[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 216 (Wednesday, November 9, 2005)]
[Notices]
[Pages 68106-68114]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 05-22315]


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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

[Docket No. 50-271]


Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC and Entergy Nuclear 
Operations, Inc.; Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station Draft 
Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact Related 
to the Proposed License Amendment To Increase the Maximum Reactor Power 
Level

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or the Commission).

ACTION: Notice of opportunity for public comment.

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SUMMARY: The NRC has prepared a draft Environmental Assessment as its 
evaluation of a request by Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC and 
Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc. (Entergy or the licensee) for a 
license amendment to increase the maximum thermal power at Vermont 
Yankee Nuclear Power Station (VYNPS) from 1593 megawatts-thermal (MWt) 
to 1912 MWt. This represents a power increase of approximately 20 
percent for VYNPS.

[[Page 68107]]

As stated in the NRC staff's position paper dated February 8, 1996, on 
the Boiling-Water Reactor Extended Power Uprate (EPU) Program, the NRC 
staff will prepare an environmental impact statement if it believes a 
power uprate will have a significant impact on the human environment. 
The NRC staff did not identify any significant impact from the 
information provided in the licensee's EPU application for VYNPS or the 
NRC staff's independent review; therefore, the NRC staff is documenting 
its environmental review in an environmental assessment. Also, in 
accordance with the staff's position paper, the draft environmental 
assessment and finding of no significant impact is being published in 
the Federal Register with a 30-day public comment period.

DATES: The comment period expires December 9, 2005. Comments received 
after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the 
Commission is only able to assure consideration of comments received on 
or before December 9, 2005.

ADDRESSES: Submit written comments to Chief, Rules and Directives 
Branch, Office of Administration, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 
Mail Stop T-6D59, Washington, DC 20555-0001. Written comments may also 
be delivered to 11545 Rockville Pike, Room T-6D59, Rockville, Maryland 
20852 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Federal workdays. Copies of 
written comments received will be accessible electronically from the 
Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) Public 
Electronic Reading Room on the NRC Web site, http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. Persons who do not have access to ADAMS or who 
encounter problems in accessing the documents located in ADAMS should 
contact the NRC Public Document Room (PDR) Reference staff at 1-800-
397-4209, or 301-415-4737, or send an e-mail to [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The NRC is considering issuance of an 
amendment to Facility Operating License No. DPR-28 issued to Entergy 
for operation of VYNPS located in Windham County, Vermont.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Richard B. Ennis, Office of Nuclear 
Reactor Regulation, Mail Stop O-8B1, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, by telephone at (301) 415-1420, 
or by e-mail at [email protected].

Environmental Assessment

Plant Site and Environs

    The EPU will apply to the facilities at the site of VYNPS located 
on the west shore of the Connecticut River in the town of Vernon, 
Vermont. Vernon is approximately four miles north of the Massachusetts 
state line. Vernon is located in Windham County.
    The VYNPS site is located on Vernon Pond on the Connecticut River, 
about two-thirds of a mile upstream of the Vernon Hydroelectric Dam, at 
Connecticut River mile 142. Vernon Pond is the portion of the 
Connecticut River above Vernon Hydroelectric Dam. The site is 
surrounded by the Connecticut River on the east, by farm and pasture 
land mixed with wooded areas on the north and south, and by the town of 
Vernon on the west. The elevation of the VYNPS site is approximately 76 
meters (250 feet) above mean sea level.
    Northeast of the site, the Pisgah Mountain range rises to 457 
meters (1500 feet). To the west and northwest of the site, mountains 
and hills rise to 549 meters (1800 feet). Approximately 13 kilometers 
(km) (8 miles (mi)) southeast of the site are Warwick State Forest and 
Northfield State Forest. Colrain State Forest is approximately 29 km 
(18 mi) southwest of Vernon. Green Mountain National Forest is located 
approximately 48 km (30 mi) west of Vernon.
    VYNPS is a single-unit boiling-water reactor designed by General 
Electric, with a maximum reactor core power level output of 1593 MWt. 
Plant cooling is provided by either an open-cycle system, a closed-
cycle cooling system, or a helper-cycle system. The mode of operation 
is selected to limit the heat discharged to the Connecticut River. The 
closed-cycle cooling system is equipped with a cooling tower that 
dissipates heat primarily to the atmosphere. After passing through the 
condenser, circulating water rejects waste heat to the atmosphere 
utilizing the cooling tower. Remaining waste heat is discharged in the 
form of blowdown from the circulating water system into the Connecticut 
River. In the open-cycle mode, no water passes through the cooling 
towers. Water is removed from the Connecticut River for cooling and 
discharged back to the Connecticut River downstream of the intake 
structure. In the helper-cycle mode, a portion of the water discharged 
from the condensers is cycled through the cooling towers before being 
discharged to the Connecticut River.

Identification of the Proposed Action

    By letter dated September 10, 2003, Entergy proposed an amendment 
to the operating license for VYNPS to increase the maximum thermal 
power level by approximately 20 percent, from 1593 MWt to 1912 MWt. The 
change is considered an EPU because it would raise the reactor core 
power level more than 7 percent above the original licensed maximum 
power level. This amendment would allow the heat output of the reactor 
to increase, which would increase the flow of steam to the turbine. 
This would result in the increase in production of electricity and the 
amount of waste heat delivered to the condenser, and an increase in the 
temperature of the water being discharged into the Connecticut River. 
This is the first request by Entergy for a power uprate at VYNPS; no 
other power uprates have previously been requested or granted for this 
site.

The Need for the Proposed Action

    Entergy estimates that the EPU will result in an additional 100 to 
110 megawatts-electric being generated. This additional electricity 
generation can power approximately 110,000 extra homes, reducing the 
need to obtain electricity from other sources. The EPU can be 
implemented without substantial capital investment and would not cause 
the environmental impacts that would occur if construction of a new 
power generation facility were sought to meet the region's electricity 
needs.

