The NRC: Reducing Our Environmental Footprint With Sustainability Actions

Ian Fisher
Sustainability Manager

The NRC is committed to reducing the environmental impact of our agency by operating in a more sustainable way. We do this by conserving energy and other resources, and cutting the emission of gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, also known as greenhouse gases. Once again ecologythis year, we met or beat our targets for improving our environmental footprint.

We send the White House a report each year outlining our efforts. Our 2013 Sustainability Plan reports our progress over the last fiscal year and our vision for continuing to meet and exceed federal goals.

Our best performance was in improving the footprint of our facilities. We reduced their greenhouse gas emissions in FY2012 by 31 percent over our FY2008 baseline. We can also report a 41.5 percent decrease in energy intensity. Our agency diverted 71 percent of our waste by recycling. And we now include a clause in our contracts to encourage good environmental practices among NRC contractors.

Our agency also cut by 14 percent emissions we do not directly control, such as from commuting and business travel. To improve these emissions going forward, we plan to make employees more aware of the options for using teleconferences, telework, flexible work schedules and transit subsidies. We will also promote the use of mass transit.

To save water, we continue to install low-flow bathroom fixtures in our buildings. We also continually look for ways to reduce water usage associated with our heating and cooling systems and our irrigation system.

We hope you’ll take a minute to review our latest update.

The NRC and Protecting the Environment: The NEPA Process

Larry Camper
Division of Waste Management and Environmental Protection

sustainabilityAt the NRC, we think of ourselves as an environmental agency. This view is included in the NRC mission statement: “To license and regulate . . . to ensure the adequate protection of public health and safety, promote the common defense and security, and to protect the environment.”

To fulfill the environmental protection part of our mission, we use the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, as implemented through NRC regulations. NEPA requires all federal agencies to evaluate the impacts of their actions on the environment. NRC conducts environmental reviews on applications for a license to construct and operate a new facility; to renew or amend an existing license; or a plan to decommission an existing facility. Such facilities include commercial power reactors, as well as nuclear fuel fabrication plants, spent fuel storage installations, uranium conversion and deconversion plants, enrichment facilities, radioactive waste disposal sites, and uranium recovery operations.

The product of an NRC environmental review is typically an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, which publicly available and developed with input from the public. The EIS details the potential environmental impacts of a proposed action (such as construction and operation of a nuclear facility) and reasonable alternatives (such as other locations for a facility or not building it at all). It also identifies mitigation measures to reduce any adverse impacts to the environment. NRC reviewers analyze impacts to air, water, plants and animals, natural resources, and property of historic or cultural significance. They also evaluate economic, social, human health, cumulative and other impacts, and environmental justice. Impacts of potential accidents are also assessed.

sustainabilityPublic involvement is key to this process. NRC requests public input on the scope of the review and the draft conclusions, usually through public meetings held near the proposed facility. We consult with federal, state and local agencies, as well as Tribal governments. The draft EIS is critically reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, other organizations, and the public. We address each comment received during the public comment period in the final EIS.

NRC’s NEPA process and our reviews of the safety aspects of facilities we regulate form the basis for the Commission’s regulatory decisions and help ensure that our mission goals are accomplished.

We are always trying to improve our NEPA process. One way is through the NRC’s NEPA Steering Committee. This committee helps ensure coordination and consistency among the agency’s offices that implement NEPA. It also analyzes emerging and complex NEPA issues and implements programmatic changes. The steering committee has focused recently on improving our implementation of the National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 process, enhancing our outreach to Native American Tribes, and reviewing guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality.

NRC’s Waste Confidence Scoping Report: What’s It All About?

Andy Imboden
Chief, Communications Branch, Waste Confidence Directorate

wcd_banner_smallThe NRC’s Waste Confidence Directorate has issued its scoping summary report  – based on the 1,700 comments we received on the question of what issues we’ll consider in the environmental review of the agency’s policy on long-term spent fuel storage. As you can imagine, there was tremendous public interest in this report.

The Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) and a related regulation will be the NRC’s response to last year’s U.S. Appeals Court ruling. That ruling directed the agency to analyze the environmental effects of never having a permanent repository for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel, as well as further analyses of spent fuel pool leaks and fires.

The scoping report does what its name implies – it defines the scope of the environmental review. The report lists comments and subject areas that will be covered in the GEIS (“in scope”) and explains why other subjects – such as defense waste, reprocessing facilities, and site-specific safety concerns – will not (“out of scope”).

This report also describes how the upcoming GEIS will be structured. We anticipate publishing the draft GEIS in September, with a series of public meetings across the country to present the draft and receive public comments.

During the scoping process, Waste Confidence Directorate staff reviewed some 700 comment submissions with 1,700 individual comments. Staff grouped and responded to the comments according to common concerns and issues. All comments, regardless of who submitted them or how they were submitted, received equal consideration. In addition to the summary report, the NRC has compiled and listed all 1,700 comments in a separate comment document.

The NRC is sending a copy of the scoping summary report to each person and organization who participated in the scoping process. The Waste Confidence Directorate holds monthly public teleconferences to discuss the status of the Waste Confidence GEIS and rulemaking.

There will be more opportunities for the public to participate and comment on waste confidence as the process goes on. The draft GEIS and proposed rule are scheduled to be issued later this year, and the NRC is planning to conduct regional public meetings to discuss these documents. Stay tuned for more details!

NRC Sustainability Plan Shows an Agency Committed to the Environment

Ian Fisher
Sustainability Manager


As required by Executive Order, the NRC submits an annual Sustainability Plan to the White House and OMB. This plan outlines the agency’s plans to be a good environmental steward through efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, increase use of renewable energy and reduce gas consumption.

The NRC has posted its plan online. It reflects the agency’s commitment to conducting our agency business in an environmentally and responsible and sustainable way.

In short, the NRC met or exceeded all relevant local, state and federal environmental laws and regulations, continually enhanced our business practices to minimize environmental impact, and sought to manage the agency’s ecological footprint by reducing the use of natural resources and preventing pollution.

As the plan shows, during FY2011, the agency implemented and continued a number of energy-reduction projects. We made changes to the air conditioning system at our Rockville, Md., headquarters that allowed us to cool the buildings more efficiently. We expanded our telework program which, in turn, reduces the number of cars commuting to work. The agency also is upgrading its restrooms with water saving toilets and faucets, which may save as much as 10 to 15 percent of water usage.

An additional office building in the White Flint headquarters complex was also built with aggressive energy efficiency and “green” technologies in mind.

We hope you’ll take a minute to review our latest update.