[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 223 (Wednesday, November 18, 2020)]
[Pages 73516-73519]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-25446]



[Docket Nos. 50-205, 361, and 362; NRC-2020-0254]

Southern California Edison; San Onofre Nuclear Generating 
Station, Units 1, 2, and 3

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Exemption; issuance.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff is issuing 
an exemption in response to a request dated September 1, 2020, from the 
Southern California Edison (SCE), for San Onofre Nuclear Generating 
Station, Units 1, 2, and 3 (SONGS), from the requirement to investigate 
and report to the NRC when SCE does not receive notification of receipt 
of a shipment, or part of a shipment, of low-level radioactive waste 
within 20 days after transfer from the SONGS facility. SCE requested 
the time period to receive acknowledgement that the shipment has been 
received by the intended recipient be extended from 20 to 45 days. SCE 
requested this change to avoid an excessive administrative burden, 
because its operational experience indicates that these shipments may 
take more than 20 days to reach their destination.

DATES: The exemption was issued on November 13, 2020.

ADDRESSES: Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2020-0254 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-2020-0254. Address 
questions about Docket IDs in Regulations.gov to Jennifer Borges; 
telephone: 301-287-9127; email: [email protected]. For technical 
questions, contact the individual listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT section of this document.
     The 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

[[Page 73517]]

``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 ADAMS 
accession number for each document referenced (if it is available in 
ADAMS) is provided the first time that it is mentioned in this 
     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: Amy M. Snyder, Office of Nuclear 
Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 
Washington, DC 20555-0001; telephone: 301-415-6822, email: 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The text of the exemption is attached.

    Dated: November 13, 2020.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Bruce Watson,
Chief, Reactor Decommissioning Branch, Division of Decommissioning, 
Uranium Recovery and Waste Programs, Office of Nuclear Material Safety 
and Safeguards.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Docket No. 50-205, 361, and 362

Southern California Edison

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, Unit 1, 2, and 3

Exemption From Certain Low-Level Waste Shipment Tracking Requirements 
of 10 CFR Part 20, Appendix G, Section III.E

I. Background

    San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), Units 1, 2, and 3, 
are licensed to the Southern California Edison (SCE) \1\ under title 10 
of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) part 50 (license No. DPR-
13, NPF-10, and NPF-15, respectively, and docket Nos. 50-206, 50-361, 
and 50-362, respectively). The SONGS facility is located 4 miles 
southeast of San Clemente, California, in San Diego County, California. 
SONGS Units 1, 2 and 3, are decommissioning nuclear power reactor units 
located in San Diego County, California, approximately 62 miles 
southeast of Los Angeles, and approximately 51 miles northwest of San 
Diego, on an 84-acre site located entirely within the Camp Pendleton 
Marine Corps Base.

    \1\ SONGS is jointly owned by SCE (78.21 percent), San Diego Gas 
& Electric (20 percent), and the city of Riverside (1.79 percent). 
SCE is authorized to act as agent for the other co-owners and has 
exclusive responsibility and control over the physical construction, 
operation, and maintenance of the facility.

