[Federal Register Volume 66, Number 45 (Wednesday, March 7, 2001)]
[Pages 13794-13797]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 01-5509]



Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for 
the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility

AGENCY: United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Notice of Intent (NOI).


SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announces its 
intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for 
construction, operation and deactivation of a proposed Mixed Oxide 
(MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility (Facility) to be constructed at the 
Department of Energy's (DOE) Savannah River Site (SRS) in South 
Carolina. The EIS is being prepared pursuant to the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and will examine the potential 
environmental impacts of manufacturing MOX fuel from surplus weapons 
plutonium. The MOX fuel is eventually planned to be used in two 
existing domestic commercial reactors, thus helping to ensure that 
plutonium produced for nuclear weapons and declared excess to national 
security needs is converted to forms that are inaccessible and 
unattractive for nuclear weapons.

scoping process required by NEPA begins with publication of this NOI in 
the Federal Register and continues until May 21, 2001. Written comments 
submitted by mail should be postmarked by that date to ensure 
consideration. Comments mailed after that date will be considered to 
the extent practical. However, this May 21 date, and the proposed 
meeting dates listed below, are subject to change for the following 
reasons. The NRC is presently conducting its initial administrative 
acceptance review of the construction authorization request (CAR) 
regarding the MOX Facility.

[[Page 13795]]

Following the acceptance review (if the CAR is acceptable), a detailed 
technical review of the CAR begins. The CAR was submitted to the NRC on 
February 28, 2001, by DCS (a consortium formed by Duke Engineering & 
Services, COGEMA, Inc., and Stone and Webster), the engineering firm 
which, if NRC grants approval, would build the MOX Facility. The 
acceptance review of the CAR is expected to take 30 days to complete. 
If the CAR is accepted and formally docketed, the EIS scoping process 
will continue. If, for any reason, the CAR is not accepted and formally 
docketed, the scoping process will be suspended, and a notice 
postponing the meetings listed below will be published in the Federal 
Register. Additionally, if the CAR passes the acceptance review, a 
notice of opportunity for hearing regarding the CAR will be published 
in the Federal Register.
    DCS plans to submit to the NRC a separate license application 
requesting authority to operate the MOX Facility. This DCS request, 
which would also be subject to the NRC's acceptance review procedures, 
is expected in the summer of 2002. If this request is accepted and 
formally docketed, another notice of opportunity for hearing regarding 
operating authority would then be published in the Federal Register.
    NRC will conduct public scoping meetings to assist it in defining 
the appropriate scope of the EIS, including the significant 
environmental issues to be addressed. NRC plans to hold scoping 
meetings in April 2001. Please note that meeting attendees will be 
requested to participate in the scoping process through small working 
groups within the larger meeting setting. (See Section entitled Scoping 
Meeting Format, below, for more details.) To effectively plan for this 
type of meeting, NRC staff will need to know how many participants to 
expect. If you do plan to attend any or all of the meetings, please 
help us by registering ahead of time. Contact information for 
registration is provided below in the section ``Addresses.'' The 
meeting dates, times and locations are listed below. Prior to the 
Scoping Meetings, NRC staff will be available to informally discuss the 
MOX project and answer questions in an ``open house'' format.

April 17, 2001
North Augusta Community Center,
496 Brookside Drive,
North Augusta, SC
Scoping Meeting Time: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Open House Time: 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

April 18, 2001
Coastal Georgia Center,
305 Martin Luther King Boulevard,
Savannah, GA
Scoping Meeting Time: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Open House Time: 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

ADDRESSES: To register for a meeting, to provide comments or 
suggestions on the scope of the EIS, or to make requests for special 
arrangements to enable participation at scoping meetings (e.g., an 
interpreter for the hearing impaired), please contact: Tim Harris at 
(301) 415-6613 or Betty Garrett at (301) 415-5808.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For general or technical information 
associated with the license review of the MOX Facility, please contact: 
Tim Johnson at (301) 415-7299 or Drew Persinko at (301) 415-6522. For 
general information on the NRC NEPA process, please contact: Jennifer 
Davis at (301) 415-5874 or Tim Harris at (301) 415-6613.
    Availability of Documents for Review: Information and documents 
associated with the MOX project, including the DCS Environmental Report 
submitted in December 2000, and the CAR, may be obtained from the 
Internet on NRC's MOX web page: http://www.nrc.gov/NRC/NMSS/MOX/index.html (case sensitive). In addition, documents are available for 
public review through our electronic reading room: http://www.nrc.gov/NRC/ADAMS/index.html. Documents may also be obtained from NRC's Public 
Document Room at U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Public Document 
Room, Washington, DC 20555.
    DCS states that some of the detailed technical material in the CAR 
is confidential information which should be withheld from public 
disclosure. DCS has submitted an affidavit with its CAR, in support of 
its confidentiality statement. Until the NRC makes a determination as 
to whether the information at issue can be properly withheld, the 
publicly available copy of the CAR will be an edited version.



