[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 45 (Wednesday, March 9, 2005)]
[Notices]
[Pages 11712-11715]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 05-4548]


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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

[Docket Nos. 50-413 and 50-414]


Duke Energy Corporation, North Carolina Electric Membership 
Corporation, Saluda River Electric Cooperative, Inc., North Carolina 
Municipal Power Agency No. 1, Piedmont Municipal Power Agency, Catawba 
Nuclear Station, Units 1 and 2; Exemption

1.0 Background

    Duke Energy Corporation, (the licensee) is the holder of Facility 
Operating License Nos. NPF-35 and NPF-52, which authorize operation of 
the Catawba Nuclear Station (Catawba), Units 1 and 2. The licenses 
provide, among other things, that the facility is subject to all rules, 
regulations, and orders of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC, the 
Commission) now or hereafter in effect.
    The facility consists of two pressurized water reactors located in 
York County, South Carolina.

2.0 Request/Action

    Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) part 50, Sec.  
50.46, ``Acceptance criteria for emergency core cooling systems [ECCS] 
for light-water nuclear power reactors,'' and Appendix K, ``ECCS 
Evaluation Models,'' identify requirements for calculating ECCS 
performance for reactors containing fuel with Zircaloy or ZIRLO 
cladding, and uranium oxide fuel. Part 11 of 10 CFR, ``Criteria and 
Procedures for Determining Eligibility for Access to or Control Over 
Special Nuclear Material [SNM],'' and 10 CFR part 73, ``Physical 
Protection of Plants and Materials,'' identify requirements that are 
usually applicable to fuel fabrication facilities for the protection of 
formula quantities of strategic special nuclear material (SSNM).
    By letter dated February 27, 2003, as supplemented by letters dated 
September 15, September 23, October 1 (two letters), October 3 (two 
letters), November 3, November 4, December 10, 2003, and February 2 
(two letters), March 1 (three letters), March 9 (two letters), March 16 
(two letters), March 26, March 31, April 13, April 16, May 13, June 17, 
August 31, September 20, October 4, October 29, and December 10, 2004, 
the licensee requested exemptions from 10 CFR 50.46, Appendix K to 10 
CFR part 50, and from certain physical security requirements of 10 CFR 
11.11(a)(1)-(a)(2), 11.11(b), 10 CFR 73.45(d)(1)(iv), 73.46 (c)(1), 
73.46(h)(3), 73.46(b)(3)-(b)(12),

[[Page 11713]]

73.46(d)(9), and 73.46(e)(3). These exemptions would allow Catawba to 
operate with up to four lead test assemblies (LTAs) that would use 
M5TM (M5) type fuel rod cladding and fuel rods containing 
mixed uranium and plutonium (Pu) oxide (MOX) fuel in non-limiting core 
locations. The purpose of the LTA effort at Catawba is to confirm that 
the MOX fuel performs as expected in a nuclear power reactor. This 
effort is part of the Department of Energy (DOE) Surplus Plutonium 
Disposition Project, an ongoing Pu disposition program of the United 
States and the Russian Federation. The goal of this non-proliferation 
program is to dispose of surplus Pu from nuclear weapons by converting 
the material into MOX fuel and using that fuel in nuclear power 
reactors.

3.0 Discussion of Part 50 Exemptions for M5 Cladding and MOX Fuel

    Pursuant to 10 CFR 50.12, ``Specific exemptions,'' the Commission 
may, upon application by any interested person or upon its own 
initiative, grant exemptions from the requirements of 10 CFR part 50, 
when (1) the exemptions are authorized by law, will not present an 
undue risk to public health or safety, and are consistent with the 
common defense and security; and (2) when special circumstances are 
present. Under Section 50.12(a)(2), special circumstances include, 
among other things, when the application of the regulation would not 
serve, or is not necessary to achieve, the underlying purpose of the 
rule.
    The underlying purpose of 10 CFR 50.46, and Appendix K to 10 CFR 
part 50, is to establish requirements for the calculation of ECCS 
performance, and acceptance criteria for that performance, in order to 
assure that the ECCS functions to transfer heat from the reactor core 
following a loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA), such that (1) fuel and 
clad damage that could interfere with continued effective core cooling 
is prevented, and (2) clad metal-water reaction is limited to specified 
amounts.