    Unit 1, a Westinghouse 3-loop pressurized water reactor constructed 
by Bechtel and rated at 1,347 MWt, began commercial operation on 
January 1, 1968, and permanently ceased operation on November 30, 1992. 
The unit was initially placed in SAFSTOR until 2000 when active 
decommissioning (DECON) began.
    SONGS, Unit 1, was granted its provisional operating license by the 
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on January 1, 1968 and ceased 
operation on November 30, 1992. The licensee completed defueling on 
March 6, 1993 (ADAMS Accession No. ML13319B055), and maintained the 
unit in deferred decontamination, or SAFSTOR, until June 1999, when it 
initiated active decommissioning and dismantlement, or DECON (ADAMS 
Accession No. ML13319B111). On December 28, 1993 (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML13319B059), the NRC approved the Permanently Defueled Technical 
Specifications for SONGS, Unit 1. SCE submitted the proposed 
Decommissioning Plan for SONGS, Unit 1, on November 3, 1994 (ADAMS 
Accession No. ML13319B073).
    As a result of the 1996 revision to the regulations in 10 CFR 
50.82, ``Termination of license,'' the NRC replaced the requirement for 
a decommissioning plan with a requirement for a Post Shutdown 
Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR). On August 28, 1996, the 
SONGS 1 Decommissioning Plan became the SONGS 1 PSDAR (61 FR 67079; 
December 19, 1996). On December 15, 1998 (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML13184A353), SCE submitted an update to the PSDAR to the NRC, as 
required by 10 CFR 50.82(a)(7), in order to begin planning for the 
dismantlement and decommissioning of SONGS, Unit 1. Dismantlement of 
SONGS, Unit 1, was essentially completed by 2009 and most of the 
structures have been removed and sent to a nuclear waste disposal 
facility. Certain below-grade structures were abandoned in place and 
any void spaces filled. SCE then constructed the original approved 
ISFSI for the temporary storage of SONGS Unit 1 SNF. SCE elected to 
address decommissioning of these remaining remnants until after all SNF 
has been removed and the approved ISFSI can be demolished. NRC issued a 
license amendment in 2010 releasing the offshore portions of the Unit 1 
cooling intake and outlet pipes under the Pacific Ocean seabed, leaving 
them in place for unrestricted use. SONGS Unit 1 decommissioning work 
yet to be completed includes the demolition of the Unit 1 share of the 
ISFSI after the SNF is removed. All SONGS Unit 1 fuel (except for 270-
unit 1 spent fuel assemblies that were shipped to GE- Hitachi in 
Morris, Illinois between period from 1972 to 1980 for wet storage) are 
in dry storage at the onsite ISFSI. The NRC previously approved 
Technical Specifications that reflect the transfer of all SONGS, Unit 
1, spent fuel into dry storage (ADAMS Accession No. ML042660363).
    Units 2 and 3 reactors are Combustion Engineering (CE) 2-loop 
pressurized water reactors designed by Bechtel and rated at 3,438 
Megawatt thermal (MWt) (1070/1080 Megawatt electric (MWe)). In February 
and November 1982, NRC granted operating licenses for Units 2 and 3. 
Units 2 and 3 began operations in August 1983 and April 1984, 
respectively. SONGS Units 2 and 3 were shut down in January 2012 due to 
issues with the replacement steam generators.
    By letter dated June 12, 2013 (ADAMS Accession No. ML131640201) SCE 
submitted a certification to the NRC indicating its intention to 
permanently cease power operations at SONGS, Units 2 and 3, as of June 
7, 2013, pursuant to 10 CFR 50.82(a)(1)(i). By letters dated June 28, 
2013 (ADAMS Accession No. ML13183A391), and July 22, 2013 (ADAMS 
Accession No. ML13204A304), SCE submitted permanent removal of fuel 
certifications, pursuant to 10 CFR 50.82(a)(1)(ii), for the Unit 3 and 
Unit 2 reactor vessels on October 5, 2012, and July 18, 2013, 
respectively. Upon docketing of these certifications, the SONGS, Units 
2 and 3, facility operating licenses no longer authorize operation of 
the reactors or emplacement or retention of fuel into the reactor 
vessels pursuant to 10 CFR 50.82(a)(2). By letter dated September 23, 
2014 (ADAMS Accession No. ML14272A121), SCE submitted the PSDAR for 
SONGS, Units 2 and 3. The PSDAR outlined the decommissioning activities 
for SONGS, Units 2 and 3. The NRC staff reviewed the PSDAR in a letter 
dated August 20, 2015 (ADAMS Accession No. ML15204A383).
    By application dated December 15, 2016 (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML16355A014), the licensee requested changes to the SONGS Facility 
Operating Licenses and Technical Specifications to reflect the removal 
of all spent nuclear fuel from the SONGS, Units 2 and 3, spent fuel 
pools and their transfer to dry cask storage within an expanded onsite 
ISFSI. The changes

