[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 220 (Wednesday, November 16, 2005)]
[Pages 69605-69608]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E5-6315]



[Docket No. 72-27]

Notice of Availability of Environmental Assessment and Finding of 
No Significant Impact for Construction and Operation of the Humboldt 
Bay Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Notice of Availability and Finding of No Significant Impact.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: James Park, Environmental and 
Performance Assessment Directorate, Division of Waste Management and 
Environmental Protection, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and 
Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555. 
Telephone: (301) 415-5835; Fax number: (301) 415-5397; E-mail: 
[email protected].


I. Introduction

    By letter dated December 15, 2003, Pacific Gas and Electric Company 
(PG&E) submitted an application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission (NRC), requesting a site-specific license to build and 
operate an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI),

[[Page 69606]]

to be located on the site of the Humboldt Bay Power Plant (HBPP), in 
Humboldt County, California.
    A holder of an NRC license for a power reactor under 10 CFR part 50 
can construct and operate an ISFSI at that power reactor site under the 
general license provisions of 10 CFR part 72, or may apply for a 
separate site-specific license. PG&E has applied for a site-specific 
license for the proposed Humboldt Bay ISFSI in accordance with the 
applicable regulations in 10 CFR part 72.
    The NRC staff has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in 
support of its review of PG&E's application in accordance with the 
requirements of 10 CFR part 51. Based on the EA, the NRC has concluded 
that a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is appropriate.

II. EA Summary


    The HBPP consists of five electric generation units. Unit 3, a 
boiling water reactor, operated for approximately 13 years before being 
shutdown for a refueling in July 1976. It has remained inactive since 
that time. In 1988, the NRC approved the SAFSTOR plan for Unit 3 and 
amended the plant's license under 10 CFR part 50 to a ``possession 
only'' license that expires on November 9, 2015. (SAFSTOR is a method 
of decommissioning in which the nuclear facility is placed and 
maintained in such condition that the nuclear facility can be safely 
stored and subsequently decontaminated (deferred decontamination) to 
levels that permit release for unrestricted use.) PG&E currently stores 
spent fuel from previous HBPP operations in the Unit 3 spent fuel pool.

Review Scope

    The NRC staff reviewed PG&E's request in accordance with the 
requirements under 10 CFR part 72 for ISFSIs and under the 
environmental protection regulations in 10 CFR part 51. The EA provides 
the results of the NRC staff's environmental review; the staff's 
radiation safety review is documented separately in a Safety Evaluation 
    The NRC staff prepared the EA in accordance with NRC requirements 
in 10 CFR 51.21 and 51.30, and with the associated guidance in NRC 
report NUREG-1748, ``Environmental Review Guidance for Licensing 
Actions Associated with NMSS Programs.''
    The NRC staff's review did not address either the decommissioning 
of Unit 3 following transfer of the spent fuel to the ISFSI, nor the 
transportation of the fuel offsite to a permanent federal repository.

Proposed Action

    The proposed action is for PG&E to construct, operate, and 
decommission an ISFSI at the HBPP site. The ISFSI would provide 
temporary dry storage capacity for the spent nuclear fuel that PG&E 
currently stores in the HBPP spent fuel pool, located in the shut-down 
Unit 3. The proposed ISFSI is intended as an interim facility 
consisting of an in-ground concrete structure with storage capacity for 
six shielded casks. Five casks would contain spent nuclear fuel and one 
would contain Greater-than-Class C (GTCC) waste. (GTCC waste is low-
level radioactive waste generated by the commercial sector that exceeds 
NRC concentration limits for Class C low-level waste, as specified in 
10 CFR 61.55). All such spent fuel and GTCC waste to be placed in the 
casks was generated from prior HBPP operations. The spent fuel would be 
stored in the ISFSI until the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) takes 
possession and transports the spent fuel offsite to a federal 
repository, or until PG&E elects to transfer the spent fuel to another 
acceptable offsite interim storage facility, if one becomes available.

