[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 183 (Thursday, September 20, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 58416-58419]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-23205]


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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

[NRC-2012-0218]


Comparative Environmental Evaluation of Alternatives for Handling 
Low-Level Radioactive Waste Spent Ion Exchange Resins From Commercial 
Nuclear Power Plants

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Draft report; request for comment.

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SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission (NRC or the Commission) is issuing for public comment the 
Draft Comparative Environmental Evaluation of Alternatives for Handling 
Low-Level Radioactive Waste Spent Ion Exchange Resins from Commercial 
Nuclear Power Reactors.

DATES: Please submit comments by January 18, 2013. Comments received 
after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the 
NRC is able to assure consideration only for comments received on or 
before this date.

ADDRESSES: You may access information and comment submissions related 
to this document, which the NRC possesses and are publically available, 
by searching on http://www.regulations.gov under Docket ID NRC-2012-
0218. You may submit comments by any of the following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Web site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2012-XXXX. Address 
questions about NRC dockets to Carol Gallagher; telephone: 301-492-
3668; email: Carol.Gallagher@nrc.gov.
     Mail comments to: Cindy Bladey, Chief, Rules, 
Announcements, and Directives Branch (RADB), Office of Administration, 
Mail Stop: TWB-05-B01M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, 
DC 20555-0001.
     Fax comments to: RADB at 301-492-3446.
    For additional direction on accessing information and submitting 
comments, see ``Accessing Information and Submitting Comments'' in the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephen Lemont, Office of Federal and 
State Materials and Environmental Management Programs, U.S. Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001; telephone: 301-415-
5163; email: Stephen.Lemont@nrc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

[[Page 58417]]

I. Accessing Information and Submitting Comments

A. Accessing Information

    Please refer to Docket ID NRC- NRC-2012-0218 when contacting the 
NRC about the availability of information regarding this document. You 
may access information related to this document by any of the following 
methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Web site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC- NRC-2012-0218.
     NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System 
(ADAMS): You may access publicly-available documents online in the NRC 
Library at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. To begin the 
search, select ``ADAMS Public Documents'' and then 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 pdr.resource@nrc.gov. The ADAMS accession number 
for each document referenced in this notice is provided the first time 
that a document is referenced. In addition, for the convenience of the 
reader, the ADAMS accession numbers for these documents are provided in 
Section II, ``Availability of Documents,'' of this document.
     NRC's PDR: You may examine and purchase copies of public 
documents at the NRC's PDR, Room O1-F21, One White Flint North, 11555 
Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852.

B. Submitting Comments

    Please include Docket ID NRC- NRC-2012-0218 in the subject line of 
your comment submission, in order to ensure that the NRC is able to 
make your comment submission available to the public in this docket.
    The NRC cautions you not to include identifying or contact 
information that you do not want to be publicly disclosed in your 
comment submission. The NRC will post all comment submissions at http://www.regulations.gov as well as enter the comment submissions into 
ADAMS, and the NRC does not routinely edit comment submissions to 
remove identifying or contact information.
    If you are requesting or aggregating comments from other persons 
for submission to the NRC, then you should inform those persons not to 
include identifying or contact information that they do not want to be 
publicly disclosed in their comment submission. Your request should 
state that the NRC does not routinely edit comment submissions to 
remove such information before making the comment submissions available 
to the public or entering the comment submissions into ADAMS.

II. Availability of Documents

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       ADAMS Accession No.                     Document title
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ML12256A965......................  Draft Comparative Environmental
                                    Evaluation of Alternatives for
                                    Handling Low-Level Radioactive Waste
                                    Spent Ion Exchange Resins from
                                    Commercial Nuclear Power Plants.
ML090410246......................  SECY-10-0043, ``Blending of Low-Level
                                    Radioactive Waste,'' April 7, 2010.
ML102861764......................  SRM-SECY-10-0043, ``Staff
                                    Requirements--SECY-10-0043--Blending
                                    of Low-Level Radioactive Waste,''
                                    October 13, 2010.
ML100220019......................  Official Transcript of Proceedings,
                                    ``Public Meeting on Low-Level
                                    Radioactive Waste, Rockville,
                                    Maryland,'' January 14, 2010.
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III. Further Information

    In the draft report, the NRC staff identifies and compares 
potential environmental impacts of six alternatives for managing low-
level radioactive waste (LLRW) spent ion exchange resins (IERs) 
generated at commercial nuclear power plants (NPPs). This comparative 
environmental evaluation has been conducted consistent with Option 2 in 
the NRC staff's paper for the Commission, SECY-10-0043, ``Blending of 
Low-Level Radioactive Waste,'' April 7, 2010 (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML090410246), which identified policy, safety, and regulatory issues 
associated with LLRW blending, provided options for an NRC blending 
position, and proposed that the NRC staff revise the Commission 
position on blending to be risk-informed and performance based. Option 
2 of SECY-10-0043 was approved by the Commission in the October 13, 
2010 Staff Requirements Memorandum, SRM-SECY-10-0043, ``Staff 
Requirements--SECY-10-0043--Blending of Low-Level Radioactive Waste'' 
(ADAMS Accession No. ML102861764).
    Additionally, in consideration of stakeholder concerns expressed 
regarding potential environmental impacts associated with the blending 
of certain LLRW, as documented in the NRC's Official Transcript of its 
January 14, 2010, ``Public Meeting on Blending of Low-Level Radioactive 
Waste'' (ADAMS Accession No. ML100220019), in SECY-10-0043, Option 2, 
the NRC staff also proposed that ``* * * disposal of blended ion 
exchange resins from a central processing facility would be compared to 
direct disposal of the resins, onsite storage of certain wastes when 
disposal is not possible and further volume reduction of the Class B 
and C concentration resins.'' The purpose of the draft report is to 
address this comparison of IER waste handling alternatives. The six 
alternatives evaluated in the draft report include the four identified 
by the NRC staff in SECY-10-0043, plus two additional alternatives that 
represent variations on the disposal of blended ion exchange resins 
from a central processing facility and volume reduction of the Class B 
and C concentration resins alternatives. The assumptions and 
methodologies used in the staff's evaluation and the evaluation results 
are documented in the draft report. Additional information regarding 
the draft report is presented in Section IV, ``Draft Report Overview,'' 
of this document.

IV. Draft Report Overview

    In the comparative environmental evaluation presented in the draft 
report, the alternatives are described and potential environmental 
impacts of the alternatives are: (1) identified for a range of resource 
or impact areas (e.g., air quality, ecological resources, public and 
occupational health, transportation, waste management, water 
resources); and (2) compared in terms of their relative potential 
effects on human health and the environment. For reasons discussed in 
the draft report, the six alternatives are generic and not location-
specific, and the comparative environmental evaluation of the 
alternatives is largely qualitative. An exception is that potential 
transportation impacts are assessed both quantitatively and 
qualitatively.
    Furthermore, the evaluation is based on conservative, often 
bounding assumptions regarding the alternatives and various aspects of 
the analysis. This

[[Page 58418]]

approach is consistent with the assessment of generic, non-location-
specific alternatives, for which exact data and information would not 
be available. Consequently, the staff used its professional knowledge, 
experience, and judgment to establish reasonable technical 
considerations, estimations, and approximations with regard to how the 
alternatives were described, would be implemented, and would 
potentially affect human health and the environment. The NRC staff also 
took care not to underestimate potential environmental effects and 
instead worked to bound the possible range of outcomes in most cases. 
Thus, the potential impacts of the six alternatives, if implemented in 
actual practice, would be expected to be of somewhat lesser magnitude 
than described in the draft report.
    Ion exchange resins are small, bead-like materials used at 
commercial NPPs to capture radioactive contaminants dissolved in water 
used in plant operations. Over time, the IERs lose their ability to 
remove the contaminants from the water and the resins become ``spent'' 
and must be removed and replaced. The NRC defines three classes of 
LLRW--Class A, Class B, and Class C--in its regulations in section 
61.55 of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR), ``Waste 
classification.'' Of the three classes, Class A LLRW is the least 
hazardous and Class C is the most hazardous. Disposal facilities for 
LLRW are licensed to accept one or more of these classes of waste. 
Waste that exceeds the Class C limits is not generally acceptable for 
near-surface disposal. Licensees do not allow IERs to exceed the Class 
C limits, and waste at greater-than-Class C limits is not considered in 
this report. Spent IERs are managed as LLRW, and are classified as 
Class A, Class B, or Class C when shipped for disposal, depending on 
the concentrations and radioactivity levels of radionuclides present.
    Currently, there are four licensed, operating LLRW disposal 
facilities in the United States. One of these facilities is licensed to 
dispose of, and can accept, Class A LLRW from most states. The other 
three facilities are licensed to dispose of Class A, B, and C LLRW, but 
can accept these wastes only from a limited number of states, although 
one of these facilities may receive approval to import LLRW from 
additional states in the future. As a result, all U.S. commercial NPPs 
(which currently include 104 operating nuclear reactors at 65 NPP 
locations) can dispose of their Class A LLRW spent IERs, but more than 
40 of the 65 operating NPPs do not currently have access to a disposal 
facility for their Class B and C concentration spent IERs. Given this 
situation, LLRW processing and waste disposal companies are exploring 
alternatives for managing Class B and C concentration spent IERs.
    One of these alternatives is to use a centralized processing 
facility to blend small volumes of higher-activity Class B and C 
concentration spent IERs with larger volumes of low activity Class A 
concentration spent IERs to produce Class A waste. Potential 
environmental impacts of this alternative, as compared to potential 
impacts of the other alternatives, are described in the draft report.
    Specifically, the six alternatives evaluated in the draft report 
are:
     Alternative 1A--Direct disposal of blended Class A, B, and 
C spent IER LLRW from a central processing facility where mechanical 
mixing would be used to blend the spent IERs to produce Class A waste;
     Alternative 1B--Direct disposal of blended Class A, B, and 
C spent IER LLRW from a central processing facility where thermal 
processing would be used to blend the spent IERs to produce Class A 
waste;
     Alternative 2--Direct disposal of the Class A, B, and C 
spent IER LLRW (without blending);
     Alternative 3--Direct disposal of the Class A spent IERs, 
with long-term onsite storage of the Class B and C concentration spent 
IERs at the NPPs (including construction (expansion) of the waste 
storage facilities at the NPPs), followed by disposal of the Class B 
and C spent IERs at the end of the long-term storage period;
     Alternative 4A--Direct disposal of the Class A spent IERs, 
with volume reduction (by thermal processing) of the Class B and C 
concentration spent IERs, followed by long-term storage of the volume-
reduced Class B and C concentration spent IERs (including construction 
of a storage facility at an existing LLRW disposal site), and then 
disposal at the end of the long-term storage period; and
     Alternative 4B--Direct disposal of the Class A spent IERs, 
with volume reduction (by thermal processing) of the Class B and C 
concentration spent IERs, then disposal of the volume-reduced Class B 
and C spent IERs.
    As mentioned earlier, the comparative environmental evaluation is 
based on a number of assumptions. For example, the baseline for the 
evaluation is current land use. This means that, with the exception of 
the construction of the long-term waste storage facilities considered 
in Alternatives 3 and 4A, the evaluation assumes that no new IER 
handling, processing, and disposal facilities will be constructed and, 
therefore, does not revisit the impacts of construction of any of these 
facilities. In addition, the evaluation assumes that these facilities 
operate under licenses from the NRC or an Agreement State, and that all 
activities conducted in the alternatives would be in compliance with 
all applicable Federal, State, and local legal and regulatory 
requirements.
    Additionally, each alternative is considered individually in the 
evaluation (i.e., each alternative is assumed to be implemented at the 
exclusion of all the other alternatives). There is no mix of 
alternatives, and all spent IERs generated at all 65 NPPs are assumed 
to be managed under each alternative. The staff recognizes that 
Agreement State requirements and other factors could prevent some NPPs 
from using some alternatives, and that in actual practice, all spent 
IERs generated at all 65 NPPs would not be managed under any single 
alternative. Therefore, the assumption that all spent IERs are managed 
under each alternative results in conservative estimates of the 
potential impacts of each alternative.
    The assumptions used in this evaluation, such as those previously 
described, are reasonable and consistent with SECY-10-0043, Option 2, 
which established the basis for the comparative environmental 
evaluation. These assumptions are also necessary to place all six 
alternatives on a relatively equal footing, which helps avoid bias in 
the results of the evaluation.
    The assessment of potential environmental effects of the six 
alternatives evaluated the following resource or impact areas: Air 
quality, ecological resources, historic and cultural resources, noise, 
public and occupational health, soil, transportation, waste management, 
and water resources. The following resource and impact areas were 
eliminated from detailed consideration for reasons discussed in the 
draft report: Accidents and other off-normal conditions, environmental 
justice, geology and minerals, land use, socioeconomics, and visual and 
scenic resources. In addition, to the extent practicable, the 
evaluation of potential environmental impacts identifies and accounts 
for generally accepted impact mitigation measures in each resource or 
impact area that would typically be employed in general industry 
practice. In accordance with the standard of significance that has been 
established by the NRC for assessing environmental impacts, using the 
standards of the Council on Environmental Quality's regulations in 40 
CFR 1508.27 as a basis, each impact

[[Page 58419]]

for each alternative was assigned one of the following three 
significance levels:
     SMALL. The environmental effects are not detectable or are 
so minor that they would neither destabilize nor noticeably alter any 
important attribute of the resource.
     MODERATE. The environmental effects are sufficient to 
noticeably alter, but not destabilize important attributes of the 
resource.
     LARGE. The environmental effects are clearly noticeable 
and are sufficient to destabilize important attributes of the resource.
    The evaluation concludes that the potential environmental impacts 
of all six alternatives in all resource and impact areas would be 
SMALL, with the exception of potential impacts on historic and cultural 
resources from construction of long-term waste storage facilities in 
Alternatives 3 and 4A, which could be SMALL to MODERATE. Reasons for 
the mostly SMALL impacts, by resource or impact area, are discussed in 
the Draft Report.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 12th day of September, 2012.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Andrew Persinko,
Deputy Director, Environmental Protection and Performance Assessment 
Directorate, Division of Waste Management and Environmental Protection, 
Office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management 
Programs.
[FR Doc. 2012-23205 Filed 9-19-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7590-01-P