NRC Extends Comment Period re Part 61 Draft Regulatory Analysis

On November 24, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published a Federal Register notice reopening and extending the public comment period on the draft regulatory analysis, “Draft Regulatory Analysis for Final Rule: Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal.”  Among other things, the draft regulatory analysis seeks specific cost and benefit information to better inform the updated draft regulatory analysis.  (See 82 Federal Register 48,283 dated October 17, 2017.)

The comment period originally closed on November 16, 2017.  In order to allow more time for members of the public to develop and submit their comments, however, the NRC decided to reopen and extend the public comment period until December 18, 2017.

The Part 61 Working Group (P61WG) of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Forum (LLW Forum), the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC) and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (Utah DEQ DWMRC) previously submitted comments on the draft regulatory analysis.

The Federal Register notice requesting public comment on the draft regulatory analysis is available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/10/17/2017-22459/low-level-radioactive-waste-disposal. 

Comment letters from the P61WG, South Carolina and Utah regarding the draft regulatory analysis are available on the Resources Page of the Part 61 Working Group (P61WG) website at http://part-61.org/resources/. 

For additional information, please contact Gregory Trussell, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, at (301) 415-6445 or at Gregory.Trussell@nrc.gov.

Comment Period Opens re Guidance Document for Alternative Disposal Requests

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:

  •   entering documents into the NRC public document system, which is known as the Agency-Wide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS);
  •   establishing an Enterprise Project Identifier (EPID) and/or Cost Activity Code (CAC) for 
monitoring time charged to the project;
  •   conducting a technical review of the disposal request, including performing dose 
assessments;
  •   preparing a Safety Evaluation Report (SER) or Technical Evaluation Report (TER);
  •   preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA);
  •   coordinating with state regulatory agencies and disposal site operators;
  •   implementing a Communications Plan, where applicable, including conducting public 
meetings; and,
  •   implementing the approaches included within the All Agreement States Letter.

Although § 20.2002 and § 40.13(a) reviews are similar in most respects, there are a few differences that are described in the document.  Where there are differences between the procedures for handling the different types of requests, a sub-section for each type of request is 
provided.  Otherwise, they will be referred to collectively as ADRs.

The procedure does not cover all releases of solid materials from a licensee’s control, only those that are submitted for NRC approval under 10 CFR 20.2002 and 10 CFR 40.13(a).  The NRC’s procedures for release of solid materials are described in NUREG-1757, Volume 1, Rev. 2, Section 15.11.

Submitting Comments  Comments are due by December 18, 2017.  Comments received after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is able to assure consideration only for comments received on or before this date.

Interested stakeholders may submit comments by any of the following methods:

  •   Federal Rulemaking Web Site:  Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2017-0198.
  •   Mail comments to:  May Ma, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: OWFN-2-A13, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.

Docket ID NRC-2017-0198 should be referenced when submitting comments.

For additional information, please contact Robert Lee Gladney, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, at (301) 415-1022 or Robert.Gladney@nrc.gov.

NRC Seeks Public re Draft Regulatory Analysis for Final Part 61 Rule

Specific Cost and Benefit Information Requested

On October 17, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published a Federal Register notice requesting comment on the draft regulatory analysis, “Draft Regulatory Analysis for Final Rule: Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal,” and seeking specific cost and benefit information to better inform the updated draft regulatory analysis.  (See 82 Federal Register 48,283 dated October 17, 2017.)

The Federal Register notice regarding the draft regulatory analysis for the final Part 61 rule is available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/10/17/2017-22459/low-level-radioactive-waste-disposal.

Discussion  In addition to specified rule language changes, the Commission, in SRM-SECY-16-0106, also directed the NRC staff to “be informed by broader and more fully integrated, but reasonably foreseeable costs and benefits to the U.S. waste disposal system resulting from the proposed rule changes, including pass -through costs to waste generators and processors.”  To support development of the new supplemental proposed rule as directed by the Commission in SRM-SECY-16-0106, the NRC staff is seeking comment on how to improve the approach/methodology and actual cost data currently used in the draft final rule regulatory analysis to provide more accurate cost and benefit data in the final regulatory analysis.  In particular, the NRC is seeking information on any cost changes that should be incorporated into the regulatory analysis in light of the Commission’s changes to the draft final rule.

Requested Information and Comments  NRC is providing the below specific questions associated with the draft regulatory analysis (ADAMS Accession No. ML16189A050).  The questions will also be discussed at the public meeting.  The NRC staff will consider the responses to the questions as it revises the regulatory analysis.

