[Federal Register Volume 68, Number 40 (Friday, February 28, 2003)]
[Pages 9728-9729]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 03-4753]

[[Page 9728]]



Notice of Availability of Draft Environmental Impact Statement 
for the Construction and Operation of the Proposed Mixed Oxide Fuel 
Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site, South Carolina, and 
Notice of Public Meetings

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Notice of availability of Draft Environmental Impact Statement 
and notice of public meetings.


SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission (NRC) is issuing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement 
(DEIS) on the proposed construction and operation of a mixed oxide 
(MOX) fuel fabrication facility at the Savannah River Site in South 
Carolina. The DEIS is being issued as part of the NRC's decision-making 
process on whether to authorize Duke Cogema Stone & Webster (DCS), a 
contractor of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), to construct and 
operate the proposed MOX fuel fabrication facility (MOX facility).
    The proposed MOX facility would convert depleted uranium dioxide 
and weapons-grade plutonium dioxide into MOX fuel. The DEIS discusses 
the purpose and need for the proposed MOX facility, and reasonable 
alternatives to the proposed action, including the no-action 
alternative. The DEIS also discusses the environment potentially 
affected by the proposal, presents and compares the potential 
environmental impacts resulting from the proposed action and its 
alternatives, and identifies mitigation measures that could eliminate 
or lessen the potential environmental impacts.
    Based on the evaluation in the DEIS, the NRC environmental review 
staff has concluded that mitigation measures identified by DCS, and 
additional measures identified by NRC staff would reduce or eliminate 
adverse environmental impacts of the proposed action. The DEIS is a 
preliminary analysis of the environmental impacts of the proposed 
action and its alternatives. The Final EIS and any decision 
documentation regarding the proposed action will not be issued until 
public comments on the DEIS have been received and evaluated. Notice of 
the availability of the Final EIS will be published in the Federal 

Availability of Documents for Review

    The DEIS, and other documents on which the DEIS is based, are 
available for public review through our electronic reading room: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm.html. A selected group of these documents are 
on the MOX web page: http://www.nrc.gov/materials/fuel-cycle-fac/mox/licensing.html. For those without access to the internet, paper copies 
of any electronic documents may be obtained for a fee by contacting the 
NRC's Public Document Room at 1-800-397-4209.

Public Comment

    The NRC is offering an opportunity for public review and comment on 
the DEIS in accordance with applicable regulations, including NRC 
requirements in 10 CFR 51.73, 51.74 and 51.117. Any interested party 
may submit written comments on the proposed action and on the DEIS for 
consideration by the NRC staff. To be certain of consideration, 
comments must be received by April 14, 2003. Written comments submitted 
by mail should be postmarked by that date to ensure consideration. 
Comments received after the due date will be considered if it is 
practical to do so, but the NRC staff is able to assure consideration 
only for comments received on or before April 14, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Submit written comments to: Michael T. Lesar, Chief, Rules 
and Directives Branch, Division of Administrative Services, Office of 
Administration, Mail Stop T-6D59, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 
Washington, DC 20555. Comments will also be accepted by e-mail. 
Interested parties may e-mail their comments to [email protected]. Comments 
will also be accepted by fax at (301) 415-5398, Attention: Tim Harris.

Public Meetings

    The NRC will hold three public meetings to present an overview of 
the DEIS and to accept oral and written public comments. Prior to the 
Public Meetings, NRC staff will be available to informally discuss the 
MOX project and answer questions in an ``open house'' format. The 
meeting dates, times and locations are listed below:

March 25, 2003, Coastal Georgia Center, 305 Fahm Street, Savannah, 
Georgia, Open House: 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Public Meeting: 7 p.m. to 10 
March 26, 2003, North Augusta Community Center, 495 Brookside Avenue, 
North Augusta, South Carolina, Open House: 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Public 
Meeting: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
March 27, 2003, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth 
Street, Charlotte, North Carolina, Open House: 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. 
Public Meeting: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

