[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 73 (Wednesday, April 16, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 21487-21493]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-08639]


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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

[Docket Nos. 50-321 and 50-366; NRC-2012-0106]


 Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Plant, Units 1 and 2

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact; 
issuance.

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering 
issuance of amendments to Renewed Facility Operating License Nos. DPR-
57 and NPF-5, issued to Southern Nuclear Operating Company (SNC, the 
licensee), for operation of the Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Plant (HNP), 
Units 1 and 2, located in Appling County, Georgia. The proposed 
amendments would revise the minimum water level for the plant service 
water system and ultimate heat sink. The NRC staff is issuing a final 
Environmental Assessment (EA) and final Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI) associated with the proposed license amendments.

ADDRESSES: Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2012-0106 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-2012-0106. 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 obtain publicly available documents online in the 
ADAMS Public Documents collection 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 (if 
that document is available in ADAMS) is provided the first time that a 
document is referenced. The application for amendment, dated July 5, 
2012, is available in ADAMS under Accession No. ML13015A089.
     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.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert E. Martin, Office of Nuclear 
Reactor Regulation, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 
20555-0001; telephone: 301-415-1493; email: Robert.Martin@nrc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Introduction

    As required by Sec.  51.21 of Title 10 of the Code of Federal 
Regulations (10 CFR), the NRC staff performed an environmental 
assessment to document its findings. SNC previously submitted its 
license amendment request by letter dated December 15, 2011 (ADAMS 
Accession No. ML113500108) and subsequently withdrew it by letter dated 
April 20, 2012 (ADAMS Accession No. ML12122A113). Based on information 
provided in SNC's resubmittal dated July 5, 2012 (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML13015A089), SNC's response to NRC's request for additional 
information dated October 10, 2012 (ADAMS Accession No. ML12284A299), 
and the NRC staff's independent review of references, the NRC did not 
identify any significant environmental impacts associated with the 
proposed license amendment.
    Based on the results of the environmental assessment documented 
herein, the NRC is issuing this Finding of No Significant Impact 
(FONSI), in accordance with 10 CFR 51.32, for the proposed license 
amendment.

II. Environmental Assessment

Plant Site and Environs

    The HNP is located in Appling County, Georgia, southeast of where 
U.S. Highway 1 crosses the Altamaha River, in a rural part of the 
state. It is located approximately 11 miles (mi) (18

[[Page 21488]]

kilometers [km]) north of Baxley, Georgia; 20 mi (32 km) south of 
Vidalia, Georgia; 98 mi (160 km) southeast of Macon, Georgia; 73 mi 
(120 km) northwest of Brunswick, Georgia; and 67 mi (107 km) southwest 
of Savannah, Georgia. The HNP site totals approximately 2,240 acres 
(ac) (910 hectares [ha]). The plant has two boiling-water reactors with 
steam-electric turbines manufactured by General Electric Company. 
Following the approval and completion of the latest extended power 
uprate in 2003, HPN, Units 1 and 2, have an electrical power output of 
935 and 950 megawatts-electric (MW[e]), respectively (ADAMS Accession 
Nos. ML032671231 and ML032691360). HNP uses a closed-loop, cooling 
tower system for main condenser cooling that withdraws makeup water 
from and discharges to the Altamaha River via shoreline intake and 
offshore discharge structures.

Identification of the Proposed Action

    The proposed action would amend Appendix A of HNP's Renewed 
Facility Operating Licenses in order to revise the minimum water level 
referenced in Technical Specification (TS) Surveillance Requirement 
(SR) 3.7.2.1 associated with the Limiting Condition for Operation (LCO) 
for the plant service water (PSW) system and ultimate heat sink (UHS). 
Specifically, SNC proposes a TS change to revise the minimum water 
level in the PSW pump well, as required by SR 3.7.2.1, from 60.7 feet 
(ft) (18.5 meters [m]) to 60.5 ft (18.4 m) mean sea level. As stated by 
SNC, the proposed TS change does not result in or require any physical 
changes to HNP systems, structures, and components, including those 
intended for the prevention of accidents. The license amendment would 
allow the licensee to avoid the potential for plant shutdown due to low 
river levels by demonstrating that sufficient water levels exist at the 
revised level to operate the plant safely. The licensee proposes to 
implement the proposed operational changes within 60 days of NRC's 
issuing the requested amendment.

The Need for the Proposed Action

    The proposed action is needed to provide SNC with additional 
operational flexibility during periods of low river levels to avoid a 
plant shutdown, while providing sufficient availability of water to 
support post-accident cooling requirements for a 30-day period.