[[Page 73518]]

also make conforming revisions to the SONGS, Unit 1, Technical 
Specifications and combine them with the SONGS, Units 2 and 3, 
Technical Specifications. These changes more fully reflect the current 
status of the facility, as well as the reduced scope of structures, 
systems, and components necessary to ensure plant safety once all spent 
fuel has been permanently moved to the SONGS ISFSI, an activity that 
was completed in August 2020. By letter dated August 7, 2020 (ADAMS 
Accession No. ML20227A044), SCE certified that all spent nuclear fuel 
assemblies were permanently transferred out of the SONGS spent fuel 
pool and placed in storage within the onsite ISFSI.
    On May 7, 2020, SCE submitted a revised PSDAR and Irradiated Fuel 
Management Plan for the SONGS Units 2 and 3 in accordance with 10 CFR 
50.82(a)(7) (ADAMS Accession No. ML20136A339). The NRC staff reviewed 
this submittal and had no further comments (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML20267A526). By the end of 2028, the licensee is expected to complete 
all decommissioning work necessary to obtain NRC approval to reduce the 
Part 50 license site footprint to the ISFSI area only and to allow 
partial release of the SONGS site for unrestricted future use.
    Inherent to the decommissioning process, large volumes of low-level 
radioactive waste are generated. This low-level waste requires 
processing and disposal or only disposal. SCE will transport, by truck 
or by mixed mode shipments like a combination of truck and rail, low-
level radioactive waste from the facility to locations such as the 
waste disposal facility operated by Waste Control Specialists in 
Andrews, Texas and the one operated by Energy Solutions in Clive, Utah. 
The estimated license termination date for SONGS Units 2 and 3, except 
for the ISFSI, is 2030. The site restoration activities will be 
completed by 2033. The licensee projects that all decommissioning 
activities, to include the remnants of Unit 1, will be completed by 
2051, approximately 2 years after the removal of the last spent fuel 
from the SONGS ISFSI (ADAMS Accession No. ML20136A339).

II. Request/Action

    By letter dated September 1, 2020 (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML20255A083), SCE requested an exemption from 10 CFR part 20, appendix 
G, ``Requirements for Transfers of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Intended 
for Disposal at Licensed Land Disposal Facilities and Manifests,'' 
section III.E. for transfers of low-level radioactive waste from the 
SONGS facility.
    Section III.E requires that the shipper of any low-level 
radioactive waste to a licensed land disposal or processing facility 
must investigate and trace the shipment if the shipper has not received 
notification of the shipment's receipt by the disposal or processing 
facility within 20 days after transfer. In addition, section III.E 
requires licensees to report such investigations to the NRC. SCE is 
specifically requesting an exemption from the requirements in 10 CFR 
part 20, appendix G, section III.E, under the provisions of 10 CFR 
20.2301, ``Applications for exemptions.'' SCE seeks to extend the 20 
day time period for SCE to receive notification that the shipment was 
received to 45 days after transfer for a rail or mixed mode shipment 
from SONGS facility to the intended recipient, before having to 
investigate and report such shipments to the NRC.

III. Discussion

A. The Exemption Is Authorized by Law

    The NRC's regulations in 10 CFR 20.2301 allow the Commission to 
grant exemptions from the requirements of the regulations in 10 CFR 
part 20 if it determines the exemption would be authorized by law and 
would not result in undue hazard to life or property. There are no 
provisions in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (or in any 
other Federal statute) that impose a requirement to investigate and 
report on low-level radioactive waste shipments that have not been 
acknowledged by the recipient within 20 days of transfer. Therefore, 
the NRC staff concludes that there is no statutory prohibition on the 
issuance of the requested exemption and the NRC is authorized to grant 
the exemption by law.