Environmental Impacts of the Proposed Action

    At the time of issuance of the operating license for VYNPS, the NRC 
staff noted that any activity authorized by the license would be 
encompassed by the overall action evaluated in the Final Environmental 
Statement (FES) for the operation of VYNPS, which was issued in July 
1972. This environmental assessment summarizes the radiological and 
non-radiological impacts on the environment that may result from the 
currently proposed action.

Non-Radiological Impacts

Land Use Impacts

    The potential impacts associated with land use for the proposed 
action include impacts from construction and plant modifications. The 
impacts from construction due to the proposed EPU are minimal. No 
expansion of roads, parking lots, equipment storage or laydown areas, 
or onsite transmission and distribution equipment including 
transmission line rights-of-way is anticipated to support the proposed

[[Page 68108]]

action. The only new construction required to support the EPU is the 
installation of temporary office space using modular units. This 
resulted in minor soil disturbance due to trenching, setting foundation 
columns, hook-up of water, sewer, telephone, and electricity.
    In addition, a few modifications to plant equipment will take place 
to support the EPU. The most significant modifications include 
replacement of the high-pressure turbine steam path, rewinding the main 
generator, replacement of four high-pressure heaters, and replacement 
of the main transformer. The plant modifications will not result in any 
changes in land use and historic and archeological resources should not 
be affected by the proposed EPU. The proposed EPU would not modify land 
use at the site significantly over that described in the FES. 
Therefore, the staff concludes that the environmental land use impacts 
of the proposed EPU are bounded by the impacts previously evaluated in 
the FES.

Cooling Tower Impacts

    The potential impacts associated with increased cooling tower 
operation for the proposed action include aesthetic impacts due to the 
increased moisture content of the air. VYNPS has cooling towers that 
are currently used to reduce the heat output to the environment. The 
cooling towers are not currently used during the ``winter period'' of 
October 15 through May 15, but following the EPU, the cooling towers 
may be required for this period in order to meet the water discharge 
thermal limits set forth in the National Pollutant Discharge 
Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The operation of the cooling towers 
during the ``winter period'' will result in a visible plume. However, 
heat rejection rates during this period are less than during the 
``summer period'' of May 16 to October 14, so the visible plume size 
will not be larger than during the remainder of the year. The cooling 
tower plume dimensions during the ``summer period'' will increase 
following the EPU. The dimensions will increase by approximately 100 
meters in length, 20 to 30 meters in width, and up to 50 meters in 
height. The increase in plume dimensions during the ``summer period'' 
and the presence of a plume during the ``winter period'' will not cause 
a significant aesthetic impact because similar plumes have been present 
in the area of VYNPS since 1972, and industrial plumes are a common 
feature to the Connecticut River Valley.
    No significant fogging or icing due to cooling tower operation is 
predicted for the EPU. The Seasonal/Annual Cooling Tower Impact Program 
evaluation determined that there is no predicted ground-level fogging 
or icing during the year. The evaluation was performed for NPDES 
``summer period'' and ``winter period'' thermal discharge limits.
    No significant increase in noise is anticipated for cooling tower 
operation following the EPU. A study performed on the VYNPS cooling 
tower resulted in sound increases of less than one decibel for the 
increased cooling tower operation.
    The aesthetic impacts associated with increased cooling tower 
operation for the proposed action will not change significantly over 
the aesthetic impacts associated with current cooling tower operation. 
Plume dimensions will increase, but will remain consistent with the 
current aesthetic impacts in the VYNPS environment. No significant 
fogging or icing is predicted, and no significant increase in noise 
level is predicted for the increased cooling tower operation. 
Therefore, the staff concludes that there are no significant aesthetic 
or atmospheric impacts associated with increased cooling tower 
operation for the proposed action.

Transmission Facility Impacts

    The potential impacts associated with transmission facilities for 
the proposed action could include changes in transmission line corridor 
right-of-way maintenance and electric shock hazards due to increased 
current. The proposed EPU would not require any physical modifications 
to the transmission lines. Entergy's transmission line right-of-way 
maintenance practices, including the management of vegetation growth, 
would not change. There will be no change to operating voltage or 
transmission line rights-of-way. Transmission line clearances will 
remain unchanged. Modifications to onsite transmission equipment are 
necessary to support the EPU, including replacement of the high-
pressure turbine steam path, rewind of the main generator, replacement 
of four high-pressure heaters, and replacement of the main transformer.
    The National Electric Safety Code (NESC) provides design criteria 
that limit hazards from steady-state currents. The transmission lines 
currently meet the applicable shock prevention provisions of the NESC. 
There will be an increase in current passing through the transmission 
lines associated with the increased power level of the proposed EPU. 
The increased electrical current passing through the transmission lines 
will cause an increase in electromagnetic field strength in the 
transmission line corridors. The licensee evaluated the transmission 
line loadings based on the approximately 20-percent power uprate and 
concluded that there will be no significant increase in the risk of 
shock under the transmission lines. Based on this information, the 
staff concludes that adequate protection will be provided against 
hazards from electric shock even with the slight increase in current 
attributable to the EPU.
    The impacts associated with transmission facilities for the 
proposed action will not change significantly over the impacts 
associated with current plant operation. There are no physical 
modifications to the transmission lines, transmission line right-of-way 
maintenance practices will not change, there are no changes to 
transmission line rights-of-way or vertical clearances, and electric 
current passing through the transmission lines will increase only 
slightly. Therefore, the staff concludes that there are no significant 
impacts associated with transmission facilities for the proposed 
action.

