On April 9, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency is seeking public comment on the scope of its environmental review of Holtec International’s application for a license to construct and operate a consolidated interim spent fuel storage facility in Lea County, New Mexico. NRC staff will hold a series of public meetings in late April and early May to describe the review process and take public comments. Overview According to the license application, Holtec is seeking to store up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium in commercial spent fuel in the Holtec International Storage Module Underground “MAXimum” Capacity (HI-STORM UMAX) Storage System for a 40-year license term. The subterranean used nuclear fuel storage system has a maximum storage capacity of 10,000 canisters. The initial license application is for 500 storage cavities. The NRC previously certified HI-STORM UMAX in Docket number 72-1040. “Engineered over a decade ago and licensed by the NRC in 2015, HI-STORM UMAX is physically sized to store all of the used nuclear fuel produced in the U.S. and all canisters currently licensed in dry storage in the country making it a truly universal used fuel storage facility,” states Holtec. “Already deployed at multiple nuclear power plants around the U.S. …, the HI-STORM UMAX stores the stainless steel canister containing the spent fuel or high-level waste entirely below-ground to serve as a ‘security-friendly’ storage facility, providing a clear, unobstructed view of the entire CISF from any location. HI-STORE CIS is envisioned to unify the storage of all different storage canisters (both vertically and horizontally stored) in one standardized HI-STORM UMAX cavity system simplifying operations and aging management activities.” “Storing the Nation’s used nuclear fuel in the HI-STORM UMAX system is a temporary measure, as the stainless-steel canisters are easily retrievable and ready for transport pending the determination of a safe permanent solution for managing used nuclear materials.,” continues Holtec. “The canisters are designed, qualified, and tested to survive and prevent the release of radioactive material under the most adverse accident scenarios postulated by NRC regulations for both storage and transportation.” Holtec is using its own funds to support the licensing action. According to Holtec, the project has “the enthusiastic support of nuclear-savvy communities in southeastern New Mexico incorporated as the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), LLC.” If the initial application is approved, Holtec plans to make supplemental submittals to incorporate the various canister types being used in the industry. The Holtec application and other documents related to the NRC’s review are available on the NRC website at www.nrc.gov. Public Comment On April 25, 2018, NRC will hold the first “scoping” meeting at the agency’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. The meeting is scheduled from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET. There will also be a webinar so people unable to attend in person may follow the meeting. Interested stakeholders may participate in the meeting via webinar at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7824864004787186434. NRC staff will also hold three meetings in New Mexico as follows:
On April 5, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that the agency has authorized its staff to issue Combined Licenses for Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) Turkey Point site in Florida. The licenses grant FPL permission to build and operate two AP1000 reactors at the site, which is located approximately 25 miles south of Miami. Overview After conducting a hearing on December 12, 2017, the Commission authorized the agency’s Office of New Reactors to issue the licenses. The Commission found the staff’s review of FPL’s application adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings. Background FPL submitted the application on June 30, 2009, seeking permission to build and operate two AP1000 reactors adjacent to the two existing Turkey Point reactors. The NRC certified the 1,100-megawatt AP1000 design in 2011. The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) independently reviewed aspects of the application that concern safety, as well as the staff’s final safety evaluation report. In September 2016, the committee provided the results of its review to the Commission. In October 2016, the NRC completed its environmental review and issued the final impact statement for the proposed Turkey Point reactors. For additional information, please contact Scott Burnell of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.