B. The Exemption Presents No Undue Hazard to Life and Property

    The purpose of 10 CFR part 20, appendix G, section III.E is to 
require licensees to investigate, trace, and report radioactive 
shipments that have not reached their destination, as scheduled, for 
unknown reasons.
    SCE states that ``[I]t has been It has been SONGS's experience, 
similar to those at other decommissioning facilities that have shipped 
large quantities of waste to offsite disposal facilities, that rail 
shipments can routinely take longer than 20 days for various reasons 
that cannot be anticipated nor avoided.'' The NRC staff notes a past 
example of a planned shipment from SONGS that would exceed 20 days in 
which a one-time exemption from the investigation and reporting 
requirements of 10 CFR part 20, appendix G, section III.E was granted 
(ADAMS Accession No. ML031400384). The NRC staff also notes that the 
Unit 1 reactor pressure vessel low level waste shipment to Clive, UT 
took more than 20 days (ADAMS Accession No. ML20188A388). In addition, 
SCE reported on October 16, 2020, as required by 10 CFR part 20, 
Appendix G, Section III.A.9, that a low-level waste shipment had not 
been received in 20 days due to rail scheduling. Based on these past 
reports, the NRC staff concludes that delays due to rail scheduling are 
likely to recur.
    Further, SCE states that the requested exemption ``. . . is similar 
to the ones previously approved by the NRC, namely: Fort Calhoun 
Station on June 30, 2020 (ref. ML20162A155), Vermont Yankee Nuclear 
Power Station on February 5, 2020 (ref. ML20017A069), La Crosse Boiling 
Water Reactor facility on May 2, 2017 (ref. ML17124A210), and Zion 
Nuclear Power Station Units 1 and 2 on January 30, 2015 (ref. 
ML15008A417).'' The NRC staff reviewed these other exemption requests 
and notes that all of the facilities noted above are reactors 
facilities undergoing decommissioning. The NRC staff agrees that these 
exemption requests are similar to the exemption requested by SCE. In 
addition, SCE stated that ``the NRC staff in SECY-18-055, (ref. 1 and 
ML18012A022), has proposed rulemaking to amend 10 CFR 20, Appendix G, 
Section 111.E to allow a 45-day notification window based on operating 
experience that show this is a reasonable delay for low-level waste 
shipments.'' The NRC staff agrees that the proposed rulemaking that SCE 
references does propose to amend 10 CFR part 20, appendix G, Section 
111.E to allow a 45-day notification window based on operating 
experience, which shows this is a reasonable delay for low-level waste 
shipments. The NRC staff agrees that a 45-day notification window based 
on operating experience is a reasonable delay for low-level waste 
shipments from reactor decommissioning facilities.
    In its request, SCE stated that SCE takes actions during the 
preparation of shipments to predict and mitigate undesirable conditions 
as much as possible, encountered delays can often extend the shipping 
duration beyond the requisite 20 days. SCE states that exceeding the 
20-day shipment duration results in an administrative burden. SCE 
states the burden is a result of the required investigations and 

[[Page 73519]]