Cladding Exemption

    The regulation in 10 CFR 50.46 contains acceptance criteria for 
ECCSs for reactors fueled with Zircaloy or ZIRLO cladding. In addition, 
paragraph I.A.5, ``Metal-Water Reaction Rate,'' of Appendix K to 10 CFR 
part 50, requires that the Baker-Just equation be used to predict the 
rates of energy release, hydrogen generation, and cladding oxidation 
from the metal-water reaction. However, the Baker-Just equation assumes 
the use of Zircaloy clad fuel. Thus, an exemption from the requirements 
of 10 CFR 50.46, and Appendix K to 10 CFR part 50 is needed for Duke to 
irradiate the LTAs that include fuel rods clad with M5 material.
    The licensee has performed evaluations of the fuel rod mechanical 
design using approved methods. No new or altered design limits need to 
be applied, nor are any required for this program for the purposes of 
10 CFR part 50, Appendix A, ``General Design Criteria for Nuclear Power 
Plants,'' Criterion 10, ``Reactor Design.'' The licensee has evaluated 
the areas of the mechanical design that could potentially be impacted 
by M5 cladding, namely, material properties, corrosion, internal rod 
pressures, fatigue, growth, rod bow, and thermal creep. The material 
properties of M5 cladding are similar in many respects to those of 
approved Zircaloy type cladding; those properties that differ have been 
evaluated by the NRC staff and found to be acceptable. The licensee 
determined that the M5 cladding had better corrosion performance than 
the Zircaloy-4 cladding, and compatible thermal creep. On this basis, 
the NRC staff finds that the use of M5 cladding for the mechanical 
design of the LTAs is acceptable, subject to appropriate implementation 
of the NRC staff-approved analysis methodology.
    The licensee has performed evaluations of the nuclear design for a 
core using MOX LTAs. The licensee states that the MOX LTAs will not be 
positioned in the highest power locations. The licensee determined that 
the MOX LTA design features will not have a significant impact on the 
overall core nuclear design. In accordance with approved core reload 
analysis methodology, the licensee will confirm this conclusion for 
each reload. M5 cladding is very similar to Zircaloy-4 materials in 
chemical composition and neutronic properties; differences in these 
properties have previously been evaluated by the NRC staff. Approved 
licensee reload methodologies can be used to model the LTAs since the 
features of the LTAs do not challenge the validity of the standard 
methodologies. Given the limited number of LTAs to be installed, the 
installation in non-limiting locations, and the results of analyses 
using approved methodology, the NRC staff concludes that the LTA core 
nuclear design is acceptable for use at Catawba.
    The licensee has performed evaluations of the core thermal-
hydraulic design using approved methods. The design analyses covered 
the MOX LTA impact on the resident fuel (fuel in the core other than of 
the MOX design), including departure from nucleate boiling, pressure 
drop, assembly lift, and lateral flow. The results show that the 
resident fuel analyses will bound the MOX LTA performance. Thus, the 
licensee assures that the thermal-hydraulic design of a reactor core 
containing the resident Westinghouse fuel designs and the MOX LTA 
design will meet applicable requirements. The licensee has shown that 
MOX fuel heat transfer properties are very similar to low-enriched 
uranium (LEU) fuel properties and are capable of being modeled with 
currently approved codes. The NRC staff has confirmed that the licensee 
has evaluated the nuclear heat transfer properties and cooling 
requirements for the four MOX LTAs using approved codes and concludes 
that sufficient capability exists at Catawba to provide adequate core 
cooling. Based on the approved methodology and conservative analyses, 
the NRC staff concludes that the LTA thermal-hydraulic design has been 
adequately evaluated and is acceptable.
    The licensee has performed a LOCA safety analysis using the 
approved methodology for LTAs with M5 cladding. Section 50.46 
identifies acceptance criteria for ECCS performance at nuclear power 
plants. The material properties of M5 cladding are very similar to 
those of Zircaloy-4 materials. Because the current analyses are done 
with material properties that approximate Zircaloy-4 properties, the 
current ECCS analysis remains applicable and unchanged for the LTAs. 
Therefore, the NRC staff concludes that the ECCS performance at Catawba 
will not be adversely affected by the insertion of MOX LTAs. As such, 
the licensee has achieved the underlying purpose of 10 CFR 50.46. 
Therefore, special circumstances exist to grant an exemption from 10 
CFR 50.46 to allow the use of M5 cladding.
    Paragraph I.A.5 of Appendix K to 10 CFR part 50 states that the 
rates of energy release, hydrogen generation, and cladding oxidation 
from the metal-water reaction shall be calculated using the Baker-Just 
equation. Since the Baker-Just equation assumes the use of Zircaloy-4 
clad fuel, strict application of the rule would not permit use of the 
equation with M5 cladding for determining acceptable fuel performance. 
The underlying intent of paragraph I.A.5 of Appendix K to 10 CFR part 
50, however, is to ensure that analysis of fuel response to LOCAs is 
conservatively calculated. As previously evaluated by the NRC staff in 
its approval of the M5 topical report, the application of the Baker-
Just equation in the analysis of M5 clad fuel will