Need for the Proposed Action

    Removal of the spent fuel from the HBPP Unit 3 spent fuel pool to 
the proposed ISFSI would permit the dismantling of the existing 
radioactive reactor structures, thereby providing for earlier 
decommissioning of the HBPP Unit 3 facility. This would allow earlier 
termination of the SAFSTOR license and restoration of most areas on 
site to unrestricted use.
    Transfer of the fuel to dry storage in an ISFSI also would result 
in lowered operational costs for PG&E. In contrast with the currently-
used wet storage method (i.e., storage in the spent fuel pool), dry 
storage in an ISFSI is a passive storage process that does not require 
extensive operating equipment or personnel to maintain. The dry storage 
process would reduce both the amount of effluents generated by the 
existing SAFSTOR operation and the amount of solid radioactive wastes 

Alternatives to the Proposed Action

    No Action Alternative:
    Under the ``no action'' alternative, PG&E would continue to store 
the spent fuel from prior operations at the HBPP in the spent fuel pool 
in Unit 3. PG&E would continue to conduct approved and appropriate 
maintenance and monitoring. Unit 3 would remain under the SAFSTOR 
    Other Alternatives:
    The NRC staff also evaluated other alternatives to the proposed 
action. First, PG&E could construct a new storage pool and support 
facilities separate from the existing HBPP Unit 3, which would allow 
PG&E to decommission the Unit 3 facility. However, this alternative 
would increase the number of times a fuel assembly was handled and, 
consequently, the potential occupational exposure to the workers. The 
additional maintenance and surveillance activities to support operation 
of the new pool would also result in higher worker exposures. This 
alternative also has a high cost, due to construction of the new pool 
and facilities, and for the dry transfer system needed to transfer the 
fuel. For these reasons, building a new fuel pool was not considered a 
viable alternative and was eliminated from further detailed study.
    A second alternative would be to transport the spent fuel offsite, 
either (1) to store at another nuclear power plant with sufficient 
capacity; (2) to store at a permanent federal or privately-owned 
repository; or (3) to reprocess overseas. None of these offsite options 
was deemed viable at this time. Storage at another power plant would 
require a receiving utility to be licensed to accept the HBPP spent 
nuclear fuel and willing to accept the fuel. Because most nuclear power 
plant operators are expected to face their own limitations on spent 
fuel storage capacity, PG&E felt it unlikely that other operators would 
be willing to accept spent fuel owned by another company. Secondly, 
with respect to storage at a repository, neither a permanent federal 
repository nor a privately-owned facility are currently available in 
the United States. Finally, although reprocessing facilities exist in 
other countries, the political, legal, and logistical uncertainties and 
the high cost of shipping spent fuel overseas make this alternative not 
    The NRC staff also evaluated PG&E's analysis of alternate locations 
on the HBPP site for the proposed ISFSI and PG&E's selection of an in-
ground vault design versus a surface pad design for the proposed ISFSI. 
The NRC staff determined that PG&E's selections of a final proposed 
location and design for the proposed ISFSI were acceptable.

Environmental Impacts

    No-Action Alternative:
    Under this alternative, PG&E would not be permitted to completely

[[Page 69607]]