  •   Is the NRC considering appropriate alternatives for the regulatory action described in the draft regulatory analysis?
  •   Are there additional factors that the NRC should consider in the regulatory action?  What are these factors?
  •   Is there additional information concerning regulatory impacts that the NRC should include in its regulatory analysis for this rulemaking?
  •   Are all costs and benefits properly addressed to determine the economic impact of the rulemaking alternatives?  What cost differences would be expected from moving from the discussed 1,000 year and 10,000 year compliance periods to a single 1,000 year compliance period? Are there any unintended consequences of making this revision?
  •   Are there any costs that should be assigned to those sites not planning to accept large quantities of depleted uranium for disposal in the future?
  •   Is NRC’s assumption that only two existing low-level radioactive waste sites (i.e., EnergySolutions’ Clive Utah disposal facility and Waste Control Specialists’ Texas disposal facility) plan to accept large quantities of depleted uranium for disposal in the future reasonable?
  •   What additional costs or cost savings, not already considered in the draft regulatory analysis, will the supplemental proposed rulemaking or alternatives cause to society, industry, and government?  What are the potential transfer (“pass- through”) costs to the waste generators and processors?

Submitting Comments  Comments are due by November 16, 2017.  Comments received after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is able to assure consideration only for comments received on or before this date.  Interested stakeholders may submit comments by any of the following methods:

  •   Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2011-0012.
  •   E-mail comments to Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov. If you do not receive an automatic e-mail reply confirming receipt, then contact us at 301-415-1677.
  •   Fax comments to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at 301- 415-1101.
  •   Mail comments to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff.

Docket ID NRC-2011-0012 should be referenced when submitting comments.

For additional information, please contact Gregory Trussell, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, at (301) 415-6445 or at Gregory.Trussell@nrc.gov.

NRC Accepts Comments on Draft FY 2018-2022 Strategic Plan

On September 27, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency was seeking public comments on draft NUREG–1614, Volume 7, ‘‘Draft Strategic Plan: Fiscal Years 2018–2022.’’  The draft Strategic Plan provides the agency’s strategic goals and objectives and proposed strategies for achieving them.

In the Federal Register notice, NRC states that the agency “encourages and welcomes public comments that can help it respond to challenges and shape its strategic direction over the next four years, particularly comments on the plan’s goals, objectives, and strategies.”  (See 82 Federal Register 44,858 dated September 26, 2017.)

The Federal Register notice regarding the Draft FY 2018-2022 Strategic Plan can be found at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-09-26/pdf/2017-20538.pdf.

The draft Strategic Plan is available in NRC’s Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) under Accession No. ML17254A104.

Overview  The NRC is an independent agency established by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 that began operations in 1975 as a successor to the Atomic Energy Commission.  The NRC’s mission is to license and regulate the nation’s civilian use of radioactive materials to provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety, as well as to promote the common defense and security and to protect the environment.

The draft Strategic Plan, covering the period Fiscal Years (FY) 2018–2022, describes how the NRC plans to achieve its two strategic goals:

  • ensure the safe use of radioactive materials; and
  • ensure the secure use of radioactive materials.

The draft establishes a framework for the next four years for the NRC to achieve its mission.  It also provides an overview of the NRC’s responsibilities, key challenges and management priorities, and it outlines the objectives and key activities to achieve the agency’s goals.

The draft plan is largely consistent with the previous plan (FY 2014-2022) with continued focus and commitment to the NRC’s mission and strategic goals of safety and security.  The most notable change is a new vision statement, which highlights the agency’s commitment to the Principles of Good Regulation.  It also includes minor updates and editorial enhancements.

Background  In accordance with the Government Performance and Results (GPRA) Modernization Act of 2010, agencies are required to submit their strategic plans to Congress the year following the start of a Presidential term.  The Commission has approved a draft Strategic Plan and is now seeking comments from the public so that the agency may benefit from a wide range of stakeholder input to help shape the NRC’s strategic direction for the upcoming planning period.

The NRC issued its first Strategic Plan in September 1997 and, as required, it has been updated every four years since then.  The 2018-2022 edition is due to Congress and the President by
February 5, 2018. 

For additional information, please contact Holly Harrington of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

NRC Issues SRM re Final Rule for Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal (10 CFR Part 61)

On September 8, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM) in response to SECY-16-0106, which sought Commission approval to publish a final rule in the Federal Register that would amend Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) Parts 20, “Standards for Protection Against Radiation,” and Part 61, “Licensing Requirements for Land Disposal of Radioactive Waste.”

The SRM can be found online at https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1725/ML17251B147.pdf.

SRM Direction  In the SRM, the Commission approved certain substantive revisions to the draft final rule and its subsequent publication as a supplemental proposed rule for a 90-day public comment period.  Specifically, prior to its publication as a supplemental proposed rule, the SRM states that the draft final rule should be revised to incorporate the following changes:

  1. reinstate the use of a case-by-case basis (i.e., “grandfather provision”) for applying new requirements to only those sites that plan to accept large quantities of depleted uranium for disposal;
  2. reinstate the 1,000 year compliance period from the proposed rule with a specific dose limit of 25 mrem/year and adopt a longer period of performance assessment—the period of which would be based on site-specific considerations and a “reasonable analysis,” as defined in SRM-SECY-13-0075, “Proposed Rule: Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal (10 CFR Part 61) (RIN 3150-AI92))—and apply the 1,000 year compliance period to the inadvertent intruder performance objective in 10 CFR 61.42 and the site stability performance objective in 10 CFR 61.44;
  3. clarify that the safety case consists of the quantitative performance assessment, as supplemented by consideration of defense-in-depth measures;
  4. modify the draft final rule text addressing defense-in-depth to narrow its consideration solely to providing additional assurance in mitigating the effects of large uncertainties that are identified during the performance assessment; and,
  5. be informed by broader and more fully integrated, but reasonably foreseeable, costs and benefits to the United States waste disposal system resulting from the proposed rule changes, including pass-through costs to waste generators and processors.

