The Nuclear Regulatory Commission called yesterday for changing the nuclear power plant licensing process to encourage development of standardized nuclear plants.

The proposal, included in legislation submitted to Congress, also would allow the NRC to issue a combined construction permit and operating license.

If enacted, the recommendations would be the first major changes in the licensing process in 30 years, NRC Chairman Nunzio Palladino said.

He endorsed the recommended changes as steps toward improving public health and safety.

"The current NRC licensing process was a prudent course to follow when the nuclear power industry was in its early conceptual and development years," Palladino said in a statement.

"In those years, it was not intended that standardization be emphasized," he added.

"There were many first-time nuclear plant applicants, designers and constructors and many novel design concepts," he said.

But conditions have changed since the first commercial nuclear plant began operating in 1957, Palladino said, contending that it has become possible to prescribe standardized plant designs.

"The efficiencies of such a process are worthwhile," he added.

The proposal was introduced in 1983 but failed to win congressional approval.

Other sections of the proposal would allow the NRC to approve a plant's standard design plans even if those plans are incomplete and to issue a site permit even if a specific site in a general location has not been chosen.