[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 29 (Monday, February 13, 2012)]
[Pages 7610-7613]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-3298]



[Docket No. 50-326; NRC-2010-0217]

Notice of Availability of Environmental Assessment and Finding of 
No Significant Impact for License Renewal for University of California, 
Irvine Nuclear Reactor Facility

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Notice of Availability.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: A. Jason Lising, Project Manager, 
Research and Test Reactor Licensing Branch, Division of Policy and 
Rulemaking, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, U.S. Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission, Rockville, MD 20852. Telephone: 301-415-3841; 
fax number: 301-415-3031; email: [email protected].


I. Introduction

    The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering 
issuance of a renewed Facility License No. R-116, to be held by the 
Regents of the University of California (the licensee), which would 
authorize continued operation of the University of California, Irvine 
Nuclear Reactor Facility (UCINRF), located in Irvine, Orange County, 
California. Therefore, as required by Title 10 of the Code of Federal 
Regulations (10 CFR) Section 51.21, the NRC is issuing this 
Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact. The 
renewed license will be issued following the publication of this 

II. EA Summary

Identification of the Proposed Action

    The proposed action would renew Facility License No. R-116 for a 
period of 20 years from the date of issuance of the renewed license. 
The proposed action is in accordance with the licensee's application 
dated October 18, 1999, as supplemented by letters dated October 23, 
and October 31, 1999, April 24, 2000, January 27, May 17, July 14, and 
October 20, 2010, June 7, June 24, August 1, October 3, October 5, and 
December 2, 2011 (2 letters). In accordance with 10 CFR 2.109, the 
existing license remains in effect until the NRC takes final action on 
the renewal application.

Need for the Proposed Action

    The proposed action is needed to allow the continued operation of 
the UCINRF to routinely provide teaching opportunities, research, and 
services to numerous institutions for a period of 20 years.

Environmental Impacts of the Proposed Action

    The NRC has completed its safety evaluation of the proposed action 
to issue a renewed Facility License No. R-116 to allow continued 
operation of the UCINRF for a period of 20 years and concludes there is 
reasonable assurance that the UCINRF will continue to operate safely 
for the additional period of time. The details of the NRC staff safety 
evaluation will be provided with the renewed license that will be 
issued as part of the letter to the licensee approving its license 
renewal application. This document contains the environmental 
assessment of the proposed action.

[[Page 7611]]