 

The SRM notes that the timing for the staff to prepare a regulatory basis for the disposal of Greater-than- Class C (GTCC) waste as directed in SRM-SECY-15-0094, “Historical and Current Issues Related to Disposal of Greater-Than-Class C Low-Level Radioactive Waste,” should be changed from the previous direction of within six (6) months of the completion of the ongoing 10 CFR Part 61 rulemaking to six (6) months after the publication of the supplemental proposed rule.

Background  The regulations for the disposal of commercial low-level radioactive waste in land disposal facilities are set forth in 10 CFR Part 61.  NRC originally adopted these regulations in 1982.  Although the NRC has never licensed any land disposal facilities under this part, the Agreement States that currently or plan to license low-level radioactive waste land disposal facilities must adopt compatible versions of these regulations.

In SECY-13-0075, dated July 18, 2013, the NRC staff provided the Commission with a proposed rule to amend 10 CFR Part 61.  The Commission approved publication of the proposed rule in SRM-SECY-13-0075, dated February 12, 2014.  After making Commission directed changes, the NRC published the proposed rule for an initial 120-day comment period in the Federal Register on March 26, 2015.  The public comment period closed on July 24, 2015.  After receiving extension requests, the staff reopened the comment period, which then closed on September 21, 2015.

 

For additional information on the Part 61 final rule and associated documents, please contact either Gary Comfort at (301) 415-8106 or at Gary.Comfort@nrc.gov or Stephen Dembeck at (301) 415-2342 or at Stephen.Dembek@nrc.gov.

 

NRC Assesses Civil Penalty Against Allen County Cardiology

On September 7, 2017, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency has proposed a $7,000 civil penalty against Allen County Cardiology for the failure to perform daily surveys and weekly tests while handling licensed radioactive material for use in medical procedures.  The company is based in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The violations were identified during an NRC inspection last year and a subsequent investigation.  The NRC determined a medical technologist willfully failed to perform daily ambient radiation exposure rate surveys and weekly area radioactive contamination surveys.  The technologist also willfully provided inaccurate and incomplete records to the agency.  Allen County Cardiology took corrective actions, which included ensuring adequate time for completing the required tasks, conducting audits and committing to have an independent health physics service perform semi-annual audits.

The NRC has concluded that the company’s actions are effective and will prevent recurrence. Agency inspectors will conduct a follow-up inspection.  A copy of the Notice of Violation has been posted on the Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) at the NRC website.

For additional information, please contact Viktoria Mitlyng at (630) 829-9662 or Prema Chandrathil at (630) 829-9663.

NRC Proposes FY 2018 Budget to Congress

On May 23, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released the agency’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 as presented to Congress.  The agency is proposing an FY 2018 budget of $952 million, including the Office of the Inspector General—a request nearly $45 million lower than 2016’s spending levels.  Since the NRC recovers approximately 90 percent of its budget from licensee fees, which are sent directly to the U.S. Treasury, the resulting net appropriation request is $138 million.

Specific details of the budget include the following:

  • Requested funding for 3,284 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, including the OIG—which represents a reduction of approximately 270 FTE from the FY 2016 level. Reductions in staffing were related to completion of work related to the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force and improved efficiency of agency operations, including reductions in procurement operations, physical and personnel security, and information technology.
  • Requested funding of $466.7 million for nuclear reactor safety, $171.1 million for nuclear materials and waste safety—which includes $30 million to support activities for the proposed Yucca Mountain deep geological repository for spent fuel and other high-level radioactive waste—and $301.4 million for corporate support.
  • Requested funding of $12.1 million for the OIG, an independent office that conducts audits and investigations to ensure the efficiency and integrity of NRC programs, and promote cost-effective management. The OIG’s budget also includes funding to provide auditing and investigation services for the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

The budget briefing slides and the Congressional Budget Justification are available on the NRC website.  A limited number of hard copies of the report will be available from opa.resource@nrc.gov.

For additional information, please contact Holly Harrington of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

NRC to Hold Fuel Cycle Information Exchange

On June 13-14, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will host the 11th Fuel Cycle Information Exchange at the agency’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.  This event enables NRC staff, licensees, international counterparts, members of the public and other stakeholders to discuss issues related to uranium enrichment and conversion, and nuclear fuel fabrication.  Online registration is now open.  Onsite registration will also be available during the conference.