Water Use Impacts

    Potential water use impacts from the proposed action include 
hydrological alterations to the Connecticut River and changes to plant 
water supply. VYNPS uses cooling water from Vernon Pond on the 
Connecticut River, and discharges heated water back to the Connecticut 
River. Vernon Pond is the portion of the Connecticut River above Vernon 
Hydroelectric Dam. VYNPS can be operated in one of three modes: The 
open-cycle mode, the closed-cycle mode, or the helper-cycle mode. The 
mode of operation is selected to limit the heat discharged to the 
Connecticut River. In the open-cycle mode, no water passes through the 
cooling towers. Water is removed from the Connecticut River for cooling 
and discharged to a point downstream. In the closed-cycle mode, the 
total cooling water discharge flow is pumped from the plant to the 
cooling towers for heat dissipation. Cooling tower blowdown is 
discharged back to the Connecticut River. In the helper-cycle mode, 
only a portion of the cooling water discharge flow is cycled through 
the cooling towers before being discharged to the Connecticut River.
    The NPDES permit limits the amount of heat discharged to the 
Connecticut River from the operation of VYNPS. The thermal limit set in 
the NPDES permit will not change with the EPU. In order to comply with 
the NPDES thermal limit following the EPU, Entergy plans to operate the 
cooling towers more often to dissipate heat to the atmosphere rather 
than the river.

[[Page 68109]]

    Due to the large flow rate of the Connecticut River, heated water 
discharged to the Connecticut River will begin to mix immediately with 
the river water and cool. A hydrological-biological study of Vernon 
Pond conducted in 1974-1977 included a thermal study. This study 
concluded that during periods of low flow in the Connecticut River, the 
thermal plume from the VYNPS discharge extends outward into the river 
channel before being swept downstream. During periods of high flow in 
the Connecticut River, the strong river currents shear the thermal 
plume and force the plume to flow along the Vermont shore. Due to these 
flow patterns in the Connecticut River and the thermal limits set in 
the NPDES permit, the EPU should not cause hydrological alterations to 
the Connecticut River.
    The EPU would not involve any configuration change to the intake 
structure. The pump capacity will not change, so that there will not be 
an increase in the rate of withdrawal of water from the Connecticut 
River. There would be a slight increase in the amount of Connecticut 
River water consumed as a result of the EPU under all cooling modes of 
operation due to increased evaporative losses. During the NPDES summer 
period (May 16 to October 14), the increased water consumption will be 
less than 0.1% of the average monthly river flow. During the NPDES 
winter period (October 15 to May 15), the increased water consumption 
will be less than 0.2% of the average monthly river flow. Therefore, 
the increased loss is insignificant relative to the flow in the 
Connecticut River. On this basis, the staff concludes that there is no 
significant impact to the hydrological pattern on the Connecticut 
River, and there is no significant impact due to water consumption as a 
result of the proposed action.

Discharge Impacts

    Potential impacts to the Connecticut River from the VYNPS discharge 
could include increased turbidity, scouring, erosion, and 
sedimentation. These discharge-related impacts apply to open-cycle flow 
due to the large volume of water discharged to the river. However, 
since the EPU will not result in any significant change in the amount 
of water withdrawn from the Connecticut River during open-cycle 
operation, there will be no significant change in the discharge volume 
or velocity; therefore, there will be no changes in turbidity, 
scouring, erosion, or sedimentation related to the EPU.
    Surface water and wastewater discharges at VYNPS are regulated by 
the State of Vermont via a NPDES permit (NPDES No. VT0000264). The 
NPDES permit is periodically reviewed and renewed by the Agency of 
Natural Resources (ANR), Department of Environmental Conservation in 
Waterbury, Vermont. The EPU would cause an increase in the temperature 
of the water discharged to the Connecticut River, but the temperature 
of the water discharged will remain within thermal limits specified in 
the NPDES permit. The blowdown from the increased usage of the cooling 
towers would also be discharged to the Connecticut River. There is no 
significant additional impact to the Connecticut River expected from 
the increased operation of the cooling towers because cooling tower 
blowdown will increase only slightly due to minor increased usage of 
the cooling towers.
    Entergy is requesting an amendment to the NPDES permit to allow a 
one-degree increase in the thermal discharge limit, for certain river 
water temperature ranges, for the ``summer period'' as shown in Table 
1.

              Table 1.--Proposed Summer NPDES Permit Change
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Existing delta-    Proposed delta-
    Upstream river temperature         temperature        temperature
                                     increase limit      increase limit
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Above 78 [deg]F..................  2 [deg]F..........  2 [deg]F
Greater than 63 [deg]F, Less than  2 [deg]F..........  3 [deg]F
 or equal to 78 [deg]F.
Greater than 59 [deg]F, Less than  3 [deg]F..........  4 [deg]F
 or equal to 63 [deg]F.
Greater than or equal to 55        4 [deg]F..........  5 [deg]F
 [deg]F, Less than or equal to 59
 [deg]F.
Below 55 [deg]F..................  5 [deg]F..........  5 [deg]F
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The NPDES permit amendment is not necessary for the EPU, and VYNPS 
will continue to operate under the current thermal discharge limits 
(under either the current NRC license or the EPU) if the NPDES permit 
amendment is not granted.
    VYNPS has been operating within the current NPDES limits; 
therefore, these thermal limits represent an upper bound of the current 
impact on the river water temperatures in the vicinity of the 
discharge. The proposed one-degree increase in the current NPDES 
thermal discharge limit similarly represents the expected upper bound 
of the impact on the river water temperatures during the EPU. VYNPS 
will comply with the current thermal limits in the NPDES permit 
following the EPU if the NPDES permit amendment request is not granted, 
and any discharge impacts for the proposed action will be the same as 
the current impacts from plant operation. Therefore, the staff 
concludes that there will be no significant impact on the Connecticut 
River from VYNPS discharge for the proposed action.
    Chemicals and concentrations released from VYNPS into the 
Connecticut River are regulated by the State of Vermont through the 
NPDES permit. VYNPS will continue to operate within the current NPDES 
permit limits following the power uprate.
    Since there will be no increase in the VYNPS staffing levels during 
operations as a result of the power uprate, there will also be no 
increase in sanitary waste.