Environmental Impacts of the Proposed Action

    As part of the original licensing process for HNP, Units 1 and 2, 
the NRC published a Final Environmental Statements (FES) for Hatch, 
Units 1 and 2, in October 1972, and a separate FES for Unit 2 in March 
1978. The FESs project potential environmental impacts associated with 
the operation of HNP over its initial operating period. In 2001, the 
NRC evaluated the environmental impacts of operating HNP for an 
additional 20 years beyond the original operating license and predicted 
that the environmental impacts of license renewal were small. The NRC's 
evaluation of ongoing operational impacts under the renewed license is 
presented in the Generic Environmental Impact Statement for License 
Renewal of Nuclear Plants: Regarding Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Plant, 
Units 1 and 2--Final Report (NUREG-1437, Supplement 4) dated May 2001 
(ADAMS Accession No. ML011420018). This document is the primary source 
of information presented in this environmental assessment, unless 
otherwise referenced.
    The NRC staff considered information from SNC's license amendment 
request, the licensee's response to NRC staff's request for additional 
information, and NUREG-1437, Supplement 4 in preparing this 
environmental assessment. In its license amendment application, SNC 
states that the proposed TS change would not result in or require any 
physical changes to HNP systems, structures, and components, including 
those intended for the prevention of accidents. Further, the proposed 
license amendment involves a TS change that would only result in 
changes in procedural and operational aspects undertaken by HNP 
personnel for monitoring and maintaining the minimum water level in the 
PSW pump well. Thus, HNP's workforce would not change, and the regular 
operations workforce would otherwise be unaffected by the proposed 
action. Based on the above and the available information reviewed by 
the staff, the NRC concludes that no significant impact on land use and 
visual resources, geologic environment, air quality and noise, historic 
and cultural resources, socioeconomic conditions including 
environmental justice, or waste generation and management activities 
would occur near HNP from granting the proposed license amendment. 
Therefore, operational impacts on these resources are not further 
discussed in this environmental assessment for the purposes of 
evaluating SNC's proposed license amendment. NUREG-1437, Supplement 4 
previously assessed the environmental impacts of continued operations 
of HNP, Units 1 and 2.
    As identified in the evaluation performed by the licensee in 
support of its application, implementation of the TS change in the 
minimum water level in the PSW pump well to 60.5 ft (18.4 m) mean sea 
level for normal cooling water withdrawals would result in associated 
operational and receiving water changes. These include the following: 
(1) An altered discharge plume mixing zone, (2) altered discharge 
dilution for liquid radwaste discharges, and (3) an increased through-
screen velocity at the river intake traveling screens, with an 
increased percentage of the river diverted through the plant. With 
regard to the proposed lowering of the minimum water level in the PSW 
pump well and associated receiving water changes, the sections below 
evaluate and describe the aspects and potential impacts on the 
environment and on specific resource conditions that could result from 
implementation of the proposed license amendment.
    The details of the NRC staff's safety evaluation will be separately 
provided in the license amendment package issued to approve the license 
amendment, if granted.

Non-Radiological Impacts

    Surface Water Resources:
    The Altamaha River is the major source of water for HNP. The 
Altamaha River is approximately 500 ft (150 m) wide and a maximum of 30 
ft (9 m) deep at HNP. The shoreline of the Altamaha River near HNP and 
immediately downstream for several miles is characterized by steep 
bluffs, floodplain forests, and sandbars. The river remains relatively 
undisturbed and has no major channelization, dredging, or major 
reservoirs. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) maintains a stream gaging 
station (Number 02225000, Altamaha River near Baxley, GA) on the right 
bank of the river about 400 ft (121 m) downstream from the U.S. Highway 
1 bridge, approximately 530 ft (160 m) upstream from HNP. Based on 63 
years of record, the average annual flow rate at this station is 10,820 
cubic feet per second (cfs) (305.6 cubic meters per second [m\3\/s]). 
Highest monthly flows normally occur in March and lowest monthly flows 
normally occur in September. The single day low flow (minimum daily 
mean flow) recorded to date at this gage occurred on September 19, 
2011, with a discharge of 1,140 cfs (32.2 m\3\/s).