Agenda Overview  On the morning of June 13, 2017, NRC Executive Director for Operations Victor McCree will deliver opening remarks and Eileen Supko, Principal at Energy Resources International, will give a keynote address.  The conference will also include discussions and presentations on safety culture, advanced fuels, small modular and advanced reactors, waste disposal, fees, operating experience, and cybersecurity.

Logistics  The conference will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. on June 13 and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on June 14.  It will be held in the NRC Auditorium.  A telephone bridge line has been set up for those who cannot attend the conference in person.  An operator will moderate the bridge line, allowing participants to ask questions at designated times.  Anyone choosing to phone in should call (888) 790-9948 and use passcode 3424316.

For additional information, please contact Maureen Conley of the NRC at (301) 415-8200. 

NRC Issues New Reactor License for North Anna Site

On May 31, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency had authorized the issuance of a Combined License for Dominion Virginia Power’s North Anna site in Virginia.  The license grants Dominion permission to build and operate an Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBW) design at the site, which is located near Mineral, Virginia.

Overview  The Commission authorized the agency’s Office of New Reactors to issue the license following a hearing on March 23, 2017.  In so doing, the Commission found the staff’s review of Dominion’s application to be adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings.  NRC issued the license in early June 2017.

The license contains certain specified conditions including:

  • specific actions associated with the agency’s post-Fukushima requirements for Mitigation Strategies and Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation; and,
  • a pre-startup schedule for post-Fukushima aspects of the new reactor’s emergency 
preparedness plans and procedures.

Background  On November 26, 2007, Dominion submitted the North Anna application to NRC for an ESBWR adjacent to the company’s two existing reactors.  The NRC certified the 1,600-megawatt ESBWR design following a Commission vote in September 2014.

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.  On November 15, 2016, the committee provided the results of its review to the Commission.  In February 2010, the NRC completed its environmental review and published the final impact statement for the proposed reactor.

For additional information, please contact of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.  Additional information on the ESBWR certification process is available on the NRC website at www.nrc.gov

President Trump Announces Intent to Nominate NRC Commissioners

On May 22, 2017, U.S. President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate Annie Caputo and David Wright as Commissioners  for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), as well as to nominate current NRC Chair Kristine Svinicki as Commissioner and Chair for a new five-year term.

Annie Caputo   According to the White House news release dated May 22, 2017, President Trump intends to nominate Annie Caputo of Virginia to be an NRC Commissioner for the remainder of a five-year term expiring June 30, 2021.  Caputo currently serves as Senior Policy Advisor for Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  She also held this position for previous Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) from 2007 to 2012.  From 2005 to 2006 and from 2012 to 2015, Caputo worked for the House Committee on Energy & Commerce handling nuclear energy issues.  Prior to working for the Congress, Caputo worked as an Executive Assistant and Congressional Affairs Manager for Exelon Corporation.  Caputo has more than 20 years of experience advising the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, as well as the nuclear industry, on nuclear energy regulation, policy development, legislation, and communications.  Caputo graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Engineering.  Caputo, her husband and two children reside in McLean, Virginia.

Kristine L. Svinicki  President Trump also plans to nominate Kristine L. Svinicki of Virginia to be an NRC Commissioner for a five-year term expiring June 30, 2022, as well to designate her as Chair.  Svinicki currently serves as an NRC Commissioner, having been originally confirmed in 2008, re-nominated to a second term in 2012 and designated as the Commission’s Chair by President Trump in January of 2017.  Prior to being confirmed as an NRC Commissioner, Svinicki served in various staff positions in the U.S. Senate, including as a Professional Staff Member for the Committee on Armed Services, with a concentration on defense science and technology policy and the atomic energy defense activities of the U.S. Departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DoD).  Previously, Svinicki worked as a Nuclear Engineer in DOE’s Washington headquarters and the Department’s Idaho Operations Office.  Earlier in her career, she was an Energy Engineer with the State of Wisconsin, Public Service Commission in Madison, Wisconsin.  Svinicki graduated from the University of Michigan and currently resides in Falls Church, Virginia.

David Wright  The May 22 press release states that President Trump also plans to nominate David Wright of South Carolina to be an NRC Commissioner for the remainder of a five-year term expiring June 30, 2020. Wright is currently the President of Wright Directions, LLC—a strategic consulting and communications business in the energy sector.  Wright previously served as a Member and Chair of the South Carolina Public Service Commission (SCPSC) from 2004 – 2013.  He was elected to serve as President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) for 2011 – 2012.  Wright has owned and operated several different businesses, and served as a Councilman, Mayor and a Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives.  A colon cancer survivor, Wright is active as an advocate for colon cancer awareness and education and is frequently asked to share his message with groups around the country.  Wright received his Bachelor’s Degree from Clemson University.  He has four children and three grandchildren and currently resides in Columbia, South Carolina.