    The UCINRF is located on the main campus of the University of 
California, Irvine and is a part of Rowland Hall. The reactor is housed 
in the basement of the multipurpose building constructed with a 
structural steel frame and reinforced concrete floors acting as 
diaphragms in distributing loads to vertically resisting elements. The 
reactor area is comprised of the reactor room, the control room, and 
two laboratories which total approximately 186 square meters (2000 
square feet) all located in the basement of Rowland Hall. Possession of 
both a door key and a key card are needed to enter the facility. 
Rowland Hall is one of many University buildings located around a 
circular field. The nearest permanent residences are located 
approximately 280 meters (310 yards) south east of Rowland Hall. The 
nearest dormitories are located approximately 180 meters (200 yards) 
west of the reactor.
    The UCINRF is a pool-type, light water moderated and cooled 
research reactor licensed to operate at a steady-state power level of 
250 kilowatt thermal power (kW). The reactor is also licensed to 
operate in a pulse mode. The fuel is located at the bottom of an 
aluminum tank 3 meters wide by 4.6 meters long and 7.6 meters deep (10 
feet wide by 15 feet long and 25 feet deep) with a volume of 
approximately 87,000 liters (23,000 gallons), supported by a reinforced 
concrete foundation. The reactor is fueled with standard low-enriched 
TRIGA (Training, Research, Isotope production, General Atomics) uranium 
fuel. A detailed description of the reactor can be found in the UCINRF 
Safety Analysis Report (SAR). Since the operating license was issued on 
November 24, 1969, facility modifications have been minor as outlined 
in SAR Section 1.4.
    The licensee has not requested any changes to the facility design 
or operating conditions as part of the application for license renewal. 
No changes are being made in the types or quantities of effluents that 
may be released off site. The licensee has systems in place for 
controlling the release of radiological effluents and implements a 
radiation protection program to monitor personnel exposures and 
releases of radioactive effluents. As discussed in the NRC staff's 
safety evaluation, the systems and radiation protection program are 
appropriate for the types and quantities of effluents expected to be 
generated by continued operation of the reactor. Accordingly, there 
would be no increase in routine occupational or public radiation 
exposure as a result of license renewal. As discussed in the NRC staff 
safety evaluation, the proposed action will not significantly increase 
the probability or consequences of accidents.
    Therefore, license renewal would not change the environmental 
impact of facility operation. The NRC staff evaluated information 
contained in the licensee's application, as supplemented, and data 
reported to the NRC by the licensee for the last ten years of operation 
to determine the projected radiological impact of the facility on the 
environment during the period of the renewed license. The NRC staff 
found that releases of radioactive material and personnel exposures 
were all well within applicable regulatory limits. Based on this 
evaluation, the NRC staff concludes that continued operation of the 
reactor would not have a significant environmental impact.
Radiological Impact
    Environmental Effects of Reactor Operations:
    Gaseous radioactive effluents are discharged by the facility 
exhaust system at a volumetric flow rate of approximately 2.0 cubic 
meters per second (4300 cubic feet per minute) via vents located on the 
roof of the reactor building. Other release pathways do exist. However 
they are normally secured during reactor operation and have 
insignificant volumetric flow rates compared to the facility exhaust 
system. The only significant nuclide found in the gaseous effluent 
stream is Argon-41. Licensee calculations, based on operation, indicate 
that annual Argon-41 releases result in a maximum concentration of less 
than 1.7 E-10 microCuries per milliliter ([mnplus]Ci/ml) in a year over 
the last 10 years, which is below the limit of 1.0E-8 [mnplus]Ci/ml 
specified in 10 CFR Part 20, Appendix B for air effluent releases. The 
NRC staff performed an independent calculation and found the licensee's 
calculation to be reasonable. Gaseous radioactive releases reported to 
the NRC in the licensee's annual reports were less than two percent of 
the air effluent concentration limits set by 10 CFR Part 20, Appendix 
B. The potential radiation dose to a member of the general public 
resulting from this concentration is less than 0.01 milliSieverts (mSv) 
(1 millirem (mrem)) and this demonstrates compliance with the dose 
limit of 1 mSv (100 mrem) set by 10 CFR 20.1301. Additionally, this 
potential radiation dose demonstrates compliance with the air emissions 
dose constraint of 0.1 mSv (10 mrem) specified in 10 CFR 20.1101(d).
    The licensee disposes of radioactive liquid waste by transfer to 
the University's Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) department. Since 
1992, the facility has had no radiological liquid effluent releases. 
Radioactive materials have been transferred and disposed of in 
accordance with the requirements of the licensee's byproduct license. 
Currently, there are no plans to change any operating or radiological 
release practices or characteristics of the reactor during the license 
renewal period. During the past ten years, the licensee has transferred 
15 gallons of liquid waste for a total of 3.2 milliCuries for proper 
    The EHS department oversees the handling of solid low-level 
radioactive waste generated at UCINRF. The bulk of the waste consists 
of sample waste. Upon removal from the facility, the waste enters the 
EHS Radioactive Waste Handling Program. The EHS department currently 
retains the waste for decay in storage. According to the licensee, no 
spent nuclear fuel has been shipped from the site to date. To comply 
with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the licensee has entered 
into a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that provides 
that DOE retains title to the fuel utilized at the UCINRF and that DOE 
is obligated to take the fuel from the site for final disposition.
    As described in past ten years of UCINRF annual reports, personnel 
exposures are well within the limits set by 10 CFR 20.1201, and are as 
low as is reasonably achievable (ALARA). Personnel exposures are 
usually less than 0.5 mSv (50 mrem) per year with the maximum 
individual receiving 1.67 mSv (167 mrem) of whole body exposure in one 
year. No changes in reactor operation that would lead to an increase in 
occupational dose are expected as a result of the proposed action.
    The licensee conducts an environmental monitoring program to record 
and track the radiological impact of UCINRF operation on the 
surrounding unrestricted area. The program consists of quarterly 
exposure measurements at ten locations around the facility and at one 
control location away from any direct influence from the reactor. The 
locations have been chosen to monitor the confines of the reactor 
facility, more remote locations on campus and an off campus location 
that provides background radiation level information. Over the past ten 
years, the monitoring program has indicated that radiation exposures at 
the remote monitoring locations on campus were not significantly higher 
than at the offsite background monitoring locations. Year-to-year 
trends in exposures are consistent between monitoring locations. Also, 
no correlation exists

[[Page 7612]]

between total annual reactor operation and annual exposures measured at 
the monitoring locations. Based on the NRC staff's review of the past 
ten years of data, the NRC staff concludes that operation of the UCINRF 
does not have any significant radiological impact on the surrounding 
environment. No changes in reactor operation that would affect off-site 
radiation levels are expected as a result of the proposed action.