Impacts on Aquatic Biota

    The potential impacts to aquatic biota from the proposed action 
include impingement, entrainment, thermal discharge effects, and 
impacts due to transmission line right-of-way maintenance. The VYNPS 
has intake and discharge structures on the Connecticut River. The 
aquatic species evaluated in this environmental assessment are those in 
the vicinity of the intake and discharge structures.
    VYNPS does entrain and impinge aquatic species. Entrainment and 
impingement of aquatic species are covered in the NPDES permit under 
section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act. Entrainment was monitored for 
over a decade beginning in 1972, and determined to be insignificant by 
the Environmental Advisory Committee. The Environmental Advisory 
Committee is made up of Vermont Department of Environmental 
Conservation, Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, New Hampshire 
Fish and Game Department, New Hampshire Department of Environmental 
Services, Massachusetts Office of Watershed Management, Massachusetts 
Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Coordinator of the 
Connecticut River Anadromous Fish restoration program of the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service. The Vermont ANR concluded that no further 
entrainment sampling was required following historical studies 
conducted during the same time period, and dropped entrainment from the 
NPDES permit. Entrainment is no longer monitored at VYNPS. The ANR 
determined that entrainment sampling should be replaced with 
alternative biological monitoring of species in the Connecticut River. 
Therefore, since the 1980's, the licensee has conducted extensive 
monitoring as required by the ANR to determine if there are any 
potential

[[Page 68110]]

impacts to aquatic species in the VYNPS intake and discharge areas. 
These procedures are not expected to change following the EPU.
    Impingement is monitored annually and is considered low. Ecological 
studies of the Connecticut River Vernon, Vermont Report 32, dated May 
2003, describes how Entergy meets the requirements of the NPDES permit 
through impingement sampling. During 2002, 27 species of fish were 
collected, and all fish species collected were typical of the 
Connecticut River drainage. The Environmental Advisory Committee has 
established limits for impingement of American shad and Atlantic 
salmon, and VYNPS has never approached the impingement limits set for 
these species. Since VYNPS has never approached the impingement limits 
set for American shad and Atlantic salmon, the ANR has concluded that 
impingement of other species at VYNPS meets applicable laws. The flow 
rate of water being withdrawn from the Connecticut River through the 
intake structure will not increase following the EPU, and there will 
not be any configuration change to the intake structure to support the 
EPU. Therefore, no increase in the impingement of fish or shellfish, or 
in the entrainment of planktonic organisms would be expected following 
the EPU.
    On July 9, 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 
published a final rule in the Federal Register (69 FR 41575) addressing 
cooling water intake structures at existing power plants whose flow 
levels exceed a minimum threshold value of 50 million gallons per day. 
The rule is Phase II in EPA's development of section 316(b) regulations 
that establish national requirements applicable to the location, 
design, construction, and capacity of cooling water intake structures 
at existing facilities that exceed the threshold value for water 
withdrawals. The national requirements, which are implemented through 
NPDES permits, minimize the adverse environmental impacts associated 
with the continued use of the intake systems. Licensees are required to 
demonstrate compliance with the Phase II performance standards at the 
time of renewal of their NPDES permit. Licensees may be required, as 
part of the NPDES renewal, to alter the intake structure, redesign the 
cooling system, modify station operation, or take other mitigative 
measures as a result of this regulation. The new performance standards 
are designed to reduce significantly impingement and entrainment losses 
due to plant operation. Any site-specific mitigation would result in 
less impact due to continued plant operation.
    The NPDES permit limits the amount of heat discharged to the 
Connecticut River from the operation of VYNPS. An analysis conducted in 
accordance with the NPDES permit on fish and aquatic species in 2002 
concluded that there is no significant negative relationship between 
these species and the thermal discharge. Actually, a larger community 
of aquatic species was found to colonize near the VYNPS discharge. This 
thermal limit specified in the NPDES permit will not change with the 
EPU. Because Entergy will continue to meet the thermal discharge limit 
set by the NPDES permit following the EPU, there should be no 
additional thermal discharge effects on aquatic species for the 
proposed action.
    As discussed in the transmission facility impacts section of this 
environmental assessment, transmission line right-of-way maintenance 
practices will not change for the proposed action. Therefore, the staff 
concludes that there are no significant impacts to aquatic biota 
associated with transmission line right-of-way maintenance for the 
proposed action.
    In conclusion, there will be no increase in the impacts of 
entrainment or impingement because there will be no increase in the 
flow rate of water being withdrawn from the Connecticut River, and the 
amount of heat discharged to the Connecticut River will remain within 
the thermal limit specified by the NPDES permit following the EPU. 
There are no changes in transmission line right-of-way maintenance 
associated with the proposed action. Therefore, the staff concludes 
that there are no significant impacts to aquatic biota for the proposed 
action.

Impacts on Terrestrial Biota

    The potential impacts to terrestrial biota from the proposed action 
include impacts due to construction activities and transmission line 
right-of-way maintenance. As discussed in the transmission facility 
impacts section of this environmental assessment, transmission line 
right-of-way maintenance practices will not change for the proposed 
action. Similarly, as discussed above, apart from the construction of 
temporary office space using modular units, construction activities due 
to the EPU will not disturb land on the VYNPS site. Therefore, the 
staff concludes that there are no significant impacts to terrestrial 
plant or animal species associated with construction activities or 
transmission line right-of-way maintenance for the proposed action.