Background  Five Commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms head the NRC.  One of them is designated by the President to be the Chairman and official spokesperson of the Commission.  The Chair is the Principal Executive Officer of and the Official Spokesperson for the NRC.  As Principal Executive Officer, the Chair is responsible for conducting the administrative, organizational, long-range planning, budgetary and certain personnel functions of the agency.  The Chair has ultimate authority for all NRC functions pertaining to an emergency involving an NRC license.  The Chair’s actions are governed by the general policies of the Commission.  The Commission operates as a collegial body to formulate policies, develop regulations governing nuclear reactor and nuclear material safety, issue orders to licensees, and adjudicate legal matters.  In addition to Chair Kristine L. Svinicki, the NRC currently has two other Commissioners including Jeff Baran and Stephen G. Burns.

For additional information related to Commission business, please contact Annette L. Vietti-Cook, Secretary of the Commission, at (301) 415-1969 or at NRCExecSec@nrc.gov.  For additional information related to Federal Intergovernmental Matters, please contact Darrell Adams, Congressional/External Affairs Officer, at (301) 415-1776 or at oca_web@nrc.gov.

WCS Places Spent Fuel Storage Application on Hold

By letter dated mid-April 2017, Waste Control Specialists (WCS) asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to temporarily suspend the agency’s review of its application to construct and operate a spent nuclear fuel Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) in Andrews County, Texas.

WSC “is faced with a magnitude of financial burdens that currently make pursuit of licensing unsupportable,” Rod Baltzer, the company’s President and CEO, said in a letter to the NRC dated April 16, 2017.  According to Baltzer, the estimated $7.5 million that is needed to continue the licensing process was a significant factor in WCS’ decision.  The following day, NRC announced that it would freeze the review.

The request comes as EnergySolutions is trying to buy WCS, although the U.S. Department of Justice has sued to block the merger, arguing it would essentially create a monopoly on radioactive waste disposal.  “WCS expects to go forward with this project at the earliest possible opportunity after completion of the sale,” Baltzer said in a statement.

In the meantime, on March 16, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency was providing additional opportunities for the public to comment on the CISF application that was submitted by WCS.

Background

On April 28, 2016, WCS filed an application seeking a 40-year license for a CISF to receive spent fuel from nuclear reactors for storage, pending final disposal.  (See LLW Notes, May/June 2016, pp. 16-17.)  Specifically, WCS is requesting authorization to construct and operate a CISF at the company’s 60.3 square kilometer (14,900 acre) site in western Andrews County, Texas.  On this site, WCS currently operates facilities that process and store certain types of radioactive material—mainly low-level radioactive waste and mixed waste.  The facility also disposes of hazardous and toxic waste.

According to the application, WCS plans to construct the CISF in eight phases.  Phase one of the CISF would be designed to provide storage for up to 5,000 metric tons uranium (MTU) of spent nuclear fuel received from commercial nuclear power reactors across the United States.  WCS proposes that small amounts of mixed oxide spent fuels and Greater-Than-Class C (GTCC) low-level radioactive wastes also be stored at the CISF.  WCS stated that it would design each subsequent phase of the CISF to store up to an additional 5,000 MTU.  A total of up to 40,000 MTU would be stored at the site by the completion of the final phase.  Each phase would require NRC review and approval.

WCS would receive canisters containing spent nuclear fuel from the reactor sites.  Once accepted at the site, WCS would transfer them into onsite dry cask storage systems.  WCS plans to employ dry cask storage system technology that has been licensed by the NRC pursuant to 10 CFR Part 72 at various commercial nuclear reactors across the country.  According to WCS, the dry cask storage systems proposed for use at the CISF would be passive systems (i.e., not relying on any moving parts) and would provide physical protection, containment, nuclear criticality controls and radiation shielding required for the safe storage of the spent nuclear fuel.  WCS also states that the dry cask storage systems would be located on top of the concrete pads constructed at the CISF.

For additional information, please contact Maureen Conley of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at (301) 415-8200.

DOE and NRC to Hold Third Advanced Reactor Workshop

On April 25-26, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) continued their joint workshop series on innovative reactor technologies in Bethesda, Maryland.  The workshop, which was open to the public, begin at 8:30 a.m. on April 25, 2017.  It was held at the Bethesda North Marriott in Bethesda, Maryland.  The workshop included presentations as well as structured and open discussions, using a facilitator.

“We are encouraging interested parties to continue discussing the most efficient and effective path forward to safely develop and deploy advanced reactors in the United States,” said Vonna Ordaz, Acting Director of the NRC’s Office of New Reactors.  “We expect to discuss topics such as modeling and testing innovative technologies, as well as how vendors might approach getting their designs approved for U.S. use.”

The NRC defines advanced reactors as those technologies using something other than water to cool the reactor core.  The NRC is currently discussing one such advanced design with a vendor considering applying for design certification.  The NRC remains available for early-stage discussion with other potential advanced reactor vendors.