[[Page 11714]]

conservatively bound all post-LOCA scenarios. Thus, the underlying 
purpose of the rule will be met. Therefore, special circumstances exist 
to grant an exemption from Appendix K to 10 CFR part 50 that would 
allow the licensee to apply the Baker-Just equation to M5 cladding.
    The NRC staff examined the licensee's rationale to support the 
exemption request and, for the reasons set forth above, concludes that 
MOX LTAs using M5 cladding will meet the underlying purpose of 10 CFR 
50.46 and Appendix K to 10 CFR part 50. Further, the NRC staff has 
determined that the use of M5 cladding will have no significant effect 
on current assessments of a metal-water reaction, and that the 
mechanical design of the LTAs would perform satisfactorily. Therefore, 
ECCS performance will not be adversely affected and complete 
application of 10 CFR 50.46 and Appendix K to 10 CFR part 50 is not 
necessary to achieve the underlying purpose. Based upon the 
considerations above, the NRC staff concludes that, pursuant to 10 CFR 
50.12(a)(2), the granting of an exemption to allow the use of M5 
cladding is acceptable.

Fuel Exemption

    With respect to the use of MOX fuel, the regulation in 10 CFR 
50.46(a)(1)(I) contains acceptance criteria for ECCSs for reactors 
``fueled with uranium oxide pellets.'' In addition, Appendix K to 10 
CFR part 50 contains several references, including paragraph I.A.1, 
``The Initial Stored Energy in the Fuel,'' that assume that only 
uranium dioxide fuel pellets are being used. Thus, an exemption from 
the requirements of 10 CFR 50.46(a)(1)(I) and Appendix K to 10 CFR part 
50 is needed for the licensee to irradiate the LTAs that include fuel 
rods containing MOX fuel pellets. The underlying purpose of 10 CFR 
50.46 and Appendix K to 10 CFR part 50, paragraph I.A.1, is to 
establish acceptance criteria for ECCS performance and to ensure that 
the evaluation model contains provisions for conservatively assessing 
the amount of stored heat in the fuel at the onset of a postulated LOCA 
by adequately modeling the thermal conductivity of the fuel material 
and the fuel-to-cladding gap conductance. The thermal and material 
properties of MOX fuel have been evaluated using NRC staff-approved 
methods. The licensee has demonstrated that the MOX fuel properties are 
very similar to those of LEU fuel such that the differences in the 
Catawba ECCS performance arising from the MOX thermal and material 
properties are negligible. Therefore, the underlying purposes of 
Section 50.46 and paragraph I.A.1 of Appendix K to 10 CFR part 50 are 
achieved with the use of MOX fuel.
    The licensee states that for each reload, it will perform reload 
analyses to confirm adequate ECCS performance, and show that the LTAs 
do not have a significant impact upon the analysis at Catawba. Because 
the LTAs contribute to the ECCS requirements in a very minor way, the 
current analyses will remain bounding for them. The MOX LTAs will be 
placed in core locations that will not experience the most limiting 
power peaking during any operating cycle. In each reload analysis, the 
licensee will verify that the peak cladding temperature (PCT) of the 
MOX LTAs is not the limiting PCT. Using the Baker-Just equation, the 
licensee will confirm that the local cladding oxidation of the LTAs 
will be conservatively predicted. In addition, the licensee will 
confirm that the maximum hydrogen generation will be unchanged with the 
inclusion of the LTAs. Therefore, a coolable geometry will be 
maintained following a LOCA. The MOX LTAs meet the same design 
requirements as the resident fuel for Catawba. No safety limits or 
setpoints have been altered as a result of the use of the LTAs. On 
these bases, the NRC staff finds that the complete application of 10 
CFR 50.46 and Appendix K to 10 CFR part 50 for MOX fuel is not 
necessary to achieve the underlying purpose of the rule. Accordingly, 
the NRC staff concludes that it is acceptable to grant an exemption 
from the requirements of 10 CFR 50.46, and Appendix K to 10 CFR part 50 
for LTAs using MOX fuel at Catawba.

