[Federal Register Volume 69, Number 65 (Monday, April 5, 2004)]
[Notices]
[Pages 17717-17718]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 04-7555]


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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

[Docket No. 50-245]


Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, Inc., Millstone Power Station, Unit 
1; Exemption

1.0 Background

    Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, Inc. (the licensee) is the holder of 
Facility Operating License No. DPR-21, which authorizes the licensee to 
possess the Millstone Power Station, Unit 1. The license states, in 
part, that the facility is subject to all the rules, regulations, and 
orders of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (the Commission or 
NRC) now or hereafter in effect.
    The facility consists of a boiling water reactor located at the 
licensee's site in Waterford, Connecticut. The facility is permanently 
shut down and defueled and the licensee is no longer authorized to 
operate or place fuel in the reactor.

2.0 Request/Action

    Section 140.11(a)(4) of 10 CFR part 140 requires a reactor with a 
rated capacity of 100,000 electrical kilowatts or more to maintain 
primary liability insurance of $300 million \1\ and to participate in a 
secondary insurance pool. All operating reactor sites carry $300 
million in primary insurance coverage. All decommissioning plants 
except Millstone Power Station Unit 1 have been allowed to discontinue 
the secondary insurance coverage. Single unit decommissioning plants 
without operating reactors on the same site have been allowed to reduce 
their primary insurance coverage to $100 million. When Millstone Unit 1 
receives its exemption it will still be covered by $300 million in 
primary insurance because two other operating reactors exist on the 
same site.
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    \1\ At the time that Northeast Nuclear Energy Company requested 
the exemption from secondary financial protection the requirement 
for primary insurance coverage was $200 million. The regulation now 
requires $300 million in primary coverage.
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    By letter dated September 28, 1999, as supplemented by a letter 
dated March 2, 2000, Northeast Nuclear Energy Company requested an 
exemption from 10 CFR 140.11(a)(4). Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, Inc., 
which assumed operating authority for Millstone Unit 1 in March 2001, 
provided a supplementary letter dated November 6, 2003. The licensee 
requested to withdraw from participation in the secondary insurance 
pool.

3.0 Discussion

    The NRC may grant exemptions from the requirements of 10 CFR Part 
140 of the regulations which, pursuant to 10 CFR 140.8, are authorized 
by law and are otherwise in the public interest. The underlying purpose 
of Section 140.11 is to provide sufficient liability insurance to 
ensure funding for claims resulting from a nuclear incident or a 
precautionary evacuation.
    The financial protection limits of 10 CFR 140.11 were established 
to require a licensee to maintain sufficient insurance to cover the 
costs of a nuclear accident at an operating reactor. Although the risk 
of an accident at an operating reactor is very low, the consequences 
can be large, in part due to the high temperature and pressure of the 
reactor coolant system, as well as the inventory of radionuclides. In a 
permanently shutdown and defueled reactor facility, the possibility of 
accidents involving the reactor and its systems, structures and 
components, is eliminated. Further reductions in risk occur because (1) 
the decay heat from spent fuel decreases over time, which reduces the 
amount of cooling required to prevent the spent fuel from heating up to 
a temperature that could compromise the ability of the fuel cladding to 
retain fission products; and (2) the relatively short-lived 
radionuclides contained in the spent fuel, particularly volatile 
components such as iodine and noble gases, decay away, thus reducing 
the inventory of radioactive materials that are readily dispersible and 
transportable in air.
    Although the risk and consequences of a radiological release 
decline substantially after a plant permanently defuels its reactor, 
they are not completely eliminated. There are potential onsite and 
offsite radiological consequences that could be associated with the 
onsite storage of the spent fuel in the spent fuel pool (SFP). In 
addition, a site may contain an inventory of radioactive liquids, 
activated reactor components, and contaminated materials. For purposes 
of modifying the amount of insurance coverage maintained by a power 
reactor licensee, the potential consequences, despite very low risk, 
are an appropriate consideration.
    By letter dated March 2, 2000, the licensee submitted an analysis 
of the heatup characteristics of the spent fuel in the absence of SFP 
water inventory. The licensee concluded that air cooling of the fuel 
would be sufficient to maintain the integrity of the fuel cladding. The 
staff independently evaluated the licensee's analysis and found it to 
be acceptable.
    The above analyses established that air cooling was adequate in the 
normal storage configuration, but events could change the configuration 
of stored fuel or otherwise degrade the effectiveness of cooling. This 
potential was addressed in NUREG-1738, ``Technical Study of Spent Fuel 
Pool Accident Risk at Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants,'' which 
concluded that the probability of fuel uncovery is very low, and the 
probability of a random event that substantially reconfigures stored 
fuel such that cooling becomes inadequate is much lower still. Even 
with inadequate cooling, NUREG-1738 presented data indicating that fuel 
with over 5 years' decay time would require over 24 hours of complete 
adiabatic conditions (obstructed air flow) to reach temperatures 
associated with rapid cladding oxidation and release of fission 
products. The staff considers these conclusions applicable to Millstone 
Unit 1 since its spent fuel has been decaying since November 1995. A 
partial drain-down of the SFP could interfere with natural convection 
heat transfer and lead to a heatup of the spent fuel. However, if this 
were to occur, sufficient time is available for the licensee to take 
compensatory actions (such as refilling the SFP or spraying water on 
the spent fuel) thereby restoring necessary cooling. The staff judges 
that the analyses in NUREG-1738 are conservative and that there will be 
sufficient time for reasonable compensatory action for this small 
likelihood event.
    The NUREG-1738 study did not evaluate the risk from malevolent 
acts. With regard to physical protection, the Millstone Unit 1 SFP is 
located within the overall Millstone site protected area (PA) which 
also contains operating Millstone Units 2 and 3. The licensee maintains 
a protective strategy for Units 2 and 3 that is in compliance with the 
requirements of 10 CFR 73.55 and interim compensatory measures issued 
by Order on February 25, 2002. By

[[Page 17718]]

virtue of its location in the overall Millstone site PA (including 
Units 2 and 3), the Unit 1 SFP is accorded the substantial protection 
provided by the licensee's compliance with the Unit 2 and 3 
requirements.
    Based on insights from NUREG-1738 and other SFP analyses, the 
probability of a zirconium fire involving the Millstone Power Station, 
Unit 1 spent fuel is expected to be very low and well within the 
Commission's safety goals. The staff considers that the significant age 
of the spent fuel (over eight years), improved security measures at the 
site and the location of two operating reactors at the same site 
significantly reduce the risk of a spent fuel accident/incident at the 
Millstone Power Station Unit 1. For this reason, an accident/incident 
involving the spent fuel resulting in a large offsite release or the 
need to evacuate a large portion of the local population has a very low 
likelihood. Additionally, the fuel at Millstone Power Station, Unit 1 
has decayed in excess of eight years, substantially reducing the 
potential offsite consequences of fuel damage. The potential 
consequences continue to decrease as time passes.
    A licensee's liability for offsite costs may be significant due to 
lawsuits alleging damages from offsite releases. An appropriate level 
of financial liability coverage is needed to account for potential 
judgments and settlements and to protect the Federal government from 
indemnity claims. The staff believes that the Commission's requirement 
to maintain the $300 million in primary offsite financial protection at 
the Millstone site is sufficient for this purpose.
    In a letter from the Executive Director for Operations to the 
Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) dated 
September 17, 2001, post-shutdown insurance requirements for 
decommissioning nuclear power plants were addressed. The staff and the 
ACRS agreed that onsite and offsite insurance coverage can be 
substantially reduced shortly after a facility permanently shuts down. 
The ACRS also accepted the staff's assessment that the primary 
insurance level be reduced to $100 million (the Millstone site 
maintains a primary insurance level of $300 million because of the two 
operating units) and that decommissioning licensees be released from 
participation in the secondary insurance pool.
    The staff has completed its review of the licensee's request to 
withdraw from participation in the secondary insurance pool. On the 
basis of its review, the staff finds that the risk from random events 
associated with the spent fuel stored in the Millstone Power Station, 
Unit 1 SFP is very low and well within the Commission's safety goals. 
Additionally, the staff believes that the security measures already 
implemented for the Millstone site (collectively for Millstone Units 1, 
2 and 3) including supplemental requirements issued by Order on 
February 25, 2002, provide reasonable assurance of protection against 
radiological sabotage and adequate protection of public health and 
safety and the common defense and security. Therefore, the licensee's 
proposed protection limits (i.e., $300 million in primary insurance 
coverage) will provide sufficient insurance to recover from limiting 
hypothetical events, if they occur, and the underlying purpose of the 
regulation will not be adversely affected by the reduction in insurance 
coverage.

4.0 Conclusion

    Accordingly, the Commission has determined that, pursuant to 10 CFR 
140.8, an exemption to withdraw from the secondary insurance pool for 
offsite liability insurance is authorized by law and is otherwise in 
the public interest. Therefore, the Commission hereby grants Dominion 
Nuclear Connecticut, Inc., an exemption as described above from the 
secondary insurance requirements of 10 CFR part 140.11(a)(4) for the 
Millstone Power Station, Unit 1.
    Pursuant to 10 CFR 51.32, the Commission has determined that this 
exemption will not have a significant effect on the quality of the 
human environment (65 FR 42038).
    This exemption is effective upon issuance.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 30th day of March 2004.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Eric J. Leeds,
Deputy Director, Division of Licensing Project Management, Office of 
Nuclear Reactor Regulation.
[FR Doc. 04-7555 Filed 4-2-04; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7590-01-P