Back To Where We Were For North Anna New Reactor Environmental Review

Tamsen Dozier
Project Manager
Office of New Reactors

It’s not often we have to say “never mind,” but that applies to what had been potential changes to our environmental review for a new reactor in Virginia. Multiple changes in the proposed design for the North Anna application have eliminated one reason to supplement our work.

naDominion Virginia applied in November 2007 to build and operate a new reactor at the company’s North Anna site, northwest of Richmond. This would be the third North Anna reactor, co-located with the two that have operated safely since 1978 and 1980. Dominion’s original application proposed building General Electric-Hitachi’s Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor.

The NRC’s review includes examining issues as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. Dominion had addressed many of these environmental questions by successfully obtaining an Early Site Permit for the North Anna site before applying for a reactor license. The NRC does an additional review when considering a reactor license application. We held meetings with the local community and also got input from state officials and other federal agencies. We examined all this information before publishing a supplement to the permit’s environmental review, evaluating the possible construction and operation of the GE design at North Anna.

In 2011, Dominion amended its application to reflect the company’s change to a different reactor design. At that point we decided we’d need another supplement to the EIS to evaluate any changes in the previously evaluated impacts. In 2013 Dominion changed course again, returning to GE’s design. Since we’ve already documented our environmental review for the GE design, there’s no longer a need for a supplement for any design changes. We just published a notice to this effect in the Federal Register (Jan. 29, 2015).

Beyond these design changes, NRC regulations require more reviews for additional substantial application changes or if significant new environmental information comes to light. We’ll keep looking for project changes or new information and we’ll prepare a supplement if one’s needed.

New OIG Report Issued on NRC’s Compliance with its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Regulations

oigStephen Dingbaum
Assistant Inspector General for Audits

An Office of the Inspector General audit that looked at the NRC’s compliance with its regulations related to preparing environmental impact statements went public today.

The audit – formally titled Audit of NRC’s Compliance With 10 CFR Part 51 Relative to Environmental Impact Statements — set out to determine whether the NRC complies with its regulations. The OIG identified areas of noncompliance with 10 CFR Part 51 related to disclosure and public involvement, specifically, publishing a record of decision, the format of environmental impact statements, and completing all scoping requirements for all environmental impact statements.

While NRC management officials stated they believe the agency’s NEPA implementation activities have been fully compliant with the relevant regulations, management also stated it will consider OIG’s recommendations as part of the agency’s continuous improvement efforts.

The NRC’s OIG is an independent, objective office tasked with auditing NRC programs and operations with a focus on — among other things — detecting fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.

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.