    In January 2000, the DOE issued its Record of Decision (ROD) for 
the Surplus Plutonium Disposition Final EIS [65 FR 1608]. The 
fundamental purpose of the DOE program is to ensure that plutonium 
produced for nuclear weapons and declared excess to national security 
needs is converted to forms that are inaccessible and unattractive for 
nuclear weapons. In its ROD, DOE announced that it had decided to use 
two approaches for the disposition of surplus weapons plutonium, and 
that the facilities would be located at its SRS. The first approach is 
immobilization of approximately 8.4 metric tons of surplus plutonium. 
The immobilization will consist of placing the weapons-grade plutonium 
into canisters that will be filled with vitrified glass from the SRS 
high-level waste tanks. The second approach will convert up to 25.6 
metric tons of surplus plutonium into MOX nuclear reactor fuel. (The 
scoping process discussed in this notice is focused on this second 
approach.) A third facility to disassemble the plutonium pits (the 
current form) and convert the recovered plutonium into plutonium 
dioxide suitable for disposition will also be located at SRS, but will 
not be reviewed by NRC and is not included in this scoping meeting.
    The DOE has selected DCS to provide the MOX fuel fabrication and 
reactor irradiation services. DCS submitted its Environmental Report 
for MOX fuel fabrication to NRC on December 19, 2000. DCS submitted its 
CAR to NRC on February 28, 2001. NRC will evaluate the potential 
environmental impacts associated with MOX fuel fabrication in parallel 
with the review of the CAR. This evaluation will be documented in draft 
and final Environmental Impact Statements in accordance with NEPA and 
NRC's implementing regulations at 10 CFR Part 51.

MOX Fuel Fabrication at SRS (New Construction)

    The MOX Facility, if licensed, would produce completed MOX fuel 
assemblies for use in two domestic, commercial nuclear power reactors. 
Feed materials would be plutonium dioxide from the pit conversion 
facility at SRS, and uranium dioxide made from either the DOE stockpile 
of depleted uranium hexafluoride from another DOE site, or another 
source selected by DCS and approved by DOE. MOX fuel fabrication 
involves purification of the plutonium dioxide to remove other metals 
present in the weapons pit; blending the plutonium dioxide with 
depleted uranium dioxide; pressing the mixed oxide into pellets; 
sintering the pellets; loading the pellets into fuel rods; and 
assembling the fuel rods into fuel assemblies. Once assembled, the fuel 
assemblies would be transported to a domestic, commercial reactor for 
use. (The McGuire and/or the Catawba nuclear power plants near 
Charlotte, NC, have been tentatively selected.) Following irradiation 
to generate electric power, the MOX fuel would be removed from the 
reactor, and managed at the reactor site as spent nuclear fuel.

[[Page 13796]]

Final disposition would be at a geologic repository in accordance with 
the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

Purpose and Need for Agency Action

    On October 17, 1998, Congress amended Section 202 of the Energy 
Reorganization Act, giving licensing authority to the NRC regarding any 
MOX Facility to be built (42 U.S.C. 5842(5)). Accordingly, in order for 
DCS to construct and operate the MOX Facility, it must be licensed/
authorized by the NRC. Such action would be a major federal action, 
thus requiring NRC, pursuant to NEPA, to prepare an EIS for 
construction, operation and deactivation of the MOX Facility. The EIS 
will consider facility-specific environmental impacts (an earlier EIS 
prepared by DOE addressed generic impacts) associated with constructing 
and operating the MOX Facility. The EIS prepared by NRC will also 
consider indirect effects from MOX fuel fabrication, such as 
transportation to the domestic, commercial reactors, MOX fuel use in 
those reactors, and eventual spent fuel disposal.

Alternatives To Be Evaluated

No Action--Do Not Issue Construction Authorization for MOX Fuel 
Fabrication Facility at SRS

Alternative 1--Issue Construction Authorization for MOX Fuel 
Fabrication Facility at SRS
    Note that NRC is limited to issuing or denying the construction 
authorization and/or license to operate the MOX Facility at SRS. The 
DOE has already decided to pursue the two disposition approaches for 
surplus weapons plutonium, and has already decided to site the MOX 
Facility at SRS. These decisions will not be revisited by NRC. Other 
alternatives not listed here may be identified through the scoping 