For more information on the workshop, please contact the Nishka Devaser at (301) 415-5196 or at nishka.devaser@nrc.gov; John Segala at (301) 415-1992 or at john.segala@nrc.gov; Trevor Cook at (301) 903-7046 or at trevor.cook@nuclear.energy.gov; or, Tom Sowinski at (301) 903-0112 or at thomas.sowinski@nuclear.energy.gov.

NRC Releases Draft Regulatory Basis for Decommissioning Rule

On March 10, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency was making publicly available a pre-publication draft regulatory basis for a future power reactor decommissioning rule.  The intent is to provide an efficient decommissioning process; reduce the need for exemptions from existing regulations; and, support the principles of good regulation—including openness, clarity, and reliability.

A notice regarding the draft regulatory basis was published in the Federal Register later in March 2017, initiating a 90-day public comment period.

Overview

NRC released the preliminary draft document in order to facilitate discussion during the agency’s annual Regulatory Information Conference, which was held from March 14-16, 2017.  (See LLW Notes, January/February 2017, pp. 40-41.)  The conference included a March 15 technical session on power reactor decommissioning.

The rule would establish clear requirements for commercial power reactors transitioning to decommissioning.  The draft regulatory basis draws upon comments submitted in response to an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) that was published in November 2015.

Staff Analysis

In the draft regulatory basis, the NRC staff concludes there is sufficient justification to proceed with rulemaking in the following areas:  emergency preparedness; physical security; decommissioning trust funds; offsite and onsite financial protection requirements and indemnity agreements; and, application of the back-fit rule.

The staff suggests guidance, rather than rulemaking, should be used to address the following items:  the role of state and local governments in the decommissioning process; the level of NRC review and approval of a licensee’s post-shutdown decommissioning activities report; and, whether to revise the 60-year limit for power reactor decommissioning.

The NRC staff is seeking additional public input before making recommendations on the following topics:  cyber security; drug and alcohol testing; minimum staffing and training requirements for certified fuel handlers; aging management; and, fatigue management.

That additional input, as well as comments received on the draft document, will be considered as the staff develops the final regulatory basis, which the NRC plans to publish in late 2017.  That document will be used in developing a proposed rule to be provided to the Commission in the spring of 2018.  The NRC staff expects to provide a draft final rule to the Commission in fall 2019.

Background

The NRC published an ANPR on the draft regulatory basis for a future power reactor decommission rule in November 2015, seeking public comment on a number of areas to be considered during the rulemaking process.

The NRC began a similar rulemaking process in 2000-2001, but stopped after a stronger focus on security was prompted by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  However, five reactors have permanently shut down since the beginning of 2013, and three more are expected to cease operations by 2019.

The five reactors now undergoing decommissioning required several exemptions from NRC’s regulations for operating reactors to reflect their decommissioning status.  By incorporating changes into regulation, the NRC believes the transition from operation to decommissioning can become more efficient and effective for the agency and the licensee, as well as more open and transparent for the public.

For additional information, please contact David McIntyre of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

The pre-publication draft regulatory basis for a future power reactor decommissioning rule is available on the NRC website at http://ric.nrc-gateway.gov/docs/abstracts/sessionabstract-20.htm.

NRC Issues Annual Assessments for Nation’s Nuclear Plants

On March 3, 2017, 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 2016 regarding their performance throughout the year.  All but three were in the two highest performance categories.

Overview

Of the 96 highest-performing reactors, 83 fully met all safety and security performance objectives and were inspected by the NRC using the normal “baseline” inspection program.

Thirteen reactors were assessed as needing to resolve one or two items of low safety significance.  For this performance level, regulatory oversight includes additional inspection and follow- up of corrective actions.  Plants in this level include:  Davis Besse (Ohio); Diablo Canyon 2 (California); Dresden 3 (Illinois); Ginna (New York); Grand Gulf (Mississippi); Hope Creek 1 (New Jersey); Monticello (Minnesota); Oyster Creek (New Jersey); Salem 2 (New Jersey); South Texas Project 1 and 2 (Texas); and, Vogtle 1 and 2 (Georgia).  Oyster Creek, as well as Vogtle 1 and 2, have resolved their identified issues 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.

Three reactors are 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.  Reactors in this category receive additional inspections to confirm the performance issues are being addressed.

Later this spring and summer, the NRC will host a public meeting or other event for each plant to discuss the details of the annual assessment results.  Details for each event will be announced separately.  In addition to the annual assessment letters, plants also receive an NRC inspection plan for the coming year.

Background

“These assessment letters are the result of a holistic review of operating performance at each domestic power reactor facility,” said Bill Dean, Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.  “In addition to inspecting U.S. nuclear plants to verify that they are operating safely, the NRC continuously assesses their performance.  The letters help our stakeholders understand our plant performance assessments and how we address any identified performance deficiencies.”

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.

For additional information, please contact David McIntyre of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

NRC Seeks to Fill Open Reactor Safeguards Advisory Committee Position

On November 28, 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency is seeking a qualified candidate for appointment to its Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS).

