[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 209 (Wednesday, October 28, 2020)]
[Pages 68372-68374]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-23873]




Environmental Considerations Associated With Micro-Reactors

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Interim staff guidance; issuance.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing 
Interim Staff Guidance (ISG), ``Micro-Reactor License Application COL-
ISG-029, `Environmental Considerations Associated with Micro-Reactors.' 
'' The purpose of this ISG is to modify existing guidance and provide 
supplemental guidance to assist the NRC staff in determining the scope 
and scale of environmental reviews of micro-reactor applications.

DATES: This guidance is effective on November 27, 2020.

ADDRESSES: Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2020-0051 when contacting the 
NRC about the availability of information regarding this document. You 
may obtain publicly available information related to this document 
using any of the following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Website: Go to https://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2020-0051. Address 
questions about Docket IDs in Regulations.gov to Jennifer Borges; 
telephone: 301-287-9127; email: [email protected]. For technical 
questions, contact the individuals listed in the FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT section of this document.
     NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System 
(ADAMS): You may obtain publicly available documents online in the 
ADAMS Public Documents collection at https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. To begin the search, select ``Begin Web-based ADAMS 
Search.'' For problems with ADAMS, please contact the NRC's Public 
Document Room (PDR) reference staff at 1-800-397-4209, 301-415-4737, or 
by email to [email protected]. The documents entitled, ``Micro-
Reactor License Application COL-ISG-029, `Environmental

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Considerations Associated with Micro-Reactors,' '' and ``Resolution of 
Public Comments on Draft COL-ISG-029,'' are available in ADAMS Package 
Accession No. ML20252A075.
     Attention: The PDR, where you may examine and order copies 
of public documents is currently closed. You may submit your request to 
the PDR via email at [email protected] or call 1-800-397-4209 
between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (EST), Monday through Friday, except 
Federal holidays.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jack Cushing, Office of Nuclear 
Material Safety and Safeguards, telephone: 301-415-1424, email: 
[email protected] and Mallecia Sutton, Office of Nuclear Reactor 
Regulation, telephone: 301-415-0673, email: [email protected]. 
Both are staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, 
DC 20555-0001.


I. Background

    On February 26, 2020 the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) 
issued a Federal Register notice (85 FR 11127) soliciting public 
comment on its draft Interim Staff Guidance (ISG), ``Micro-Reactor 
License Application COL-ISG-029, `Environmental Considerations 
Associated with Micro-Reactors.' '' The NRC responded to the comments 
and revised the draft ISG as appropriate and is issuing it as a final 
ISG. The NRC staff is preparing for the environmental reviews of 
prospective design, license, and permit applications for advanced 
nuclear power reactors (advanced reactors), including micro-reactors. 
The guidance in the ISG highlights unique considerations for micro-
reactors in each resource area typically covered in the staff's 
environmental review. The ISG also offers guidance on identifying 
considerations and approaches to simplify and shorten the environmental 
reviews for micro-reactors relative to the environmental reviews that 
the NRC has previously performed for other nuclear facilities, such as 
large light-water reactors (LWRs). The ISG outlines what the NRC staff 
considers to be an appropriate scope and level of detail for the 
specific aspects of an environmental review needed for a micro-reactor 
licensing action. A micro-reactor may have some, but not necessarily 
all, of the following characteristics:
     Occupies only a small area of land and/or disturbs only 
previously disturbed lands.
     Uses zero or only small quantities of resources, such as 
water or fuel.
     Releases zero or only small quantities of emissions to the 
     Avoids environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands 
and floodplains.
     Avoids areas with cultural, historic, or environmental 
justice significance.
     Avoids habitat for threatened or endangered species.
     Uses mitigation to reduce impacts.
     Involves only low levels of employment for both 
construction and operation.
     Uses simpler designs than those for large LWRs, with 
limited interfaces with the exterior environment.
    While the ISG is designed to aid the NRC staff in developing a 
micro-reactor environmental impact statement, the staff recognizes the 
value of the guidance as a supplemental source of insight into the 
NRC's environmental review process that can inform the development of 
an applicant's environmental report. Applicants should scale their 
level of effort appropriately when preparing Environmental Reports, 
commensurate with the significance of the impact on the resource area 
being addressed.
    The scope of this ISG is limited to environmental review 
considerations specific to micro-reactors, such as the following:

 Preapplication interactions
 purpose and need for the proposed project
 size of the proposed project and resources used
 land use
 water resources
 terrestrial ecology
 aquatic ecology
 socioeconomics and environmental justice
 historic and cultural resources
 need for power and alternatives
 meteorology and air quality
 nonradiological health
 radiological health
 postulated accidents
 severe accident mitigation alternatives
 acts of terrorism
 fuel cycle impacts, transportation of fuel and waste, and 
continued storage of spent fuel
 cumulative impact analysis
 consistency with safety licensing documents
 incorporation by reference

    The NRC staff will continue to look for other opportunities to 
effectively streamline environmental reviews and work with prospective 
applicants to identify opportunities to streamline ERs while still 
meeting the NRC's regulations.

II. Backfitting, Issue Finality, and Forward Fitting Discussion

    The guidance in this final ISG-029 clarifies how the NRC will 
approach environmental reviews for a micro-reactor application for 
combined license, early site permit, construction permit, operating 
license and/or limited work authorization. Issuance of this final ISG 
would not constitute backfitting as defined in section 50.109 of title 
10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) (the Backfit Rule) and 
as described in NRC Management Directive 8.4, ``Management of 
Backfitting, Forward Fitting, Issue Finality, and Information 
Requests;'' would not affect the issue finality of an approval under 10 
CFR part 52; and would not constitute forward fitting as that term is 
defined and described in Management Directive 8.4. The staff's position 
is based upon the following considerations:
    1. The final ISG positions, would not constitute backfitting or 
forward fitting or affect issue finality, inasmuch as the ISG would be 
internal guidance to NRC staff.
    The ISG provides interim guidance to the staff on how to review an 
application for NRC regulatory approval in the form of licensing. 
Changes in internal staff guidance, without further NRC action, are not 
matters that meet the definition of backfitting or forward fitting or 
affect the issue finality of a part 52 approval.
    2. Current or future applicants are not, with limited exceptions 
not applicable here, within the scope of the backfitting and issue 
finality regulations and forward fitting policy.
    Applicants are not, with certain exceptions, covered by either the 
Backfit Rule or any issue finality provisions under 10 CFR part 52. 
This is because neither the Backfit Rule nor the issue finality 
provisions under 10 CFR part 52--with certain exclusions discussed 
below--were intended to apply to every NRC action which substantially 
changes the expectations of current and future applicants.
    The exceptions to the general principle are applicable whenever an 
applicant references a 10 CFR part 52 license (e.g., an early site 
permit) and/or NRC regulatory approval (e.g., a design certification 
rule) with specified issue finality provisions or a construction permit 
under 10 CFR part 50. The staff does not, at this time, intend to 
impose the positions represented in the ISG section (if finalized) in a 
manner that would constitute backfitting or affect the issue finality 
of a part 52 approval. If, in the

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future, the staff seeks to impose a position in a manner that 
constitutes backfitting or does not provide issue finality as described 
in the applicable issue finality provision, then the staff would need 
to address the Backfit Rule or the criteria for avoiding issue finality 
as described in the applicable issue finality provision.
    The Commission's forward fitting policy generally does not apply 
when an applicant files an initial licensing action for a new facility. 
Nevertheless, the staff does not, at this time, intend to impose the 
positions represented in the final ISG section in a manner that would 
constitute forward fitting.

III. Congressional Review Act

    This interim staff guidance is a rule as defined in the 
Congressional Review Act (5 U.S.C. 801-808). However, the Office of 
Management and Budget has not found it to be a major rule as defined in 
the Congressional Review Act.

    Dated: October 23, 2020.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Kenneth T. Erwin,
Chief, Environmental Review New Reactor Branch, Division of Rulemaking, 
Environmental, and Financial Support, Office of Nuclear Material Safety 
and Safeguards.
[FR Doc. 2020-23873 Filed 10-27-20; 8:45 am]