dismantle the existing HBPP Unit 3 radioactive reactor structures, and 
therefore would not be able to decommission the Unit 3 facility to 
allow unrestricted use, and thus could not terminate the SAFSTOR 
license. PG&E would continue to incur the costs and impacts associated 
with maintaining and monitoring the spent fuel pool, the management of 
solid radioactive wastes, and the monitoring of effluents generated by 
the existing SAFSTOR operation.
    Proposed Action:
    The environmental impacts due to construction of the HBPP ISFSI are 
expected to be small. The ISFSI would be located within the boundaries 
of the 143-acre PG&E-controlled site area, and constructed in an area 
previously disturbed during HBPP operations. Construction activities 
associated with the proposed ISFSI would impact less than one acre of 
land area. This impact would involve excavating the vault area, 
disposing the excavated spoils, forming and pouring of the vault 
structure, widening and extending the oil supply road, constructing 
security structures, and controlling dust and runoff. Dust generated 
during construction is expected to be minimal given that the 
construction traffic would be using paved onsite and offsite roadways. 
Gaseous emissions from construction equipment would be mitigated 
through regular maintenance of the equipment.
    Excavated material disposed at the onsite spoils area would be 
contoured to the existing slope. As appropriate, PG&E would use best 
management practices to address storm water runoff, erosion control, 
and revegetation. All areas disturbed during construction activities 
would be revegetated with an appropriate seed mix.
    ISFSI construction activities are not expected to impact any state 
or federally listed threatened or endangered plant, terrestrial 
wildlife, marine life, or fish species. Construction would not impact 
historical or cultural resources in the region around or at the HBPP 
    The storage of spent fuel in casks at the ISFSI is expected to 
result in small radiation doses to the offsite population. The closest 
point that a member of the public may access (i.e., via the public 
trail) is 16.2 m (53 ft) from the ISFSI, and the nearest resident is 
approximately 244 m (800 ft) away. In its environmental report, PG&E 
provided the results of conservative calculations of offsite dose 
(PG&E, 2003a). These calculations assumed contributions to the total 
dose due to direct radiation from the spent fuel in the storage casks, 
as well as contributions from the spent fuel in the MPCs during their 
transfer to the storage overpacks and from the casks as they are 
transported to and loaded into the ISFSI. The MPCs would be seal-welded 
and therefore are considered leak tight, so that no leakage is expected 
during normal operation, off-normal conditions, or design basis 
accidents. The analysis also assumed that access to the public trail 
would be controlled to keep members of the public more than 100 meters 
(328 ft) away while the spent fuel casks are transported to and loaded 
into the ISFSI.
    Assuming a continuous occupancy time (i.e., 8760 hours per year), 
the calculated annual dose to the nearest resident from ISFSI 
activities is 0.0631 mSv (6.31 mrem), which is significantly below the 
annual limits specified in 10 CFR 72.104(a) and 10 CFR 20.1301(a), of 
0.25 mSv (25 mrem) and 1 mSv (100 mrem), respectively. The cumulative 
offsite dose to the nearest resident from all site activities is 
calculated to be about 0.0641 mSv/year (6.41 mrem/year), which is also 
significantly less than the limit referenced in 10 CFR 20.1301. 
Assuming an occupancy time of 2080 hours per year (based on a 40-hour 
week and 52 weeks per year, although the public trail is only 
occasionally used), PG&E calculated an annual dose at the point of 
closest access of approximately 0.21 mSv (21 mrem). Following transfer 
of the six casks to the ISFSI, the annual offsite dose will be limited 
primarily to direct radiation, thus reducing the calculated doses at 
the point of closest access and to the nearest resident to 
approximately 0.17 mSv/yr (17 mrem/yr) and 0.045 mSv/yr (4.5 mrem/yr) 
respectively. Given the assumptions in the calculations, actual doses 
are expected to be less than these values.


    The NRC staff reviewed the environmental impacts of the proposed 
action in accordance with the requirements of 10 CFR part 51. The NRC 
staff has determined that the storage of spent nuclear fuel in an in-
ground ISFSI at the Humboldt Bay Power Plant would not significantly 
affect the quality of the human environment. Therefore, an 
environmental impact statement is not warranted for the proposed 
action, and pursuant to 10 CFR 51.31, a Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI) is appropriate.