On March 29, 2018, Anne Marie White of Michigan was sworn in as Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (EM) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). “As Assistant Secretary, White will provide leadership to continue the safe cleanup of the environmental legacy brought about from five decades of nuclear weapons development and government-sponsored nuclear energy research,” states the DOE press release announcing the swearing in. “She will work closely with communities that have partnered with DOE and its predecessor agencies for many decades.” “It is an honor to serve as Assistant Secretary of Energy for EM,” White said. “I look forward to the challenges ahead and know that with the talented federal staff, our dedicated workers in the field, and the support of a wide array of stakeholders, we will deliver the EM mission safely and cost effectively.” Overview White is the founder of Bastet Technical Services, LLC — a consulting firm that has been engaged in providing strategic solutions to solve complex environmental challenges across the DOE complex. She has more than 25 years of experience across a broad range of activities within the nuclear field, mainly focused on project and program management projects with complex technical, regulatory, and stakeholder challenges. “She has industry-recognized credentials in technical skills that lead to sound, technically underpinned, cost effective solutions,” stated an earlier announcement. “She has extensive hands on in the field experience at many of the Environmental Management sites for which she will have responsibility.” White, who has supported a number of emerging nuclear power nations to develop legal and regulatory structures and national policies, received a Master’s Degree of Science in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Background On January 3, 2018, the White House announced President Donald J. Trump’s intent to nominate White to be the EM Assistant Secretary. On March 22, 2018, White was confirmed for the position by voice vote of the U.S. Senate. Since June 2017, James Owendoff has been serving as the Acting EM-1 Assistant Secretary. In this role, Owendoff has focused on more timely decisions on cleanup projects. The position was previously held by Monica Regalbuto at the end of the administration of former-President Barack Obama. For additional information, please contact Douglas Tonkay, Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Disposal, at (301) 903-7212 or at Douglas.Tonkay@em.doe.gov or go to www.energy.gov.
On March 23, 2018, the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (Texas Compact Commission) published a final rule regarding the management of low-level radioactive waste within the Texas Compact in the Texas Register. (See 43 Texas Register 1,871 dated March 23, 2018.) In particular, the Texas Compact Commission adopted a new §675.24 titled, “Requirement to Report on the Importation of Certain Low-Level Radioactive Waste for Management or Disposal that is not Required to be Disposed of in the Compact Facility.” The final rule incorporates changes to the text as originally published in the Texas Register on November 3, 2017. (See 42 Texas Register 6,123 dated November 3, 217). Copies of the proposed rule can be obtained from the Texas Compact Commission’s website at http://www.tllrwdcc.org/rules/. Summary of the Factual Basis for the Adoption of the New Rule In order to fulfill its responsibilities with respect to 42 United States Code §§2021(b) – 2021(j) and the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact §3.04(9) and §3.05(6), as set out in Texas Health and Safety Code (THSC), Chapter 403, the Texas Compact Commission has determined that it is in the public interest to gather information regarding low-level radioactive waste that enters the host state irrespective of whether it requires an agreement for importation for disposal at the Compact Facility. Pursuant to the Commission’s authority set out in THSC §403.006, the Commission adopts a new §675.24 to facilitate the gathering of that information by way of reporting requirements after the entry of the low-level radioactive waste into the state rather than requiring approval for the importation of certain categories of low-level radioactive waste into the host state. Summary of Changes made in the Proposed Rules after Comments After reviewing comments received during the public comment period, the Texas Compact Commission:
On March 5, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency has issued annual letters to the nation’s 99 commercial nuclear power plants operating in 2017 regarding their operational performance throughout the year. All but three plants were in the two highest performance categories. Overview Of the 96 highest-performing reactors, 83 met all safety and security performance objectives and were inspected by the NRC using the standard “baseline” inspection program. The NRC determined that 13 reactors needed resolution of one or two items of low safety significance. For this performance level, regulatory oversight includes additional inspections and follow-up of corrective actions. Plants in this level include: Browns Ferry 1, 2 and 3 (Alabama); Catawba 2 (South Carolina); Clinton (Illinois); Columbia (Washington); Diablo Canyon 2 (California); Fermi 2 (Michigan); Grand Gulf (Mississippi); Perry (Ohio); Sequoyah 1 and 2 (Tennessee); and, Wolf Creek (Kansas). Diablo Canyon 2 and Fermi 2 have resolved their findings since the reporting period ended and have transitioned to the highest performing level. There were no reactors in the third performance category with a degraded level of performance. The NRC noted that there were three reactors in the fourth performance category. Arkansas Nuclear One 1 and 2 require increased oversight because of two safety findings of substantial significance. Pilgrim (Massachusetts) is in the fourth performance category because of long-standing issues of low-to-moderate safety significance. Additional inspections will be conducted to confirm that the performance issues are being addressed. Next Steps Later this spring and summer, the NRC will host a public meeting or other event near each plant to discuss the details of the annual assessments. A separate announcement will be issued for each public assessment meeting. In addition to the annual assessment letters, plants also receive an NRC inspection plan for the coming year. Background Information on the NRC’s oversight of commercial nuclear power plants is available through the NRC’s webpage on the Reactor Oversight Process. The NRC routinely updates information on each plant’s current performance and posts the latest information as it becomes available to the action matrix summary. To see the 2017 assessment letters, click on “2017q4” for each plant. Annual construction oversight assessments for new reactors at the Vogtle Unit 3 and 4 sites are also on the NRC website. For additional information, please contact the NRC’s Office of Public Affairs at (301) 415-8200.