[[Page 21489]]

    Water is withdrawn from the river to provide cooling for certain 
once-through loads and makeup water to the cooling towers. SNC is 
permitted (Georgia Department of Natural Resources [GADNR] Permit 001-
0690-01, expiration date April 7, 2020) to withdraw a monthly average 
of up to 85 million gallons per day (mgd) (322,000 cubic meters per day 
[m\3\/d]), with a maximum 24-hour rate of up to 103.6 mgd (392,200 
m\3\/d). As a condition of this permit, SNC is required to monitor and 
report withdrawals. As documented in NUREG-1437, Supplement 4, HNP 
reported surface water withdraws averaging 57 mgd (216,000 m\3\/d). 
Based on the most recent reported withdrawals for the period 2007 to 
2011, HNP withdraws an annual average of 56.7 mgd (214,600 m\3\/d) of 
water), an equivalent withdraw rate of 87.7 cfs (2.48 m\3\/s). HNP's 
annual average withdrawal rate is approximately 0.8 percent of the 
annual average flow of the Altamaha River and about 7.7 percent of the 
historic single day low flow, as discussed above. As also documented in 
NUREG-1437, Supplement 4, approximately 58 percent of the water 
withdrawn by HNP for all uses is consumptively used in HNP's cooling 
towers and by other processes, with the balance (about 42 percent) 
discharged back to the river.
    Additionally, as part of its application for the proposed TS 
change, SNC submitted a discharge rating calculation and rating table, 
which shows the discharge of the Altamaha River at specific river 
elevations as adjusted for the water elevation at the PSW pump well 
(inside the HNP intake). The analysis performed by SNC indicates that 
continued surface water withdrawals at the proposed PSW well minimum 
water level of 60.5 ft (18.4 m), and equating to a river low flow of 
718 cfs (20.3 m\3\/s), would provide sufficient water supply to meet 
HNP's 30-day TS requirements for safe-shutdown cooling under extended 
low river flow conditions. SNC's analysis further shows that sufficient 
water would be available at a minimum water level of 60.0 ft (18.3 m), 
reflecting a river low flow of 517 cfs (14.6 m\3\/s). As also 
documented in the licensee's application (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML13015A089), SNC enlisted the USGS to perform an independent review of 
SNC's flow rating calculation. As documented in correspondence to SNC 
dated March 2, 2009, the USGS found SNC's calculations and methods to 
predict stream flow over extended low flow conditions on the Altamaha 
River to be ``conservative and satisfactory'' to address SNC's 
objective of verifying sufficient water supply at low river flows. USGS 
performed a low-flow probability analysis of the river stage-discharge 
relationship for the referenced gaging station, as adjusted for the 
elevation drop between USGS gage elevation and the HNP intake. Using a 
calculated low flow with a 0.002 non-exceedance probability (a flow 
with an annual probability of about 1 in 500) which is equivalent to 
1,104 cfs (31.2 m\3\/s), the USGS analysis yielded a conservative 
(bounding-case) surface water level elevation at HNP's intake of 61.02 
ft (18.6 m). This level would be above the proposed PSW well minimum 
water level of 60.5 ft (18.4 m). It is noted that USGS calculated its 
500-year recurrence low flow value using daily low flow statistics for 
the period of 1972 to 2008. Up to that time, the minimum daily mean 
flow observed was 1,330 cfs (37.6 m\3\/s) on September 29, 2008, until 
the observed record daily mean low flow on September 19, 2011, at 1,140 
cfs (32.2 m\3\/s).
    Nevertheless, SNC's analyses for its license amendment request 
demonstrate that the proposed operational change could support 
continued surface water withdrawals with sufficient margin, under low 
flow conditions, at a river level that is 0.2 ft (0.06 m) lower than 
evaluated in NUREG-1437, Supplement 4. The staff's analysis presented 
in NUREG-1437, Supplement 4 documented average annual surface water 
elevation fluctuations of about 9 ft (2.7 m) for the same one-month 
period over a period of 22 years and further concluded that surface 
water use conflicts from HNP's consumptive water use were small. While 
the proposed TS change would lower the minimum water level in the PSW 
pump well at which surface water would continue to be withdrawn for HNP 
operations, no increase in the volume of surface water withdrawn would 
occur, and no modification to HNP's state-issued surface water 
withdrawal permit is required (ADAMS Accession No. ML12284A299). Based 
on the above, the NRC staff concludes that the impacts of this 
operational change would have no significant incremental impact on the 
surface water hydrology of the Altamaha River.
    HNP is operated under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination 
System (NPDES) permit (No. GA0004120), issued by the Georgia 
Environmental Protection Division, which permits the discharge of 
combined process wastewaters including cooling tower blowdown to the 
Altamaha River. The NPDES permit expired on June 30, 2012, but has been 
administratively continued by the State and remains valid and in 
effect, since SNC submitted an NPDES renewal application over 180 days 
before permit expiration (ADAMS Accession No. ML12284A299).
    As described in NUREG-1437, Supplement 4, HNP's combined discharge 
structure consists of two, submerged discharge lines that extend 
approximately 120 ft (37 m) out from the south shore at an elevation of 
54 ft (17 m) mean sea level. The point of discharge is 1,260 ft (380 m) 
downriver from the intake structure and approximately 4 ft (1.2 m) 
below the surface when the river is at low water (see NUREG-1437, 
Supplement 4). The permit sets effluent limits for several other 
parameters (e.g., oil and grease, total suspended solids, and metals) 
but the point of compliance is specified at internal outfalls and prior 
to mixing and discharge through the combined discharge structure. The 
permit does not impose a maximum temperature limit on the combined 
river discharge but does require weekly temperature monitoring at the 
point of mixing and quarterly reporting of discharge temperatures to 
the State of Georgia. The permit further stipulates compliance with NRC 
requirements relative to radiological constituents. The water quality 
of the Altamaha River on which the HNP is located is also subject to 
regulation in accordance with Georgia's Water Use Classifications and 
Water Quality Standards (Chapter 391-3-6-.03 of the State's Rules and 
Regulations). For all waters in the State of Georgia, except where more 
stringent criteria apply, receiving water temperatures are not to 
exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit ([deg]F) (32 degrees Centigrade [[deg]C]) 
and the temperature of receiving waters is not to be increased more 
than 5[emsp14][deg]F (2.8 [deg]C) above the intake temperature.
    In support of its application, SNC performed a computer modeling 
study using CORMIX (version 5.0) and associated river bottom survey to 
evaluate the potential environmental impacts of operating HNP at the 
proposed minimum water level of 60.5 ft (18.4 m). In summary, this 
modeling incorporated ambient river temperature conditions for summer 
and winter and utilized historical river and HNP discharge flow rates. 
Based on the modeling performed including incorporation of an assumed 
ambient river temperature of 97 [deg]F (36 [deg]C), the projected 
discharge plume temperature difference from ambient was calculated to 
be 2.5 [deg]F (1.4 [deg]C) or less at a distance of 140 ft (42.7 m) 
downstream from the point of discharge. The modeling results obtained 
by SNC indicate that State and