The ACRS is an advisory group that provides independent technical review of, and advice on, matters related to the safety of existing and proposed nuclear facilities, as well as on the adequacy of proposed reactor safety standards.  It also advises the Commission on issues in health physics and radiation protection.

Overview

The ACRS’s primary focus is on safety issues associated with the operation of 99 U.S. commercial nuclear power plants and regulatory initiatives including risk-informed and performance-based regulations, license renewal, power uprates, new reactor applications and the use of mixed oxide and high burn up fuels.  In addition, the ACRS may be asked to provide advice on radiation protection, radioactive waste management and earth sciences in the agency’s licensing reviews for fuel fabrication, enrichment and waste disposal facilities.

Qualifications

The Commission is seeking an individual with extensive experience in nuclear power plant probabilistic risk assessment and risk management.  The best-qualified candidates will have at least 20 years of specific experience in those areas, as well as considerable broad experience and a distinguished record of achievement in one or more areas of nuclear science and technology or a related engineering discipline.

Applications

Interested individuals should find candidate criteria and details in the corresponding Federal Register notice published on November 28, 2016.  The notice is available on the NRC website.  Resumes will be accepted until December 30, 2016.  Resumes may be submitted via

  •   mail to Jamila Perry and Alesha Ballinger, ACRS, Mail Stop T2E-26, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001; or,
  •   e-mail to Jamila.Perry@nrc.gov and Alesha.Bellinger@nrc.gov.

For additional information on the ACRS go the NRC website at www.nrc.gov or contact Maureen Conley of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

Department of Justice Files Civil Antitrust Lawsuit to Block Proposed EnergySolutions’ Acquisition of Waste Control Specialists

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that it has filed a civil antitrust lawsuit seeking to block the proposed $367 million acquisition of Waste Control Specialists LLC by EnergySolutions.  The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware on November 16, 2016.

According to DOJ’s press release, the proposed transaction “would combine the two most significant competitors for the disposal of low level radioactive waste … available to commercial customers in 36 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.”

DOJ argues that the proposed transaction “would deny commercial generators of … [low-level radioactive waste] – from universities and hospitals working on life-saving treatments to nuclear facilities producing 20 percent of the electricity in the United States – the benefits of vigorous competition that has led to significantly lower prices, better service and innovation in recent years.”

“Since opening its … [low-level radioactive waste] disposal facility in 2012, Waste Control Specialists has provided EnergySolutions the only real competition it has ever faced,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division.  “This competition has allowed customers to extract better prices and to receive better and more innovative service in the … [low-level radioactive waste] disposal industry.  If consummated, EnergySolutions’ proposed acquisition of Waste Control Specialists would make EnergySolutions the only option for customers in nearly 40 states.  And this at a time when projects worth billions of dollars are set to be awarded in the coming years.”

DOJ’s press release asserts that Waste Control Specialists provides the “only true competition” for EnergySolutions.  “That competition has led to increased innovation and lower prices for customers,” contends DOJ.  “EnergySolutions’ acquisition of Waste Control Specialists would eliminate that competition, with no likelihood of new entry to fill the void.”

Low-level radioactive waste is the radioactive byproduct of nuclear power generation, scientific research and certain medical treatments.  Low-level radioactive waste includes such items as personal protective clothing, tools, water purification filters and resins, hardware from nuclear power plants, and equipment from medical and research institutions.  Low-level radioactive waste may only be disposed of in a facility licensed by, or pursuant to an exemption provided by, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) or a state acting under an agreement with the NRC.  Low-level radioactive waste disposal is an essential service for operating nuclear reactors, research laboratories and medical facilities.  Additionally, low-level radioactive waste disposal is a requirement for the safe decommissioning of such facilities when they reach the end of their useful lives.

EnergySolutions offers customers a full range of integrated services and solutions, including nuclear operations, characterization, decommissioning, decontamination, site closure, transportation, nuclear materials management, processing, recycling, and disposition of nuclear waste, and research and engineering services across the nuclear fuel cycle.

Waste Control Specialists operates a West Texas facility for the processing, treatment, storage and disposal of a broad range of low-level radioactive and hazardous wastes.

For additional information about EnergySolutions, please contact Dan Shrum at (801) 649-2000 or at dshrum@energysolutions.com or go to the company’s web site at www.energysolutions.com.  For additional information about WCS, please contact Rodney Baltzer at (972) 450-4235 or at rbaltzer@valhi.net or visit the company’s web site at www.valhi.net.  For additional information about the proposed acquisition, please contact Mark Walker at mwalker@energysolutions.com or at (801) 231-9194.

Nuclear Gauge Reported Stolen in West Virginia

A West Virginia company has notified the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that a portable moisture-density gauge containing sealed sources of radioactive material has been stolen.  Thrasher Engineering of Bridgeport, West Virginia reported that the device was stolen early on September 10, 2016 from a technician’s truck while it was parked in Beaver, West Virginia.