even though shipments continue to be under requisite controls.
    SCE is in the process of decommissioning SONGS Units 2 & 3. During 
reactor decommissioning, large volumes of slightly contaminated debris 
are generated and require disposal. SCE will be transporting low-level 
radioactive waste from the SONGS facility to distant locations such as 
the waste disposal facility operated by Waste Control Specialists in 
Andrews, Texas and by Energy Solutions in Clive, Utah. SCE plans to 
ship most of the waste to these disposal facilities or intermediate 
processors via rail.
    SCE indicated in its application that, due to the complex 
scheduling and congestion on the planned rail systems, delays beyond 
the estimated durations are often encountered after the waste leaves 
site. Rail shipments may sit at a remote railyard waiting for clearance 
to depart or for maintenance of a railcar in need of repair; either of 
which creates delays that can extend the estimated shipping durations 
from SONGS and are outside of the shipper's, (i.e., SCE's) controls. 
Administrative processes at the disposal facility and mail delivery 
times can add several additional days.
    Low-level radioactive waste shipments from the SONGS facility can 
take longer than 20 days to reach a waste disposal facility. The delay 
is not the result of loss, but a consequence of the complexity involved 
in shipping large components. In addition, the NRC staff is aware of 
shipping industry practices that could result in shipping durations 
exceeding 20 days due to issues not specifically related to the 
transport of large components, such as rail cars containing LLW in 
switchyards waiting to be included in a complete train to the disposal 
facility. According to SCE, ``in terms of potential effect on a member 
of the public, the number 1 cause of delays is coordination with the 
rail carriers. When these delays happen, the shipment is generally 
within a railyard and not near a member of the public or a public 
place. The only way a shipment would remain in a public place for an 
unusual amount of time is if there was a problem with the transport 
vehicle or the rail system.'' The NRC staff notes that the shipments 
are compliant with the Department of Transportation and NRC 
requirements for transportation of low-level radioactive packaging, 
placarding and radiation levels for health and safety purposes during 
transit including during switchyard staging. Furthermore, the shipments 
are under control of the shipper at all times, tracked by the licensee, 
and periodically monitored by the licensee, as needed. Therefore, there 
are no potential health and safety concerns associated with this 
material sitting in a switchyard for an extended period of time.
    Based on the history of low-level radioactive waste shipments from 
SONGS and the lack of potential health and safety concerns associated 
with this material sitting in a switchyard for extended period of time, 
the need to investigate, trace and report on shipments that take longer 
than 20 days but not longer than 45 days is therefore inappropriate. 
The NRC staff believes that the application of 45 days as an upper 
bound is appropriate for the same reasons as presented in the proposed 
rulemaking (page 158, ML18012A022).
    As indicated in the request for exemption, for rail shipments from 
SONGS, SCE will use a tracking system that allows daily monitoring of a 
shipments' progress to its destination and SONGS shipping procedures 
prescribe the expectations for tracking and communications during 
transit. The NRC staff believes these steps will allow for monitoring 
the progress of the shipments by the rail carrier on a daily basis, if 
needed, in lieu of the 20-day requirement and will initiate an 
investigation as provided for in Section III.E after 45 days. Because 
of the oversight and the ability to monitor low-level radioactive waste 
shipments throughout the entire journey from SONGS to a disposal or 
processing site noted above, the NRC staff concludes that it is 
unlikely that a shipment could be lost, misdirected, or diverted 
without the knowledge of the carrier or SCE and there is no potential 
health and safety concern presented by the requested exemption. 
Furthermore, by extending the elapsed time for receipt acknowledgment 
to 45 days before requiring investigations, tracing, and reporting, a 
reasonable upper limit on shipment duration is maintained if a 
breakdown of normal tracking systems were to occur.
    Consequently, the NRC staff finds that extending the receipt of 
notification period from 20 to 45 days after transfer of the low-level 
radioactive waste as described by SCE in its September 1, 2020, letter 
would not result in an undue hazard to life or property.

C. The Exemption Is Subject to a Categorical Exclusion

    With respect to compliance with Section 102(2) of the National 
Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. 4332(2) (NEPA), the NRC staff has 
determined that the proposed action, the approval of the SCE exemption 
request, is within the scope of the categorical exclusion listed at 10 
CFR 51.22(c)(25). The proposed action presents (i) no significant 
hazards considerations; (ii) would not result in a significant change 
in the types or significant increase in the amounts of any effluents 
that may be released offsite; (iii) would not result in a significant 
increase in individual or cumulative public or occupational radiation 
exposure; (iv) has no significant construction impact; (v) does not 
present a significant increase in the potential for or consequences 
from radiological accidents. The requirements from which an exemption 
is sought involves reporting requirements under 10 CFR 
51.22(c)(25)(vi)(B) as well as inspection or surveillance requirements 
under 10 CFR 51.22(c)(25)(vi)(C). Given the applicability of relevant 
categorical exclusions, no further analysis is required under NEPA.

IV. Conclusions

    Accordingly, the Commission has determined that, pursuant to 10 CFR 
20.2301, the exemption is authorized by law and will not result in 
undue hazard to life or property. Therefore, effective immediately, the 
Commission hereby grants SCE an exemption from 10 CFR part 20, appendix 
G, section III.E to extend the receipt of notification period from 20 
days to 45 days after transfer for rail or mixed-mode shipments of low-
level radioactive waste from Units 1, 2, and 3 from the SONGS facility 
to a licensed land disposal or processing facility.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 13th day of November.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


Patricia K. Holahan,
Director, Division of Decommissioning, Uranium Recovery and Waste 
Programs, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.

[FR Doc. 2020-25446 Filed 11-17-20; 8:45 am]