a topical report within the NRC.


The following requirements apply to topical reports:

Criteria for a Topical Report

A report submitted for review as a topical report should meet all three of the following criteria:

  1. The report deals with a specific safety-related or other generic subject regarding a U.S. nuclear power plant that requires a safety evaluation (SE) by the NRC staff; for example, component design, analytical models or techniques, or performance testing of components and/or systems that can be evaluated independently of a specific license application.

  2. Be applicable to multiple licensees, for multiple requests for licensing actions, or both. Examples of requested licensing actions include license amendment requests (LARs), relief requests, and other types of TR-based submittals that are not submitted pursuant to 10 CFR 50.90 or 50.55a.

  3. Increase the efficiency of the review process for applications that reference the TR.

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Exceptions to the Criteria

Exceptions to these criterion, especially criterion (2), may be allowed on a case-by-case basis if the NRC staff determines that an exception is in the public interest. The applicant must provide written justification of this to the NRC staff prior to submitting the topical report for review, preferably at the pre-submittal meeting stage. Examples of justification for an exception include a contribution to resolving a safety-related issue, a technological advancement that would benefit safety or reduce an operational burden, or significant cost savings to the industry. Any NRC staff decision to accept for review a topical report that does not meet the four criteria above must also find that the projected staff resources for review of the report are justified. Before accepting a topical report with exceptions for review, the NRC also determines whether the resources expended in the review are worth reducing resources committed to other regulatory activities, such as licensing actions.

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Using Topical Reports in Plant-Specific Licensing Actions

Licensees may reference a topical report in a requested licensing action (RLA) when the topical report review is fully completed and the approved (–A) version of the topical report is verified by the NRC staff. If an unapproved topical report is referenced, the staff may elect to (1) review the unapproved reference to support the review of the licensee-specific RLA, (2) delay the review until the generic unapproved reference material is approved, or (3) reject the RLA if the staff review of the unapproved reference information grossly extends the review time-period beyond the review schedule. It is important to note that the staff's review of relevant information from an unapproved topical report to support a licensee-specific RLA does not constitute a de facto generic approval of the topical report.

Using an –A version provides a report that has all the documentation related to the review in one place. It includes the technical report, revised to incorporate answers to NRC staff requests for additional information (RAIs); the NRC staff RAIs and answers; and the NRC staff safety evaluation. Exceptions to using a version other than the –A version may be allowed on a case-by-case basis if the NRC staff determines that an exception is in the public interest.

Plant-specific concerns must always be taken into account when using an accepted-for-use topical report in a specific licensing action. For this reason, a licensee who references a topical report in a licensing application must demonstrate that the application of the topical report to their facility is within the conditions in the topical report defining its application. If a licensee or applicant uses unapproved codes or unapproved topical reports (or uses codes and topical reports outside the limitations imposed by the NRC staff), they would need to provide a full independent analysis to justify that the proposed use satisfies NRC regulations and is appropriately conservative. The NRC staff verifies relevant criteria for accepted-for-use topical reports during each licensing action to ensure that the topical report's conclusions are both valid and applicable to the particular licensing action under review. The NRC staff believes that this is an essential step in ensuring that the otherwise time-saving topical report program fully meets the NRC's high standards for protection of public health and safety.

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