Impacts on Threatened and Endangered Species

    Potential impacts to threatened and endangered species from the 
proposed action include the impacts assessed in the aquatic and 
terrestrial biota sections of this environmental assessment. These 
impacts include impingement, entrainment, thermal discharge effects, 
and impacts due to transmission line right-of-way maintenance for 
aquatic species, and impacts due to transmission line right-of-way 
maintenance for terrestrial species.
    There are three species listed as threatened or endangered under 
the Federal Endangered Species Act within Windham County, Vermont. 
These are the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Indiana Bat 
(Myotis sodalis), and Northeastern Bulrush (Scirpus ancistrochaetus). 
There are no records of any of these species on the VYNPS site. 
However, no formal surveys have been conducted by Entergy or the State 
of Vermont on the VYNPS site. Critical habitat has been designated for 
the Indiana Bat (M. sodalis), but not in the State of Vermont. Critical 
habitat has not been designated for the Bald Eagle (H. leucocephalus) 
or the Northeastern Bulrush (S. ancistrochaetus). There is a Bald Eagle 
(H. leucocephalus) nest downstream of the VYNPS site, on Stebbins 
Island in New Hampshire, and Bald Eagles (H. leucocephalus) have been 
observed flying over the VYNPS site. However, the Bald Eagle (H. 
leucocephalus) should not be impacted by the EPU because there are no 
Bald Eagles (H. leucocephalus) on the site and the NPDES permit 
includes provisions for protection of the Bald Eagle (H. leucocephalus) 
habitat.
    There are no threatened and endangered aquatic species in the 
Connecticut River. Ecological Studies of the Connecticut River Vernon, 
Vermont Report 32, dated May 2003, describes how Entergy meets the 
requirements of the NPDES permit through impingement sampling. An 
analysis of this report determined that no Federally-listed threatened 
or endangered species were collected.
    The Vermont Nongame and Natural Heritage Program, associated with 
the Vermont Department of Natural Resources, reviewed the EPU project 
and found no undue adverse impact to nongame resources or natural areas 
from the proposed action. There are no Federally-listed threatened and 
endangered species recorded on the VYNPS site, and there is no critical

[[Page 68111]]

habitat in the state of Vermont for the three listed species in Windham 
County. Therefore, the staff concludes that there is no effect to 
threatened and endangered species associated with the proposed action.

Social and Economic Impacts

    Potential social and economic impacts due to the proposed action 
include changes in tax revenue for Windham County and changes in the 
size of the workforce at VYNPS. The NRC staff has reviewed the 
information provided by the licensee regarding socioeconomic impacts. 
Entergy is a major employer in the community with approximately 670 
full-time employees and contractors. Entergy is also a major 
contributor to the local tax base, but does not remit tax revenues 
directly to Windham County. Entergy personnel indirectly contribute to 
the tax base by paying sales and property taxes, state income taxes, 
and hotel and meal taxes which are paid by Entergy contractors while 
working at VYNPS. VYNPS pays a State Education Tax which is based on 
the level of generation of electrical power. The additional electrical 
power generated from the EPU will result in a proportional increase in 
taxes. The Tax Stabilization Contract, entered into by the Town of 
Vernon, Vermont and the owners of VYNPS, determines Entergy's 
contribution to the remaining local tax base. The contract specifies a 
Total Listed Value to be used for assessing Municipal Services property 
tax through 2010. The Total Listed Value applies to all real and 
personal property owned on April 1, 2000, and acquired thereafter, 
which is used in connection with the generation of electrical power 
through the nuclear fission process.
    The proposed EPU would not significantly affect the size of the 
VYNPS labor force and would not have a material effect upon the labor 
force required for future outages after all stages of the modifications 
needed to support the EPU are complete. Entergy completed all major 
modifications in the Spring 2004 refueling outage, which required 
approximately 425 additional workers. Normally, less than 700 
additional personnel are required for refueling outages; the Spring 
2004 refueling outage required approximately 1125 additional personnel. 
Additional modifications needed to support the EPU will be completed 
during the next refueling outage. The remaining modifications are less 
significant than those already implemented and are expected to require 
less than 100 additional workers to supplement typical refueling outage 
staffing levels.
    It is expected that the proposed EPU will increase the economic 
viability of VYNPS and lower the probability of early plant retirement. 
With the increased likelihood that VYNPS will remain operational at 
least through the end of the current license term, local employment 
opportunities will remain available. Early plant retirement would be 
expected to have a negative impact on the local economy and the 
community as a whole by reducing tax revenues and limiting local 
employment opportunities, although these effects could be mitigated by 
decommissioning activities in the short term.
    The Vermont Public Service Board has determined that the EPU will 
not greatly interfere with the development of the region and will have 
a minimal impact outside the immediate area of VYNPS. Entergy has not 
identified any negative socioeconomic impacts associated with the EPU. 
Therefore, the staff concludes that there are no significant social or 
economic impacts associated with the proposed action.

Summary

    The proposed EPU would not result in a significant change in non-
radiological impacts in the areas of land use, water use, waste 
discharges, cooling tower operation, terrestrial and aquatic biota, 
transmission facility operation, or social and economic factors. No 
other non-radiological impacts were identified or would be expected. 
Table 2 summarizes the non-radiological environmental impacts of the 
proposed EPU at VYNPS.