Agencies and Persons Consulted

    The NRC staff consulted with several other agencies regarding the 
proposed action. These consultations were intended to afford the 
designated State Liaison agency the opportunity to comment on the 
proposed action, and to ensure that the requirements of Section 106 of 
the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and Section 7 of the 
Endangered Species Act (ESA) were met with respect to the proposed 
    By letter dated July 15, 2005, the NRC staff provided a pre-
decisional draft EA for review and comment to the California Energy 
Commission (CEC), which is the designated State liaison agency. The CEC 
provided its comments in a telephone call in August 2005, stating its 
desire to see an expanded discussion of seismic and tsunami hazards in 
the EA. The NRC staff revised the discussion of seismic and tsunami 
hazards in response to the CEC's comments. On behalf of the CEC, Ms. 
Byron provided additional editorial comments by electronic mail on 
September 30, 2005, and in that same electronic mail message, raised 
the issue of potential terrorist attacks. The Commission previously has 
ruled that analysis of the possibility of a terrorist attack is 
``speculative and simply too far removed from the natural or expected 
consequences of agency action to require a study under [the National 
Environmental Policy Act]'' (Commission Memorandum and Order CLI-02-25. 
``In the Matter of Private Fuel Storage, L.L.C. (Independent Spent Fuel 
Storage Installation).'' December 18, 2002).
    With respect to the requirements of Section 7 of the ESA, the NRC 
staff consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arcata Fish 
and Wildlife Office (USFWS/AFWO), and the National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA 
Fisheries). As a result of this consultation, by letters dated July 29, 
2005, the NRC staff separately notified the USFWS/AFWO and NOAA 
Fisheries of its determination that the proposed action would have no 
effect on an endangered or threatened species or on critical habitat 
within the area of influence for the proposed action and provided an 
assessment in support of this determination.
    Pursuant to the requirements of Section 106 of the NHPA, the NRC 
staff consulted with the California Office of Historic Preservation, 
the California Native American Heritage Commission, and three 
Federally-recognized Indian Tribes: the Wiyot Tribe, the Bear River 
Band of Rohnerville Rancheria, and the Blue Lake Rancheria. As a result 
of this consultation and its own evaluation, the NRC staff determined 
that no historic or cultural resources would be adversely

[[Page 69608]]

affected by the proposed action. The California Office of Historic 
Preservation concurred in this determination by letter dated October 
25, 2005.

III. Finding of No Significant Impact

    On the basis of the EA, the NRC has concluded that there are no 
significant environmental impacts from the proposed action of 
constructing and operating the Humboldt Bay ISFSI and has determined 
not to prepare an environmental impact statement.

IV. Further Information

    Documents related to this action, including the application for 
amendment and supporting documentation, are available electronically at 
the NRC's Electronic Reading Room at http://www.NRC.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. From this site, you can access the NRC's Agencywide 
Document Access and Management System (ADAMS), which provides text and 
image files of NRC's public documents. The ADAMS accession numbers for 
the documents related to this notice are:

        Document date              Description      ADAMS  accession No.
10/30/2005..................  NRC staff's EA for    ML052430106
                               the proposed ISFSI.
12/15/2003..................  PG&E's transmittal    ML033640441
12/15/2003..................  PG&E's Environmental  ML033640453
                               Report.              ML033640677
7/15/2005...................  NRC staff letter      ML051780043
                               transmitting the
                               draft EA to the CEC.
7/29/2005...................  NRC staff's           ML052030228
                               transmittal of
                               determination of no
                               effect to USFWS/
7/29/2005...................  NRC staff's           ML051380126
                               transmittal of
                               determination of no
                               effect to NOAA
10/25/2005..................  SHPO concurrence on   ML053040051
                               NRC staff
                               determination of no
                               adverse affect.

    If you do not have access to ADAMS or if there are problems in 
accessing the documents located in ADAMS, contact the NRC's Public 
Document Room (PDR) Reference staff at 1-800-397-4209, 301-415-4737, or 
by e-mail to [email protected].
    These documents may also be viewed electronically on the public 
computers located at the NRC's PDR, O 1 F21, One White Flint North, 
11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852. The PDR reproduction 
contractor will copy documents for a fee.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland this 4th day of November, 2005.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Scott C. Flanders,
Deputy Director, Environmental & Performance Assessment Directorate, 
Division of Waste Management and Environmental Protection, Office of 
Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.
 [FR Doc. E5-6315 Filed 11-15-05; 8:45 am]