4.0 F Conclusion for Part 50 Exemptions for M5 Cladding and MOX Fuel

    For the reasons set forth above, the Commission has determined 
that, pursuant to 10 CFR 50.12(a), the exemption is authorized by law, 
will not present an undue risk to the public health and safety, and is 
consistent with the common defense and security. Also, special 
circumstances, as described above, are present. Therefore, the 
Commission hereby grants Duke Energy Corporation an exemption from the 
requirements of 10 CFR 50.46(a)(1)(I), and Appendix K to 10 CFR part 
50, with respect to the use of M5 cladding and MOX fuel at Catawba.

5.0 Discussion of Part 11 and Part 73 Exemptions

    Pursuant to 10 CFR 11.9, ``Specific exemptions,'' the Commission 
may, upon application by any interested party, grant exemptions from 
the requirements of 10 CFR part 11, ``Criteria and Procedures for 
Determining Eligibility for Access to or Control Over Special Nuclear 
Material,'' when the exemptions are authorized by law and will not 
constitute an undue risk to the common defense and security. Pursuant 
to 10 CFR 73.5, ``Specific exemptions,'' the Commission may, upon 
application by any interested person or on its own initiative, grant 
exemptions from the requirements of 10 CFR part 73, ``Physical 
Protection of Plants and Materials,'' when the exemptions are 
authorized by law and will not endanger life or property or the common 
defense and security, and are otherwise in the public interest.
    Duke Energy has requested relief from certain regulations in 10 CFR 
part 11 and 10 CFR part 73. The licensee request for exemptions from 
part 11 was evaluated against the standard specified in 10 CFR 11.9, 
while the request for exemptions from part 73 was evaluated against the 
standard specified in 10 CFR 73.5.
    The NRC staff reviewed the proposed exemptions using the 
information provided in the Duke Energy Corporation license amendment 
request; Revision 16 of the Duke Power Company Nuclear Security and 
Contingency Plan (Physical Security Plan (PSP)), Section 13.3; and the 
Duke responses to NRC staff requests for additional information (RAI). 
To determine whether the specific exemptions should be granted, the NRC 
staff utilized the criteria specified in the Review Plan for Evaluating 
the Physical Security Protection Measures Needed for Mixed Oxide Fuel 
and Its Use in Commercial Nuclear Power Reactors, dated January 29, 
2004. The NRC staff review was consistent with the Commission 
Memorandum and Order, CLI-04-06, dated February 18, 2004. The NRC staff 
assumed as a baseline that the Catawba facility will comply with all 
applicable general security requirements, both those prescribed in NRC 
rules and those prescribed by NRC order. Specifically, the NRC staff 
reviewed the appropriate heightening of security measures necessitated 
by the proposed presence of MOX LTAs at the Catawba Nuclear Power 
Station.
    The underlying purpose of 10 CFR part 11 is to establish the 
requirement for access authorization. Part 11 requires licensees 
possessing a formula quantity of SNM that is subject to the 
requirements of 10 CFR part 73 to identify personnel requiring NRC-U or 
NRC-R access authorizations. A formula quantity of SSNM, as defined in 
10 CFR part 73, includes MOX LTA fuel. An