       Table 2.--Summary of Non-Radiological Environmental Impacts
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Land Use.....................  No significant land use modifications;
                                installed temporary office space to
                                support EPU.
Cooling Tower................  No significant aesthetic impact, slightly
                                larger plume size; no significant
                                increase in noise; no significant
                                fogging or icing.
Transmission Facilities......  No physical modifications to transmission
                                lines; lines meet shock safety
                                requirements; no changes to right-of-
                                ways; small increase in electrical
                                current would cause small increase in
                                electromagnetic field around
                                transmission lines.
Water Use....................  No configuration change to intake
                                structure; no increased rate of
                                withdrawal; slight increase in water
                                consumption due to increased
                                evaporation; no water use conflicts.
Discharge....................  Increase in water temperature discharged
                                to Connecticut River; will meet thermal
                                discharge limits in current NPDES permit
                                following EPU; no change in chemical or
                                sanitary waste discharges.
Aquatic Biota................  No additional impact expected on aquatic
                                biota.
Terrestrial Biota............  Vermont Nongame and Natural Heritage
                                Program found no adverse impact from
                                EPU; no additional impact on terrestrial
                                plant or animal species.
Threatened and Endangered      Three Federally-listed species in Windham
 Species.                       County; EPU will have no effect on
                                species.
Social and Economic..........  No significant change in size of VYNPS
                                labor force required for plant operation
                                or future refueling outages; increased
                                production of tax revenues.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Radiological Impacts

Radioactive Waste Stream Impacts

    VYNPS uses waste treatment systems designed to collect, process, 
and dispose of gaseous, liquid, and solid wastes that might contain 
radioactive material in a safe and controlled manner such that 
discharges are in accordance with the requirements of Title 10 of the 
Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) part 20, ``Standards for 
Protection Against Radiation'', and 10 CFR part 50, ``Domestic 
Licensing of Production and Utilization Facilities'', Appendix I. These 
radioactive waste streams are discussed in the FES. The proposed EPU 
would not result in changes in the operation or design of equipment in 
the gaseous, liquid, or solid waste systems.

Gaseous Radioactive Waste and Offsite Doses

    During normal operation, the gaseous effluent treatment systems 
process and control the release of gaseous radioactive effluents to the 
environment, including small quantities of noble gases, halogens, 
tritium, and particulate material. The gaseous waste management systems 
include the offgas

[[Page 68112]]

system and various building ventilation systems. Entergy estimates that 
gaseous radioactive effluents will increase following the EPU but will 
remain within regulatory limits. In the past three years, the peak dose 
from gaseous effluents at VYNPS was less than 1 millirem (mrem) per 
year. The increase in gaseous effluents following the EPU is not 
expected to be more than 20 percent of the current gaseous effluent 
release, consistent with the EPU. If there were a 20 percent increase 
from the peak dose of less than 1 mrem per year, the projected dose 
would still remain well below the dose design objectives of Appendix I 
to 10 CFR part 50. Therefore, the increase in offsite dose due to 
gaseous effluent release following the EPU would not be significant.

Liquid Radioactive Waste and Offsite Doses

    During normal operation, the liquid effluent treatment systems 
process and control the release of liquid radioactive effluents to the 
environment, such that the doses to individuals offsite are maintained 
within the limits of 10 CFR part 20 and 10 CFR part 50, Appendix I. The 
liquid radioactive waste systems are designed to process the waste and 
then recycle it within the plant as condensate, reprocess it through 
the radioactive waste system for further purification, or discharge it 
to the environment as liquid radioactive waste effluent in accordance 
with State and Federal regulations. Entergy estimates that the volume 
of liquid radioactive waste generated would increase by 1.2 percent of 
the current total, following the EPU. This is an increase in the volume 
of liquid radioactive waste that will require processing, and not an 
increase in liquid radioactive effluent. The increased volume of liquid 
radioactive waste is due to the increased frequency of reactor water 
cleanup filter demineralizer and condensate demineralizer backwashes. 
The demineralizer backwashes will increase due to an increase in 
conductivity of the reactor water cleanup system and an increase in 
feedwater flow following the EPU. Entergy indicated that the percentage 
increase in liquid radioactive waste generated due to the EPU is within 
the designed system total volume capacity. There is a very small 
increase in the volume of liquid radioactive waste generated due to the 
EPU, but no liquid radioactive waste discharges are expected. 
Therefore, there would not be a significant environmental impact from 
the additional volume of liquid radioactive waste generated following 
the EPU.

Solid Radioactive Wastes

    The solid radioactive waste system collects, processes, packages, 
and temporarily stores radioactive dry and wet solid wastes prior to 
shipment offsite and permanent disposal. The largest volume of solid 
radioactive waste at VYNPS is low-level radioactive waste; sources of 
this include spent ion exchanger resins, filter sludges, air filters, 
and miscellaneous papers and rags. In 2001, which represents a year of 
peak solid waste generation, Entergy generated 37 cubic meters (1291 
cubic feet) of solid waste. The proposed EPU is expected to increase 
the amount of reactor water cleanup and condensate demineralizer resins 
due to increased flow rates for the steam, feedwater, and condensate 
systems. This is the only expected waste increase. Entergy estimates 
that the volume of this solid waste could increase by as much as 17.8 
percent over the volume of solid waste generated in 2001. Even with 
such an increase, the expected volume of low-level radioactive waste 
would be well below the value in the FES.
    The proposed EPU would also result in a greater percentage of fuel 
assemblies being removed from the reactor core and replaced with new 
fuel assemblies during each refueling outage. Entergy expects the 
number of fuel assemblies consumed each cycle to increase by 28 percent 
following the EPU for the remaining term of the license. The additional 
amount of fuel assemblies consumed will result in greater storage of 
spent fuel at VYNPS. Entergy estimates that VYNPS can operate to the 
Fall 2008 refueling outage before exhausting its full-core discharge 
capability and reaching the capacity of the spent fuel pool, if the 
plant does not implement the proposed EPU. Assuming the proposed EPU is 
implemented, Entergy estimates that VYNPS would exhaust its full core 
discharge capability one cycle earlier (i.e., by the Spring 2007 
refueling outage). Regardless of the EPU, Entergy plans to utilize dry 
cask storage at VYNPS in the near future (pending Vermont Public 
Service Board approval), to permit continued operations for the full 
term of the current license. Dry cask storage at VYNPS will be 
necessary regardless of the EPU, subject to State approval separate 
from the EPU application, and would not involve a significant increase 
in the total number of spent fuel assemblies requiring storage over the 
term of the current license. Accordingly, the NRC staff concludes that 
there will be no significant environmental impact resulting from 
storage of the additional fuel assemblies.