On February 14, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a Federal Register notice announcing the agency’s plans to conduct a very low-level radioactive waste (VLLW) scoping study to identify possible options to improve and strengthen the NRC’s regulatory framework for the disposal of the anticipated large volumes of VLLW associated with the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and material sites, as well as waste that might be generated by alternative waste streams that may be created by operating reprocessing facilities or a radiological event. (See 83 Federal Register 6,619 dated February 14, 2018.) As part of the process, the NRC is seeking stakeholder input and perspectives. Respondents are asked to consider specific questions posed by the NRC staff and other federal agencies in the Federal Register notice. Comments are due by May 15, 2018. Comments considered after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is only able to ensure consideration of comments received on or before the deadline. Specific Request for Comment The NRC is interested in receiving comments from a broad range of stakeholders including professional organizations, licensees, Agreement States and members of the public. Likewise, interested stakeholders with insight into relevant international initiatives are invited to provide their perspectives regarding international best practices related to VLLW disposal or other experiences that the NRC staff should consider. All comments will be considered and the results of the scoping study will be documented in a publicly available report, which will inform the Commission of the staff’s recommendation for addressing VLLW disposal. All comments that are to receive consideration in the VLLW Scoping Study must be submitted electronically or in writing. Respondents are asked to consider the background material (see below) when preparing their comments. In responding, commenters are encouraged to provide specific suggestions and the basis for suggestions offered. Specifically, the NRC staff requests comment on the following questions:
On February 14, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a Federal Register notice announcing that the agency is seeking stakeholder participation and involvement in identifying the various technical issues that should be considered in the development of a regulatory basis for the disposal of Greater-than-Class C (GTCC) and transuranic radioactive waste through means other than a deep geologic disposal, including near surface disposal. (See 83 Federal Register 6,475 dated February 14, 2018.) As part of the process, the NRC is requesting that interested stakeholders respond to specific questions contained in the Federal Register notice. Comments are due by April 16, 2018. Comments considered after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is only able to ensure consideration of comments received on or before the deadline. Specific Request for Comment The NRC is seeking stakeholder participation and involvement in identifying the various technical issues that should be considered in the development of a draft regulatory basis for the disposal of GTCC and transuranic radioactive waste through means other than a deep geologic disposal, including near surface disposal. To assist in this process, the NRC staff is requesting that interested stakeholders respond to the questions below. In addition, the NRC staff has conducted some initial technical analyses to assist its understanding of potential hazards with near surface disposal of GTCC and transuranic wastes, which are contained in draft “NRC Staff Analyses Identifying Potential Issues Associated with the Disposal of Greater-Than-Class C Low- Level Radioactive Waste.” The draft analyses should assist in providing responses to the following questions:
On November 27, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published in the Federal Register the regulatory basis for proposed new regulations on the decommissioning of commercial nuclear power reactors. (See 82 Federal Register 55, 954 dated November 27, 2017.) The regulatory basis supports a proposed rule, which the agency expects to publish for public comment next year. The regulatory basis titled, “Regulatory Improvements for Power Reactors Transitioning to Decommissioning,” has been assigned NRC Docket ID 2015-0070 and can be found at https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1721/ML17215AO1O.pdf. Overview In the regulatory basis, the NRC staff concludes that there is sufficient justification to proceed with new regulations in the following areas:
On November 14, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE or the Department) submitted a Report to Congress titled, Alternatives for the Disposal of Greater-than-Class C Low-Level Radioactive Waste and Greater-than-Class C-Like Waste. The report satisfies a statutory requirement in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which requires that, prior to making a final decision on the disposal alternative or alternatives to be implemented regarding GTCC low-level radioactive waste, the Secretary of Energy shall submit a report to Congress that describes the alternatives under consideration and await action by Congress. The report must also include all the information required by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985 (LLRWPAA) for inclusion in a comprehensive report—submitted by the Secretary of Energy to Congress in February 1987—on ensuring the safe disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste. The report has been posted to the DOE’s Greater-than-Class C (GTCC) low-level radioactive waste website at http://www.gtcceis.anl.gov/. Overview GTCC low-level radioactive waste, which is generated by NRC or Agreement State licensees, has radionuclide concentrations exceeding