    All meetings will be transcribed and will include (1) a 
presentation summarizing the contents of the DEIS and (2) an 
opportunity for interested government agencies, organizations, and 
individuals to provide comments on the DEIS. Persons should register 
prior to the start of each meeting to provide oral comments. Individual 
oral comments may have to be limited by the time available, depending 
upon the number of persons who register.
    If special equipment or accommodations are needed to attend or 
present information at the public meeting, the need should be brought 
to Mr. Harris' attention no later than March 19, 2003, to provide NRC 
staff with adequate notice to determine whether the request can be 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For general information on the NRC 
NEPA process, please contact: Tim Harris at (301) 415-6613. For general 
or technical information associated with the proposed MOX facility, 
please contact: Drew Persinko at (301) 415-6522.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In January 2000, the DOE issued a Record of 
Decision pertaining to its surplus plutonium disposition program and 
the DOE's 1999 EIS related to this program [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 
use in nuclear weapons.
    The DEIS for the proposed MOX facility was prepared by the staff of 
the NRC and its contractor, Argonnne National Laboratory, in compliance 
with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the NRC's 
regulations for implementing NEPA (10 CFR part 51). The proposed action 
involves a decision by NRC of whether to authorize DCS to construct and 
later operate the proposed MOX facility at the SRS to convert surplus 
weapons plutonium into MOX fuel.
    If approved by the NRC, the proposed MOX facility would be built in 
the F-Area of the DOE's Savannah River Site (SRS). Feedstock (surplus 
plutonium dioxide and depleted uranium dioxide) would have to be 
transported to SRS to make the MOX fuel. To support operation of the 
proposed MOX facility, two other new facilities would have to be built 
by the DOE at the SRS.

[[Page 9729]]

Infrastructure upgrades, such as construction waste transfer pipelines, 
electric utility line realignment, and addition of access roads, would 
also be required. Any MOX fuel made at the proposed MOX facility would 
be transported to mission reactors, where it would be irradiated.
    NRC published a Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS for the proposed 
MOX facility, and to conduct a scoping process, in the Federal Register 
on March 7, 2001 [66 FR 13794]. NRC staff subsequently held scoping 
meetings, and issued a Scoping Summary Report in August 2001. In early 
2002, DOE announced its decision to alter its planned approach for 
surplus weapons plutonium disposition [67 FR 19432], causing the NRC to 
delay its issuance of the DEIS for the proposed MOX facility. On August 
22, 2002, the NRC announced three mid-September public meetings to 
discuss changes in DCS' Environmental Report that resulted from changes 
in DOE's plans [67 FR 54501]. The meetings were held on September 17 in 
Savannah, Georgia, September 18 in Augusta, Georgia, and September 19 
in Charlotte, North Carolina.
    The DEIS describes the proposed action, and alternatives to the 
proposed action, including the no-action alternative. The DEIS' 
discussion of the no-action alternative evaluates the environmental 
impacts of the continued storage of surplus plutonium in various DOE 
locations nationwide, in the event NRC decides not to approve the 
proposed MOX facility. Alternatives considered but not analyzed in 
detail include alternate locations for the proposed MOX facility in the 
F-Area, alternative technology and design options, immobilization of 
surplus plutonium instead of producing MOX fuel, deliberately making 
off-specification MOX fuel, and the Parallex Project, the latter of 
which involves irradiating the MOX fuel in Candian CANDU reactors. 
Additionally, the DEIS compares the impacts of using HEPA filters to 
the impacts of using sand filters for removal of particulate air 
    The DEIS assesses the impacts of the proposed action and its 
alternatives for the issues of human health, air quality, hydrology, 
waste management, geology, noise, ecology, land use, cultural and 
paleontological resources, infrastructure, socioeconomics, accident 
impacts, decommissioning and environmental justice. Additionally, the 
DEIS analyzes and compares the costs and benefits of the proposed 
    Based on the evaluation in the DEIS, the NRC's preliminary 
recommendation is that the proposed action be approved, with 
implementation of proposed mitigation measures which would eliminate or 
substantially lessen any potential adverse environmental impacts.
    This DEIS is a preliminary analysis of the environmental impacts of 
the proposed action. The NRC will review the public's comments, conduct 
any necessary analyses, and make appropriate revisions in developing 
the Final EIS for the proposed MOX facility.
    Participation in the public comment process for the DEIS does not 
entitle participants to become parties to the ongoing NRC adjudicatory 
proceeding pertaining to the construction of the proposed MOX facility. 
Participation in adjudicatory proceedings is governed by the 10 CFR 
part 2 hearing procedures.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 20th day of February 2003.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Lawrence E. Kokajko,
Acting Chief, Environmental and Performance Assessment Branch, Division 
of Waste Management, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.
[FR Doc. 03-4753 Filed 2-27-03; 8:45 am]