In-Plant Radiation Doses

    The proposed EPU would result in the production of more radioactive 
material and higher radiation dose rates in some areas at VYNPS. For 
most areas, radiation doses are unchanged due to the ample margin in 
the radiation shielding design. Area dose rates inside shielded 
cubicles can increase as much as 20 percent. However, these areas are 
not normally occupied during plant operation. Entergy estimates that 
there will be higher radiation levels in and around the turbine, due to 
increased steam flow and velocity following the EPU, which will lead to 
shorter travel times to the turbine and less time for radioactive decay 
in transit. Therefore, Entergy estimates that the overall increase in 
radiation level could be as high as 26 percent in those areas with 
higher steam flow.
    The VYNPS FES does not contain an estimate for annual collective 
occupational radiation dose. The collective occupational dose at VYNPS 
in 2001 and 2002 was 142 person-rem and 150 person-rem, respectively. 
The potentially higher dose rates due to the EPU are not expected to 
increase the annual collective occupational dose by more than 20 
percent. Therefore, the annual average collective occupational dose 
after the EPU is implemented may increase by approximately 30 person-
rem.
    Individual worker exposure is maintained within acceptable limits 
by the VYNPS ``as low as reasonably achievable'' (ALARA) program which 
controls access to radiation areas. Procedural controls compensate for 
increased radiation levels to ensure that worker exposure remains ALARA 
and that the normal operation radiation zones are labeled and 
controlled for access in accordance with the requirements of 10 CFR 
part 20 related to allowable worker exposure and access control. 
Accordingly, occupational doses after the EPU is implemented will 
remain within acceptable levels and will not result in a significant 
environmental or radiological dose impact.

Direct Radiation Doses Offsite

    Direct radiation emitted skyward from radionuclides (mainly 
nitrogen-16) in the main steam system components in the turbine 
building is scattered back to ground level by molecules in the air and 
provides another offsite public dose pathway (skyshine) from an 
operating boiling-water reactor. The licensee routinely monitors whole 
body dose rate

[[Page 68113]]

offsite using high purity germanium detectors, pressurized ion 
chambers, and thermoluminescent dosimeters. Based on measurements of 
radiation, the highest direct radiation dose offsite was found at the 
west side boundary. Entergy estimates that approximately 90 percent of 
the direct radiation dose at the west side boundary is due to skyshine. 
The highest annual dose at the west side boundary is 13.4 mrem from 
skyshine. Following the EPU, skyshine is expected to increase by 26 
percent due to the expected increase in the nitrogen-16 source in the 
turbine building. Assuming a 26-percent increase in direct radiation 
dose offsite due to skyshine following the EPU, the direct radiation 
dose offsite at the site boundary would be 16.9 mrem from skyshine. The 
total maximum direct radiation dose offsite at the site boundary would 
be 18.6 mrem (16.9 mrem from nitrogen-16 skyshine plus 1.7 mrem from 
miscellaneous radwaste stored on site).
    The annual whole body dose equivalent to a member of the public 
beyond the site boundary is limited to 25 mrem (0.25 mSv) by 40 CFR 
part 190. The projected maximum direct radiation dose offsite at VYNPS 
is within this limit. The licensee will continue to perform surveys as 
the EPU is implemented to ensure continued compliance with 40 CFR part 
190. Therefore, the impact of the EPU on direct radiation dose offsite 
would not be significant.

Postulated Accident Doses

    As a result of implementation of the proposed EPU, there is an 
increase in the source term used in the evaluation of some of the 
postulated accidents in the FES. The inventory of radionuclides in the 
reactor core is dependent upon power level; therefore, the core 
inventory of radionuclides could increase by as much as 20 percent. The 
concentration of radionuclides in the reactor coolant may also increase 
by as much as 20 percent; however, this concentration is limited by the 
VYNPS Technical Specifications. This coolant concentration is part of 
the source term considered in some of the postulated accident analyses. 
Some of the radioactive waste streams and storage systems evaluated for 
postulated accidents may contain slightly higher quantities of 
radionuclides than is present under current operations. For those 
postulated accidents where the source term has increased, the 
calculated potential radiation dose to individuals at the site boundary 
(the exclusion area) and in the low population zone would be increased 
over values presented in the FES, but would be within the doses 
calculated by the licensee and approved by the NRC staff in a separate 
license amendment dated March 29, 2005, as discussed below.
    In support of the EPU, the licensee submitted a separate license 
amendment request which proposed a full-scope implementation of an 
alternative source term (AST) methodology pursuant to 10 CFR 50.67. The 
licensee performed the radiological analyses that support the AST 
amendment assuming a reactor power of 1950 MWt which is approximately 
102 percent of the proposed EPU power level of 1912 MWt. The NRC 
approved the AST amendment request on March 29, 2005. As discussed in 
the safety evaluation for the AST amendment, the NRC staff concluded 
that the doses, for postulated design-basis accidents under EPU 
conditions, would meet the acceptance criteria of 10 CFR 50.67 and the 
guidance in Regulatory Guide 1.183. Therefore, the NRC staff concludes 
that any increased environmental impact under EPU conditions, in terms 
of potential increased radiological doses from postulated accidents, 
would not be significant.