Surveillance video acquired by local police shows an individual parking a white pickup truck next to the truck holding the gauge and then transferring the device to his or her vehicle.  The gauge was apparently locked by two different means, as required by NRC regulations.

The gauge holds small amounts of cesium-137 and americium-241.  It is used to make measurements by projecting the radiation from the two radioactive sources into the ground and then displaying the reflected radiation on a dial on its top.

Stored in a robust, yellow transportation case when not in use, the gauge consists of a shielding container with a plunger-type handle protruding from the top.  As long as the radioactive sources are in the shielded position, the gauge would present no hazard to the public.  However, any attempt to tamper with the radioactive sources in the device could subject the person to radiation exposure.

Anyone seeing the gauge should leave it alone and report its location to the NRC’s Operations Center at (301) 816-5100 or the Raleigh County, West Virginia Sheriff’s Office at (304) 255-9300.  The NRC Operations Center is staffed 24 hours a day and accepts collect calls.

For additional information, please contact Diane Screnci at (610) 337-5330 or Neil Sheehan at (610) 337-5331.

NRC Posts Additional CA BTP Implementation Questions & Answers

On August 29, 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that additional questions and answers (Nos. 22, 23, and 24) regarding implementation of the revised Branch Technical Position on Concentration Averaging and Encapsulation (CA BTP) have been posted to the NRC public website at http://www.nrc.gov/waste/llw-disposal/llw-pa/llw-btp.html.

The regulatory requirements for licensing a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility describe a system for classifying low-level radioactive waste for near-surface disposal.  Classification of low-level radioactive waste is based on the concentrations of certain radionuclides, and 10 CFR § 61.55(a)(8) specifically allows for averaging of concentrations in determining the waste class.  The CA BTP expands on those regulatory requirements by describing acceptable averaging methods that can be used in classifying waste.

For additional information, please contact Don Lowman, Project Manager for NMSS/DSFM/SFLB, at (301) 415-5452 or at Donald.Lowman@nrc.gov.

NRC Makes Yucca Mountain Hearing Documents Publicly Available

By press release dated August 19, 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency has made nearly 3.7 million documents from the adjudicatory hearing on the proposed nuclear waste repository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain publicly available in the agency’s online documents database.

The documents were formerly part of the Licensing Support Network (LSN) created to allow various parties and the public access to documents needed for the hearing on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) request for a construction authorization for the repository.  The NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Boards had admitted nearly 300 contentions from various parties challenging aspects of DOE’s application.  The LSN was shut down when the hearing was suspended in September 2011 after Congress reduced funding.

In August 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the NRC to resume its review of the application using the remaining previously appropriated funds.  In response, NRC staff completed the Safety Evaluation Report (SER) in January 2015 and a supplement to DOE’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in May 2016.

The LSN documents were placed in the NRC’s online documents database, known as ADAMS, to comply with federal records requirements and assist the staff in completing the safety review.  At that time, only LSN documents submitted by the staff were publicly available.  However, the Commission directed that all LSN documents be made publicly available in ADAMS once the staff completed its license review activities.

The new LSN Library in ADAMS includes enhanced search capabilities as well as an online user’s guide.  The NRC Public Document Room reference staff is also available to provide LSN Library assistance and can be reached at (301) 415-4737 or at (800) 397-4209 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, except federal holidays.

For additional information, please contact David McIntyre of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

Commissioner Proposes NRC Revisit Tracking of Category 3 Sources

In a memo dated July 29, 2016, NRC Commissioner Baran proposes that U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff revisit the question of whether and how to track Category 3 sources.  In the memo, Commissioner Baran asserts that the “case for doing so is even stronger today than it was seven years ago.”

The memo concludes with the following proposed staff direction:

In light of [the Government Accountability Office’s] GAO’s findings and the years of operating experience with the [National Source Tracking System] NSTS, I propose that the NRC staff take a fresh look at the question of whether and how to track Category 3 sources. This re-evaluation can build on the efforts of the working groups established in response to the GAO investigation. I propose that, within six months of the Staff Requirements Memorandum resulting from this paper, the staff should submit a notation vote paper to the Commission that includes the following:

1)   An evaluation of the pros and cons of different methods of requiring transferors of Category 3 sources to verify the validity of a transferee’s license prior to the transfer; 


2)   An evaluation of the pros and cons of including Category 3 sources in the NSTS; and 


3)   Based on these evaluations, options for addressing the GAO recommendations.

In conducting these evaluations, the staff should assess the risks posed by the aggregation of Category 3 sources into Category 2 quantities and consider the current views of our Agreement States partners.

The memo, which has been posted to the Resources Page of the Disused Sources Working Group (DSWG) web site, is also publicly available via the “Recently Released Commission Documents for 2016” area of the NRC Web site at www.nrc.gov under Accession No. ML16197A229.

For additional information, please see the Resources page of the DSWG web site at www.disusedsources.org