[[Page 11715]]

exemption is provided by 10 CFR 73.6, in part, from Sections 73.45 and 
73.46 for the categories of material defined therein, which include 
conventional LEU fuel (enriched to less than 20 percent in U-235). 
Accordingly, the licensee is not subject to the requirements of 10 CFR 
11.11 for the use of LEU fuel. However, since there is no comparable 
exclusion in Section 73.6 for fuel initially containing a small 
concentration of plutonium, the requirements of 10 CFR 11.11 become 
applicable to the licensee for the use of MOX, unless an exemption is 
granted pursuant to 10 CFR 11.9.
    The NRC staff has found that the MOX material, while technically 
meeting the criteria of a formula quantity, is not attractive to 
potential adversaries from a proliferation standpoint due to its low Pu 
concentration, composition, and form (size and weight). The MOX fuel 
consists of Pu oxide particles dispersed in a ceramic matrix of 
depleted uranium oxide with a Pu concentration of less than six weight 
percent. The MOX LTAs will consist of conventional fuel assemblies 
designed for a commercial light-water power reactor that are over 12 
feet long and weigh approximately 1500 pounds. On these bases, the NRC 
staff finds that the complete application of 10 CFR 11.11 is not 
necessary, and the exemption is authorized by law and will not 
constitute an undue risk to the common defense and security. 
Accordingly, pursuant to 10 CFR 11.9, based upon the physical 
characteristics of the MOX LTAs and the proposed additional protective 
measures, the NRC staff concludes that it is acceptable to grant an 
exemption from the requirements of 10 CFR 11.11(a)(1)-(a)(2), and 
11.11(b).
    The underlying purpose of 10 CFR part 73 is to prescribe 
requirements for the establishment and maintenance of a physical 
protection system that will have capabilities for the protection of 
SSNM at fixed sites and in transit. As noted above, an exemption is 
provided by Section 73.6 for the licensee in its use of conventional 
LEU fuel enriched to less than 20 percent U-235, but not for fresh MOX 
fuel containing Pu. The NRC staff found that the MOX material, while 
technically meeting the criteria of a formula quantity, is not 
attractive to potential adversaries from a proliferation standpoint due 
to its low Pu concentration, composition, and form (size and weight). 
The MOX fuel consists of Pu oxide particles dispersed in a ceramic 
matrix of depleted uranium oxide with a Pu concentration of less than 
six weight percent. The MOX LTAs will consist of conventional fuel 
assemblies designed for a commercial light-water power reactor that are 
over 12 feet long and weigh approximately 1500 pounds. A large quantity 
of MOX fuel and an elaborate extraction process would be required to 
yield enough material for use in an improvised nuclear device or 
weapon. On these bases, the NRC staff finds that the complete 
application of 10 CFR 73.45(d)(1)(iv), 73.46(c)(1), 73.46(h)(3), 
73.46(b)(3)-(b)(12), 73.46(d)(9), and 73.46(e)(3) for MOX fuel is not 
necessary and that the exemptions are authorized by law and will not 
endanger life or property or the common defense and security and are 
otherwise in the public interest.
    Accordingly, based on the physical characteristics of the MOX LTAs 
and the proposed additional protective measures, the NRC staff, 
pursuant to 10 CFR 73.5, concludes that it is acceptable to grant an 
exemption from these portions of 10 CFR part 73.

6.0 Conclusion for Part 11 and Part 73 Exemptions

    For the reasons set forth above, the Commission has determined 
that, pursuant to 10 CFR 11.9, the requested exemptions are authorized 
by law and will not constitute an undue risk to the common defense and 
security. In addition, pursuant to 10 CFR 73.5, the exemptions are 
authorized by law, will not endanger life or property or the common 
defense and security, and are otherwise in the public interest. 
Therefore, the Commission hereby grants Duke Energy Corporation the 
requested exemptions from the requirements of 10 CFR 11.11(a)(1)-
(a)(2), 10 CFR 11.11(b), and 10 CFR 73.45(d)(1)(iv), 73.46(c)(1), 
73.46(h)(3), 73.46(b)(3)-(b)(12), 73.46(d)(9), and 73.46(e)(3).

7.0 Environmental Evaluation

    Pursuant to 10 CFR 51.32, the Commission has determined that the 
granting of this exemption will not have a significant effect on the 
quality of the human environment (69 FR 51112 and 70 FR 8849).
    This exemption is effective upon issuance.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 3rd day of March 2005.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Ledyard B. Marsh,
Director, Division of Licensing Project Management, Office of Nuclear 
Reactor Regulation.
[FR Doc. 05-4548 Filed 3-8-05; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7590-01-P