Fuel Cycle and Transportation Impacts

    The environmental impacts of the fuel cycle and transportation of 
fuels and wastes are described in Tables S-3 and S-4 of 10 CFR 51.51 
and 10 CFR 51.52, respectively. An additional NRC generic Environmental 
Assessment (53 FR 30355, dated August 11, 1988, as corrected by 53 FR 
32322, dated August 24, 1988) evaluated the applicability of Tables S-3 
and S-4 to higher burnup cycle and concluded that there is no 
significant change in environmental impact from the parameters 
evaluated in Tables S-3 and S-4 for fuel cycles with uranium 
enrichments up to 5 weight percent Uranium-235 and burnups less than 
60,000 megawatt (thermal) days per metric ton of Uranium-235 (MWd/MTU). 
Entergy has concluded that the fuel enrichment at VYNPS will increase 
to approximately 4.6 weight percent Uranium-235 as a result of the EPU. 
Entergy states that the expected core average exposure for the EPU is 
35,000 MWd/MTU and the maximum bundle exposure is 58,000 MWd/MTU. The 
fuel enrichment for the EPU will not exceed 5 weight percent Uranium-
235, and the rod average discharge burnup will not exceed 60,000 MWd/
MTU. Therefore, the environmental impacts of the EPU will remain 
bounded by the impacts in Tables S-3 and S-4 and are not significant.

Summary

    The proposed EPU would not result in a significant increase in 
occupational or public radiation exposure, would not significantly 
increase the potential doses from postulated accidents, and would not 
result in significant additional fuel cycle environmental impacts. 
Accordingly, the Commission concludes that there are no significant 
radiological environmental impacts associated with the proposed action. 
Table 3 summarizes the radiological environmental impacts of the 
proposed EPU at VYNPS.

         Table 3.--Summary of Radiological Environmental Impacts
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gaseous Effluents and Doses..  Up to 20% increase in dose due to gaseous
                                effluents; doses to individuals offsite
                                will remain within NRC limits.
Liquid Effluents and Doses...  Volume of liquid effluent generated
                                expected to increase by 1.2%; slight
                                increase in the amount of radioactive
                                material in liquid effluent; no
                                discharge of liquid effluent expected,
                                no increase in dose to public.
Solid Radioactive Waste......  Volume of solid waste expected to
                                increase by 17.8% due to demineralizer
                                resins; within FES estimate; increase in
                                amount of spent fuel assemblies to be
                                stored onsite.
In-plant Dose................  Occupational dose could increase by 20%
                                overall; will remain within acceptable
                                limits under the VYNPS ALARA program.
Direct Radiation Dose........  Up to 26% increase in dose rate offsite
                                due to skyshine; expected annual dose
                                continues to meet NRC/EPA limits.
Postulated Accidents.........  Licensee using Alternative Source Term;
                                doses are within NRC limits.
Fuel Cycle and Transportation  Increase in bundle average enrichment and
                                burnup; impacts stated in Tables S-3 and
                                S-4 in 10 CFR Part 51 are bounding.
------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 68114]]

Alternatives to Proposed Action

    As an alternative to the proposed action, the NRC staff considered 
denial of the proposed EPU (i.e., the ``no-action'' alternative). 
Denial of the application would result in no change in the current 
environmental impacts. However, if the EPU were not approved, other 
agencies and electric power organizations may be required to pursue 
other means of providing electric generation capacity to offset future 
demand. Such alternatives could include construction of fossil fuel or 
other generating capacity, or purchase of power from generating 
facilities outside the service area; such alternatives, however, would 
likely result in environmental impacts comparable to or greater than 
those involved in the EPU. For example, fossil fuel plants routinely 
emit atmospheric pollutants, causing impacts in air quality that are 
larger than if VYNPS were to provide the same amount of electric 
generation. Construction and operation of a fossil fuel plant also 
creates impacts in land use and waste management.

Alternative Use of Resources

    This action does not involve the use of any resources not 
previously considered in the 1972 FES for operation of the VYNPS.

Agencies and Persons Consulted

    In accordance with its stated policy, on September 2, 2005, the NRC 
staff consulted with the Vermont State official, William K. Sherman, of 
the Department of Public Service, regarding the environmental impact of 
the proposed action. The State official had no comments.

Finding of No Significant Impact

    On the basis of the environmental assessment, the Commission 
concludes that the proposed action will not have a significant effect 
on the quality of the human environment. Accordingly, the Commission 
has determined not to prepare an environmental impact statement for the 
proposed action.
    For further details with respect to the proposed action, see the 
licensee's application dated September 10, 2003, as supplemented on 
October 1, and October 28 (2 letters), 2003, January 31 (2 letters), 
March 4, May 19, July 2, July 27, July 30, August 12, August 25, 
September 14, September 15, September 23, September 30 (2 letters), 
October 5, October 7 (2 letters), December 8, and December 9, 2004, and 
February 24, March 10, March 24, March 31, April 5, April 22, June 2, 
August 1, August 4, September 10, September 14, September 18, September 
28, October 17, October 21, 2005 (2 letters), October 26, and October 
29, 2005. Documents may be examined, and/or copied for a fee, at the 
NRC's Public Document Room (PDR), located at One White Flint North, 
11555 Rockville Pike (first floor), Rockville, Maryland. Publicly 
available records will be accessible electronically from the ADAMS 
Public Electronic Reading Room on the NRC Web site, http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. Persons who do not have access to ADAMS or who 
encounter problems in accessing the documents located in ADAMS should 
contact the NRC PDR Reference staff at 1-800-397-4209, or 301-415-4737, 
or send an e-mail to [email protected].

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

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Richard B. Ennis,
Senior Project Manager, Plant Licensing Branch B, Division of Operating 
Reactor Licensing, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.
[FR Doc. 05-22315 Filed 11-8-05; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7590-01-P