Environmental Effects of Accidents

    Accident scenarios are discussed in Chapter 13 of the UCINRF SAR. 
The maximum hypothetical accident (MHA) is the uncontrolled release of 
the gaseous fission products contained in the gap between the fuel and 
the fuel cladding in one fuel element to the reactor area and into the 
environment. The licensee conservatively calculated doses to facility 
personnel and the maximum potential dose to a member of the public. The 
NRC staff performed independent calculations to verify that the doses 
represent conservative estimates for the MHA. Occupational doses 
resulting from this accident would be well below 10 CFR Part 20 limit 
of 50 mSv (5000 mrem). Maximum doses for members of the public 
resulting from this accident would be well below 10 CFR Part 20 limit 
of 1 mSv (100 mrem). The proposed action will not increase the 
probability or consequences of accidents.
A. Non-Radiological Impacts
    The UCINRF core is cooled by a light water primary system 
consisting of the reactor pool and a heat removal system to remove heat 
from the reactor pool. Core cooling occurs by natural convection, with 
the heated coolant rising out of the core and into the bulk pool water. 
The large heat sink provided by the volume of primary coolant allows 
several hours of full-power operation without any secondary cooling. 
The heat removal system transfers heat to the University chilled water 
system via a 258 kW (880,000 BTU/hr) heat exchanger. During operation, 
the chilled water system is maintained at a higher pressure than the 
primary system to minimize the likelihood of primary system 
contamination entering the secondary system, and ultimately the 
environment. The licensee conducts tests which would detect leakage of 
the heat exchanger. A minor amount of heat removal from the pool occurs 
due to evaporation of coolant from the pool's surface. The small amount 
of replacement water is provided from the portable water system of the 
    Release of thermal effluents from the UCINRF will not have a 
significant effect on the environment. Given that the proposed action 
does not involve any change in the operation of the reactor and the 
heat load dissipated to the environment, the NRC staff concludes that 
the proposed action will not have a significant impact on the 
environment or the local water supply.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Considerations

    The NRC has responsibilities that are derived from NEPA and from 
other environmental laws, which include the Endangered Species Act 
(ESA), Costal Zone Management Act (CZMA), National Historic 
Preservation Act (NHPA), Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (FWCA), and 
Executive Order 12898 Environmental Justice. The following presents a 
brief discussion of impacts associated with these laws and other 
A. Endangered Species Act
    Federally-protected or State-protected listed species have not been 
found in the vicinity of the UCINRF. Effluents and emissions from the 
UCINRF have not had an impact on critical habitat.
B. Costal Zone Management Act
    The UCINRF is not located within any managed coastal zones; nor 
would the UCINRF effluents and emissions impact any managed costal 
zones. The UCINRF is located approximately 1.0 km (0.6) miles away from 
the boundary of the Costal Zone Management Area.
C. National Historic Preservation Act
    The NHPA requires Federal agencies to consider the effects of their 
undertakings on historic properties. The National Register of Historic 
Places (NRHP) lists one historical site located approximately 6.6 km (4 
miles) north of Rowland Hall, the Lighter than Airship Hangers. Given 
the distance between the facility and the Lighter than Airship Hangers, 
continued operation of the UCINRF will not impact any historical sites. 
Based on this information, the NRC staff finds that the potential 
impacts of the proposed action would have no adverse effect on historic 
and archaeological resources.
D. Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
    The licensee is not planning any water resource development 
projects, including any of the modifications relating to impounding a 
body of water, damming, diverting a stream or river, deepening a 
channel, irrigation, or altering a body of water for navigation or 
E. Executive Order 12898--Environmental Justice
    The environmental justice impact analysis evaluates the potential 
for disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental 
effects on minority and low-income populations that could result from 
the relicensing and the continued operation of the UCINRF. Such effects 
may include biological, cultural, economic, or social impacts. Minority 
and low-income populations are subsets of the general public residing 
around UCINRF, and all are exposed to the same health and environmental 
effects generated from activities at the UCINRF.
    Minority Populations in the Vicinity of the UCINRF--According to 
2000 census data, 63.8 percent of the population (approximately 
13,353,000 individuals) residing within a 50-mile radius of the UCINRF 
identified themselves as minority individuals. The largest minority 
group was Hispanic or Latino (approximately 5,524,000 persons or 41.4 
percent), followed by ``Some other race'' (approximately 3,298,000 
persons or about 24.7 percent). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 
about 48.7 percent of the Orange County population identified 
themselves as minorities, with persons of Hispanic or Latino origin 
comprising the largest minority group (30.8 percent). According to 
census data 3-year average estimates for 2005-2007, the minority 
population of Orange County, as a percent of total population, had 
increased to 52.9 percent.
    Low-Income Populations in the Vicinity of the UCINRF--According to 
2000 census data, approximately 383,700 families and 2,102,000 
individuals (approximately 12.5 and 15.7 percent, respectively) 
residing within a 50-mile radius of the UCINRF were identified as 
living below the Federal poverty threshold in 1999. The 1999 Federal 
poverty threshold was $17,029 for a family of four.
    According to Census data in the 2005-2007 American Community Survey 
3-Year Estimates, the median household income for the State of 
California was $58,361, while 13.0 percent of the state population and 
9.7 percent of families were determined to be living below the Federal 
poverty threshold. Orange County had a higher median household income 
average ($71,601) and lower percentages (9.3 percent) of individuals 
and families (6.4 percent) living below the poverty level, 
    Impact Analysis--Potential impacts to minority and low-income 
populations would mostly consist of radiological