the limits for Class C low-level radioactive waste established by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The federal government is responsible for the disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste. At this time, there is no disposal facility for GTCC low-level radioactive waste. In February 2016, DOE issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Disposal of Greater-Than–Class C (GTCC) Low-Level Radioactive Waste and GTCC-Like Waste (DOE/EIS-0375). The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) did not constitute a final decision, however, as the Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires the Department to submit a Report to Congress on disposal alternatives for GTCC low-level radioactive waste and await action by Congress. (See LLW Notes, January/February 2016, pp. 1, 24-25.) Accordingly, the November 2016 Report to Congress evaluates the potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed development, operation and long-term management of a disposal facility or facilities for GTCC low-level radioactive waste and GTCC-like waste in DOE’s inventory as shown in the Final EIS. Preferred Alternative The preferred alternative for the disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste and GTCC-like waste identified in the Final EIS is land disposal at generic commercial facilities and/or disposal in the WIPP geologic repository. Full waste emplacement operations at WIPP are not expected until the 2021 timeframe. Therefore, the Department is primarily considering disposal at generic commercial facilities at this time. The preferred alternative does not include disposal at any DOE sites other than WIPP. The November 2016 Report to Congress states that the analysis in the Final EIS has provided the Department with the information needed to identify a preferred alternative with the potential for disposal of the entire waste inventory analyzed in the Final EIS. DOE has determined that the preferred alternative would satisfy the needs of the Department for the disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste and GTCC-like waste. As described in Section VIII of the report, legislation and regulatory actions would be required for DOE to implement its preferred disposal alternative. Conclusions and Next Steps Prior to making a final decision on which disposal alternative to implement, Section 631(b)(1)(B)(i) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires DOE to submit a Report to Congress and await action thereon. DOE has fulfilled the first step by submitting the November 2016 Report to Congress. DOE must now wait for Congress to take appropriate action in accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 before the Department can issue a Record of Decision. Background The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985 assigned the responsibility for the disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste to the federal government. DOE’s Office of Environmental Management was designated as the specific office responsible for GTCC low-level radioactive waste disposal. On May 11, 2005, DOE issued an Advance Notice of Intent (ANOI) in the Federal Register that invited the public to provide preliminary comments on the potential scope of the EIS. DOE then issued a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS on July 23, 2007. (A printing correction was issued on July 31, 2007.) The NOI provided responses to the major issues identified by commenters on the ANOI, identified the preliminary scope of the EIS and announced nine public scoping meetings and a formal scoping comment period lasting from July 23 through September 21, 2007. DOE used all input received during the scoping process to prepare the Draft EIS. A 120-day public comment period on the Draft EIS began with the publication of the EPA Notice of Availability in the Federal Register on February 25, 2011 and closed on June 27, 2011. DOE conducted public hearings at nine locations during April and May of 2011. All comments received on the Draft EIS were considered in the preparation of the Final EIS. In February 2016, DOE issued the Final EIS that evaluated five alternatives for the disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste and GTCC-like waste. The final EIS identified land disposal at generic commercial facilities and/or disposal in the WIPP geologic repository as the preferred alternative. For additional information, please contact Theresa J. Kliczewski, GTCC EIS Document Manager for DOE, at (202) 586-3301 or at Theresa.Kliczewski@em.doe.gov.
On October 19, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published a notice in the Federal Register requesting comment on the draft revision to its guidance document for alternative disposal requests entitled, “Guidance for the Reviews of Proposed Disposal Procedures and Transfers of Radioactive Material Under 10 CFR 20.2002 and 10 CFR 40.13(a).” (See 82 Federal Register 48,727 dated October 19, 2017.) The Federal Register notice regarding the draft revision to the NRC guidance document for alternative disposal requests is available at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-10-19/pdf/2017-22694.pdf. Purpose The purpose of the referenced document and associated procedure is to provide guidance for NRC staff and describe the process for documenting, reviewing, and approving (on a case-by- case basis) requests received from licensees, license applicants and other entities for alternative disposal of licensed material. The staff may authorize these requests under the provisions of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) 20.2002 and 10 CFR 40.13(a). Scope The procedure covers the steps that NRC staff need to take in order to review, document, and approve a request for alternative disposal of licensed material, including: