[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 49 (Thursday, March 13, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 14304-14307]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-05498]


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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

[Docket No. 50-443; NRC-2014-0043]


License Exemption Request for NextEra Energy Seabrook, LLC; 
Seabrook Station, Unit 1

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Exemption; issuance.

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing an 
exemption in response to a June 25, 2013, request from NextEra Energy, 
Seabrook, LLC, requesting an exemption for the use of a different fuel 
rod cladding material (Optimized ZIRLO\TM\).

ADDRESSES: Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2014-0043 when contacting the 
NRC about the availability of information regarding this document. You 
may access publicly-available information related to this document 
using any of the following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Web site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2014-0043. Address 
questions about NRC dockets to Carol Gallagher; telephone: 301-287-
3422; email: Carol.Gallagher@nrc.gov. For technical questions, contact 
the individual listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of 
this document.
     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 document (if that document is 
available in ADAMS) is provided the first time that a document is 
referenced.
     NRC's PDR: You may examine and purchase copies of public 
documents at

[[Page 14305]]

the NRC's PDR, Room O1-F21, One White Flint North, 11555 Rockville 
Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John G. Lamb, Office of Nuclear 
Reactor Regulation, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 
20555-0001, telephone: 301-415-3100; email: John.Lamb@nrc.gov.

I. Background

    NextEra Energy Seabrook, LLC (NextEra or the licensee) is the 
holder of Facility Operating License No. NPF-86, which authorizes 
operation of the Seabrook Station, Unit 1 (Seabrook). The license 
provides, among other things, that the facility is subject to all 
rules, regulations, and orders of the NRC now or hereafter in effect. 
The facility consists of a pressurized-water reactor located in 
Rockingham County in New Hampshire.

II. Request/Action

    Pursuant to Sec.  50.12, of Title 10 of the Code of Federal 
Regulations (10 CFR), ``Specific exemptions,'' the licensee has, by 
letter dated June 25, 2013 (ADAMS Accession No. ML13183A056), requested 
an exemption from specific requirements of 10 CFR 50.46, ``Acceptance 
criteria for emergency core cooling systems [ECCS] for light-water 
nuclear power reactors,'' and 10 CFR Part 50, Appendix K, ``ECCS 
Evaluation Models,'' to allow the use of fuel rod cladding with 
optimized ZIRLO\TM\ alloy for future reload applications. The 
regulations in 10 CFR 50.46 contain acceptance criteria for the ECCS 
for reactors fueled with zircaloy or ZIRLO\TM\ fuel rod cladding 
material. In addition, Appendix K to 10 CFR Part 50 requires that the 
Baker-Just equation be used to predict the rates of energy release, 
hydrogen concentration, and cladding oxidation from the metal/water 
reaction. The Baker-Just equation assumes the use of a zirconium alloy, 
which is a material different from Optimized ZIRLO\TM\. The licensee 
requested the exemption because these regulations do not have 
provisions for the use of fuel rod cladding material other than 
zircaloy or ZIRLO\TM\. Because the material specifications of Optimized 
ZIRLO\TM\ differ from the specifications for zircaloy or ZIRLO\TM\, a 
plant-specific exemption is required to support the reload applications 
for Seabrook.
    The exemption request relates solely to the cladding material 
specified in these regulations (i.e., fuel rods with Zircaloy or 
ZIRLO\TM\ cladding material). This exemption would provide for the 
application of the acceptance criteria of 10 CFR 50.46 and 10 CFR Part 
50, Appendix K, to fuel assembly designs using Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ fuel 
rod cladding material. In its letter dated June 25, 2013, the licensee 
indicated that it was not seeking an exemption from the acceptance and 
analytical criteria of these regulations. The intent of the request is 
to allow the use of the criteria set forth in these regulations for 
application to the Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ fuel rod cladding material.

III. Discussion

    Pursuant to 10 CFR 50.12, the Commission may, upon application by 
any interested person or upon its own initiative, grant exemptions from 
the requirements of 10 CFR Part 50 when: (1) The exemptions are 
authorized by law, will not present an undue risk to public health or 
safety, and are consistent with the common defense and security; and 
(2) when special circumstances are present. Under 10 CFR 50.12(a)(2), 
special circumstances include, among other things, when application of 
the specific regulation in the particular circumstance would not serve, 
or is not necessary to achieve, the underlying purpose of the rule.

A. Special Circumstances

    Special circumstances, in accordance with 10 CFR 50.12(a)(2)(ii), 
are present whenever application of the regulation in the particular 
circumstances is not necessary to achieve the underlying purpose of the 
rule. The underlying purpose of 10 CFR 50.46 and Appendix K to 10 CFR 
Part 50 is to establish acceptance criteria for ECCS performance. The 
regulations in 10 CFR 50.46 and Appendix K are not directly applicable 
to Optimized ZIRLO\TM\, even though the evaluations described in the 
following sections of this exemption show that the intent of the 
regulation is met. Therefore, since the underlying purposes of 10 CFR 
50.46 and 10 CFR Part 50, Appendix K are achieved through the use of 
Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ fuel rod cladding material, the special 
circumstances required by 10 CFR 50.12(a)(2)(ii) for the granting of an 
exemption exist.

B. Authorized by Law

    This exemption would allow the use of Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ fuel rod 
cladding material for future reload applications at Seabrook. As stated 
above, 10 CFR 50.12 allows the NRC to grant exemptions from the 
requirements of 10 CFR Part 50. The NRC staff has determined that 
granting the licensee's proposed exemption would not result in a 
violation of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, or the 
Commission's regulations. Therefore, the exemption is authorized by 
law.

C. No Undue Risk to Public Health and Safety

    Section 10 CFR 50.46 requires that each boiling or pressurized 
light-water nuclear power reactor fueled with uranium oxide pellets 
within cylindrical zircaloy or ZIRLO cladding must be provided with an 
ECCS that must be designed so that its calculated cooling performance 
following postulated loss-of-coolant accidents (LOCAs) conforms to the 
criteria set forth in paragraph (b) of this section. The underlying 
purpose of 10 CFR 50.46 is to establish acceptance criteria for 
adequate ECCS performance. As previously documented in the NRC staff's 
safety evaluation dated June 10, 2005 (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML051670395), of topical reports submitted by Westinghouse, and subject 
to compliance with the specific conditions of approval established in 
the safety evaluation, the NRC staff found that Westinghouse 
demonstrated the applicability of these ECCS acceptance criteria to 
Optimized ZIRLO\TM\. Ring compression tests performed by Westinghouse 
on Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ (see WCAP-14342-A & CENPD-404-NP-A at ADAMS 
Accession No. ML062080569) demonstrate an acceptable retention of 
postquench ductility up to 10 CFR 50.46 limits of 2200 degrees 
Fahrenheit and 17 percent equivalent clad reacted. Furthermore, the NRC 
staff concluded that oxidation measurements provided by the licensee by 
letter LTR-NRC-07-58 from Westinghouse to the NRC, ``SER Compliance 
with WCAP-12610-P-A & CENPD-404-P-A, Addendum 1-A, `Optimized 
ZIRLO\TM\,' '' dated November 6, 2007 (public version is at ADAMS 
Accession No. ML073130560), illustrate that oxide thickness and 
associated hydrogen pickup for Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ at any given burnup 
would be less than both zircaloy-4 and ZIRLO\TM\. Hence, the NRC staff 
concludes that Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ would be expected to maintain better 
postquench ductility than ZIRLO\TM\. This finding is further supported 
by an ongoing LOCA research program at Argonne National Laboratory, 
which has identified a strong correlation between cladding hydrogen 
content (caused by in-service corrosion) and postquench ductility.
    In addition, the provisions of 10 CFR 50.46 require the licensee to 
periodically evaluate the performance of the ECCS, using currently 
approved LOCA models and methods, to ensure that the fuel rods will 
continue to satisfy

[[Page 14306]]

the 10 CFR 50.46 acceptance criteria. In its letter dated June 25, 
2013, the licensee stated that for LOCA scenarios, where the slight 
difference in Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ material properties relative to 
standard ZIRLO\TM\ could have some impact on the overall accident 
scenario, plant-specific LOCA analyses using Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ 
properties will demonstrate that the acceptance criteria of 10 CFR 
50.46 have been satisfied. Granting the exemption to allow the licensee 
to use Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ fuel rod cladding material in addition to 
the current mix of fuel rods does not diminish this requirement of 
periodic evaluation of ECCS performance. Thus, the underlying purpose 
of the rule will continue to be achieved for Seabrook.
    Paragraph I.A.5 of Appendix K to 10 CFR Part 50 states that the 
rates of energy release, hydrogen concentration, and cladding oxidation 
from the metal-water reaction shall be calculated using the Baker-Just 
equation. Since the Baker-Just equation presumes the use of zircaloy 
clad fuel, strict application of this provision of the rule would not 
permit use of the equation for the Optimized ZIRLOTM fuel 
rod cladding material for determining acceptable fuel performance. 
However, the NRC staff previously found that metal-water reaction tests 
performed by Westinghouse on Optimized ZIRLOTM (see Appendix 
B of WCAP-12610-P-A & CENPD-404-P-A, Addendum 1-A) demonstrate 
conservative reaction rates relative to the Baker-Just equation. Thus, 
the NRC staff determined that the application of Appendix K, Paragraph 
I.A.5 is not necessary to achieve the underlying purpose of the rule in 
these circumstances. Since these evaluations demonstrate that the 
underlying purpose of the rule will be met, there will be no undue risk 
to the public health and safety.

D. Consistent With the Common Defense and Security

    The licensee's exemption request is only to allow the application 
of the aforementioned regulations to an improved fuel rod cladding 
material. In its letter dated June 25, 2013, the licensee stated that 
all the requirements and acceptance criteria will be maintained. The 
licensee is required to handle and control special nuclear material in 
these assemblies in accordance with its approved procedures. This 
change to the plant configuration is not related to security issues. 
Therefore, the NRC staff determined that this exemption does not impact 
common defense and security.

E. Environmental Considerations

    The NRC staff determined that the exemption discussed herein meets 
the eligibility criteria for the categorical exclusion set forth in 10 
CFR 51.22(c)(9) because it is related to a requirement concerning the 
installation or use of a facility component located within the 
restricted area, as defined in 10 CFR Part 20, and the granting of this 
exemption involves: (i) No significant hazards consideration, (ii) no 
significant change in the types or a significant increase in the 
amounts of any effluents that may be released offsite, and (iii) no 
significant increase in individual or cumulative occupational radiation 
exposure. Therefore, in accordance with 10 CFR 51.22(b), no 
environmental impact statement or environmental assessment need be 
prepared in connection with the NRC's consideration of this exemption 
request. The basis for the NRC staff's determination is discussed as 
follows with an evaluation against each of the requirements in 10 CFR 
51.22(c)(9).
Requirements in 10 CFR 51.22(c)(9)(i)
    The NRC staff evaluated the issue of no significant hazards 
consideration, using the standards described in 10 CFR 50.92(c), as 
presented below:
    1. Does the proposed exemption involve a significant increase in 
the probability or consequences of an accident previously evaluated?
    Response: No.
    The proposed change would allow the use of Optimized 
ZIRLOTM fuel rod cladding material in the reactors. The NRC 
approved topical report WCAP-12610-P-A and CENPD-404-P-A, Addendum 1-A 
``Optimized ZIRLOTM,'' prepared by Westinghouse, addresses 
Optimized ZIRLOTM and demonstrates that Optimized 
ZIRLOTM has essentially the same properties as the currently 
licensed ZIRLO[supreg]. The fuel cladding itself is not an accident 
initiator and does not affect accident probability. Use of Optimized 
ZIRLOTM fuel rod cladding material will continue to meet all 
10 CFR 50.46 acceptance criteria and, therefore, will not increase the 
consequences of an accident.
    Therefore, the proposed change does not involve a significant 
increase in the probability or consequences of an accident previously 
evaluated.
    2. Does the proposed exemption create the possibility of a new or 
different kind of accident from any accident previously evaluated?
    Response: No.
    The use of Optimized ZIRLOTM fuel rod cladding material 
will not result in changes in the operation or configuration of the 
facility. Topical Report WCAP-12610-P-A and CENPD-404-P-A demonstrated 
that the material properties of Optimized ZIRLOTM are 
similar to those of standard ZIRLO[supreg]. Therefore, the Optimized 
ZIRLOTM fuel rod cladding material will perform similarly to 
those fabricated from standard ZIRLO[supreg], thus precluding the 
possibility of the fuel cladding becoming an accident initiator and 
causing a new or different type of accident.
    Therefore, the proposed change does not create the possibility of a 
new or different kind of accident from any previously evaluated.
    3. Does the proposed exemption involve a significant reduction in a 
margin of safety?
    Response: No.
    The proposed change will not involve a significant reduction in the 
margin of safety, because it has been demonstrated that the material 
properties of the Optimized ZIRLOTM are not significantly 
different from those of standard ZIRLO[supreg]. Optimized 
ZIRLOTM is expected to perform similarly to standard 
ZIRLO[supreg] for all normal operating and accident scenarios, 
including both LOCA and non-LOCA scenarios. For LOCA scenarios, where 
the slight difference in the Optimized ZIRLOTM material 
properties, relative to standard ZIRLO[supreg] could have some impact 
on the overall accident scenario, plant-specific LOCA analyses using 
the Optimized ZIRLOTM properties demonstrate that the 
acceptance criteria of 10 CFR 50.46 have been satisfied.
    Therefore, the proposed change does not involve a significant 
reduction in a margin of safety.
    Based on the above, the NRC staff concludes that the proposed 
exemption presents no significant hazards consideration under the 
standards set forth in 10 CFR 50.92(c), and, accordingly, a finding of 
no significant hazards consideration is justified (i.e., satisfies the 
provision of 10 CFR 51.22(c)(9)(i)).
Requirements in 10 CFR 51.22(c)(9)(ii)
    The proposed exemption would allow the use of Optimized 
ZIRLOTM fuel rod cladding material in the reactors. 
Optimized ZIRLOTM has essentially the same properties as the 
currently licensed ZIRLO[supreg]. The use of the Optimized 
ZIRLOTM fuel rod cladding material will not significantly 
change the types of effluents that may be released offsite, or 
significantly increase the amount of effluents that may be released 
offsite. Therefore, the provision of 10 CFR 51.22(c)(9)(ii) is 
satisfied.

[[Page 14307]]

Requirements in 10 CFR 51.22(c)(9)(iii)
    The proposed exemption would allow the use of the Optimized 
ZIRLOTM fuel rod cladding material in the reactors. 
Optimized ZIRLOTM has essentially the same properties as the 
currently licensed ZIRLO[supreg]. The use of the Optimized 
ZIRLOTM fuel rod cladding material will not significantly 
increase individual occupational radiation exposure, or significantly 
increase cumulative occupational radiation exposure. Therefore, the 
provision of 10 CFR 51.22(c)(9)(iii) is satisfied.
Conclusion
    Based on the above, the NRC staff concludes that the proposed 
exemption meets the eligibility criteria for the categorical exclusion 
set forth in 10 CFR 51.22(c)(9). Therefore, in accordance with 10 CFR 
51.22(b), no environmental impact statement or environmental assessment 
need be prepared in connection with the NRC's proposed issuance of this 
exemption.

IV. Conclusions

    Accordingly, the Commission has determined that, pursuant to 10 CFR 
50.12, the exemption is authorized by law, will not present an undue 
risk to the public health and safety, and is consistent with the common 
defense and security. Also, special circumstances are present. 
Therefore, the Commission hereby grants NextEra an exemption from the 
requirements of 10 CFR 50.46 and Appendix K to 10 CFR Part 50, to allow 
the use of Optimized ZIRLOTM fuel rod cladding material at 
Seabrook. As stated above, this exemption relates solely to the 
cladding material specified in these regulations.
    This exemption is effective upon issuance.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 28th day of February 2014.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Michele Evans,
Director, Division of Operating Reactor Licensing, Office of Nuclear 
Reactor Regulation.
[FR Doc. 2014-05498 Filed 3-12-14; 8:45 am]
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