[[Page 7613]]

effects, however radiation doses from continued operations associated 
with the license renewal are expected to continue at current levels, 
and would be well below regulatory limits.
    Based on this information and the analysis of human health and 
environmental impacts presented in this environmental assessment, the 
NRC staff concludes that the proposed action would not have 
disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental 
effects on minority and low-income populations residing in the vicinity 
of the UCINRF.

Environmental Impacts of the Alternatives to the Proposed Action

    As an alternative to license renewal, the NRC considered denying of 
the proposed action. If the NRC denied the request for license renewal, 
reactor operations would cease and decommissioning would be required. 
The NRC staff notes that, even with a renewed license, the UCINRF will 
eventually require decommissioning, at which time the environmental 
effects of decommissioning will occur. Decommissioning will be 
conducted in accordance with an NRC-approved decommissioning plan which 
would require a separate environmental review under 10 CFR 51.21. 
Cessation of facility operations would reduce or eliminate radioactive 
effluents and emissions. However, as previously discussed in this 
environmental assessment, radioactive effluents and emissions from 
reactor operations constitute only a small fraction of the applicable 
regulatory limits. Therefore, the environmental impacts of license 
renewal and the denial of the request for license renewal would be 
similar. In addition, denying the request for license renewal would 
eliminate the benefits of teaching, research, and services provided by 

Alternative Use of Resources

    The proposed action does not involve the use of any different 
resources or significant quantities of resources beyond those 
previously considered in the issuance of the original Facility License 
R-116 to the Regents of the University of California for the UCINRF on 
November 24, 1969.

Agencies and Persons Consulted

    The NRC staff provided a draft of this Environmental Assessment to 
the California Energy Commission for review on April 7, 2010. By 
telephone call on May 13, 2010, the California Energy Commission 
acknowledged receiving this draft Environmental Assessment and had no 
    The NRC staff also provided information about the proposed activity 
to the State Office of Historical Preservation for review on April 7, 
2010. By letter dated April 27, 2010, the Office of Historical 
Preservation agreed with the NRC regarding the conclusions of the 
historical assessment, and otherwise had no comments.

Finding of No Significant Impact

    On the basis of the environmental assessment, the NRC concludes 
that the proposed action will not have a significant effect on the 
quality of the human environment. Accordingly, the NRC has determined 
not to prepare an environmental impact statement for the proposed 

III. 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 
Documents 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: October 18, 1999, ADAMS 
Accession No. ML083110112, as supplemented by letters dated October 23 
and October 31, 1999 (ADAMS Accession Nos. ML083110488 and ML100332002, 
respectively), April 24, 2000 (ADAMS Accession No. ML003708602), 
January 27, May 17, July 14, and October 20, 2010 (ADAMS Accession Nos. 
ML100290365, ML101400027, ML101970039, and ML102980015, respectively), 
June 7, June 24, August 1, October 3, October 5, and December 2, 2011 
(ADAMS Accession Nos. ML111950380, ML11188A083, ML11255A073, 
ML120110012, ML11290A041, ML113530010, and ML11348A104, respectively). 
Also see the license's annual reports 1999-2000, (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML003747460), 2000-2001 (ADAMS Accession No. ML012190047), 2001-2002 
(ADAMS Accession No. ML022550427), 2002-2003 (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML032180735), 2003-2004 (ADAMS Accession No. ML042330395), 2004-2005 
(ADAMS Accession No. ML052550050), 2005-2006 (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML062410426), 2006-2007 (ADAMS Accession No. ML072130493), 2007-2008 
(ADAMS Accession No. ML082550403), 2008-2009 (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML092330118). If you do not have access to ADAMS or if there are 
problems in accessing the documents located in ADAMS, contact the NRC 
Public Document Room (PDR) Reference staff at 1-800-397-4209, 301-415-
4737 or by email to [email protected].
    These documents may also be viewed electronically on the public 
computers located at the NRC's Public Document Room (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 2nd day of February, 2012.

    For The Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Jessie F. Quichocho,
Branch Chief, Research and Test Reactors Licensing Branch, Division of 
Policy and Rulemaking, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.
[FR Doc. 2012-3298 Filed 2-10-12; 8:45 am]