Environmental Impact Areas To Be Analyzed

    The following areas have been tentatively identified for analysis 
in the EIS. This list is neither intended to be all inclusive, nor is 
it a predetermination of potential environmental impacts. The list is 
presented to facilitate comments on the scope of the EIS. Additions to, 
or deletions from this list may occur as a result of the public scoping 
     Health and Safety: potential public and occupational 
consequences from construction, routine operation, transportation, and 
credible accident scenarios;
     Waste Management/Pollution Prevention: types of wastes 
expected to be generated, handled, and stored; pollution prevention 
opportunities and the potential consequences to public safety and the 
     Hazardous Materials: handling, storage and use; both 
present and future;
     Background Radiation: cosmic, rock, soil, water, and air 
and the potential addition of radiation;
     Water Resources: surface and groundwater hydrology, water 
use and quality, and the potential for degradation;
     Air Quality: meteorological conditions, ambient 
background, pollutant sources, and the potential for degradation;
     Earth Resources: physical geography, topography, geology 
and soil characteristics;
     Land Use: plans, policies and controls;
     Noise: ambient, sources, and sensitive receptors;
     Ecological Resources: wetlands, aquatic, terrestrial, 
economically and recreationally important species, and threatened and 
endangered species;
     Socioeconomic: demography, economic base, labor pool, 
housing, transportation, utilities, public services/facilities, 
education, recreation, and cultural resources;
     Natural Disasters: floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and 
seismic events;
     Cumulative Effects: impacts from past, present and 
reasonably foreseeable actions at, and near the site(s);
     Indirect Effects: transportation to the domestic, 
commercial reactors, MOX fuel use in those reactors, and eventual spent 
fuel disposal;
     Unavoidable Adverse Impacts;
     Natural and Depletable Resources: requirements and 
conservation potential; and
     Environmental Justice: any potential disproportionately 
high and adverse impacts to minority and low-income populations.
    Alternatives other than those presented in this document may 
warrant examination, and new issues may be identified for evaluation.

Scoping Meetings

    One purpose of this NOI is to encourage public involvement in the 
EIS process, and to solicit public comments on the proposed scope and 
content of the EIS. NRC will hold public scoping meetings in the SRS 
vicinity to solicit both oral and written comments from interested 
    Scoping is an early and open process designed to determine the 
range of actions, alternatives, and potential impacts to be considered 
in the EIS, and to identify the significant issues related to the 
proposed action. It is intended to solicit input from the public and 
other agencies so that the analysis can be more clearly focused on 
issues of genuine concern. The principal goals of the scoping process 
are to:
     Ensure that concerns are identified early and are properly 
     Identify alternatives that will be examined;
     Identify significant issues that need to be analyzed;
     Eliminate unimportant issues; and
     Identify public concerns.

Scoping Meeting Format

    Traditionally, scoping meetings begin with agency speakers, then 
attendees make oral comments. The scoping meetings for the MOX Facility 
will follow a different structure, which was recommended by the Council 
on Environmental Quality in its ``Memorandum for General Counsels, NEPA 
Liaisons and Participants in Scoping,'' dated April 30, 1981.
    ``* * * The first part of the meeting is devoted to a discussion of 
the proposal in general, covering its purpose, proposed location, 
design, and any other aspects that can be presented in a lecture 
format. A question and answer period concerning this information is 
often held at this time. Then . . . the next step is to break . . . 
into small groups for more intensive discussion. At this point, * * * 
numbers held by the participants are used to assign them to small 
groups by sequence, random drawing, or any other method. Each group 
should be no larger than 12, and 8-10 is better. The groups are 
informed that their task is to prepare a list of significant 
environmental issues and reasonable alternatives for analysis in the 
EIS. These lists will be presented to the main group and combined into 
a master list, after the discussion groups are finished.''
    A member of the NRC staff, or NRC contractor staff will be part of 
each group to answer questions and listen to the participants' 
concerns. The agency person will not lead the group discussions, but 
will serve as the recording secretary for each group. This will ensure 
he/she is listening to group views. Each group will choose a member to 
lead the group discussions.
    In addition to the group discussions, participants will be able to 
express their oral views to a recording secretary in five minute 
blocks. NRC encourages those providing oral comments to also submit 
them in writing. Comment cards will also be available for anyone who 
prefers to submit their comments in written form.

[[Page 13797]]

Scoping Comments

    Written comments should be mailed to: Michael T. Lesar, Acting 
Chief, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Rules & Directives Branch, 
Division of Administrative Services, Office of Administration, Mail 
Stop T6D59, Washington, DC 20555.
    Comments will also be accepted by e-mail. Interested parties may e-
mail their comments to [email protected]. Comments will be accepted by fax at 
301-415-5398, Attention: Tim Harris.
    NRC will make the scoping summaries and project-related materials 
available for public review through our electronic reading room: http://www.nrc.gov/NRC/ADAMS/index.html. The scoping meeting summaries and 
project-related materials will also be available on the NRC's MOX web 
page: http://www.nrc.gov/NRC/NMSS/MOX/index.html (case sensitive).

The NEPA Process

    The EIS for the MOX Facility will be prepared according to the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Council on Environmental 
Quality's Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of 
NEPA (40 CFR Parts 1500-1508), and NRC's NEPA Regulations (10 CFR Part 
    The draft EIS is scheduled to be published in February 2002. A 45-
day comment period on the draft EIS is planned, and public meetings to 
receive comments will be held approximately three weeks after 
distribution of the draft EIS. Availability of the draft EIS, the dates 
of the public comment period, and information about the public meetings 
will be announced in the Federal Register, on NRC's MOX web page, and 
in the local news media when the draft EIS is distributed. The final 
EIS, which will incorporate public comments received on the draft EIS, 
is expected in September 2002.

    Signed in Rockville, MD, this 1st day of March 2001.
    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Charlotte E. Abrams,
Acting Chief, Environmental and Performance Assessment Branch, Division 
of Waste Management, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.
[FR Doc. 01-5509 Filed 3-6-01; 8:45 am]