[[Page 21490]]

Federal ambient water quality criteria and discharge standards would 
continue to be satisfied with respect to HNP's discharges to the 
Altamaha River. Consequently, the NRC staff concludes that the impacts 
of this operational change would have no significant incremental impact 
on the surface water quality and thermal characteristics of the 
Altamaha River. Granting the proposed license amendment is not expected 
to cause impacts significantly greater than current operations. 
Therefore, there would be no significant adverse surface water resource 
impacts following implementation of the proposed operational change.
    Groundwater Resources:
    The alluvial (unconfined) aquifer at the site is primarily south of 
the Altamaha River within the facility boundary, and consists of 
approximately 55 ft (17 m) of poorly sorted sand, gravel, and clay. The 
alluvial aquifer contains groundwater under water table conditions. 
Clayey soils dominate in the upper portion of the aquifer. These high-
clay-content soils locally form a discontinuous, relatively impermeable 
zone. Recharge to the alluvial aquifer is by the infiltration of 
precipitation through and around the leaky clay zones. Limited recharge 
is also provided by the Altamaha River during high stages and by the 
minor confined aquifer of the Hawthorn Formation, to which the alluvium 
is hydraulically connected. The upper, alluvial aquifer and the minor 
confined aquifer are hydraulically separated from the underlying 
artesian (Floridan) aquifer from which HNP's supply wells withdraw 
groundwater for plant use. Within the immediate vicinity of the site, 
the primary use of groundwater is for domestic needs, with a limited 
amount for livestock. Most domestic wells are screened within the 
unconfined aquifer. As evaluated in NUREG-1437, Supplement 4, the staff 
determined that the consumptive use of surface water by HNP operations 
is estimated to lower the river elevation by 0.08 ft (0.02 m) during 
low-flow conditions. It was concluded that the consumptive use would 
not appreciably alter the potentiometric gradient in the alluvial 
aquifer and that the resulting impact on groundwater is small.
    The withdrawal of surface water at a river level that is 0.2 ft 
(0.06 m) lower than the current minimum water level in the PSW pump 
well would have a negligible impact on groundwater resources. This is 
because the proposed change would not be expected to substantially 
affect the contribution of groundwater base flow from the alluvial 
aquifer to the Altamaha River, or the availability of groundwater for 
other users. Granting the proposed license amendment is not expected to 
cause impacts significantly greater than current operations. Therefore, 
there would be no significant adverse groundwater resource impacts from 
lowering the minimum water level in the PSW pump well as proposed by 
SNC.
    Aquatic Resources:
    The Altamaha River is formed by the confluence of the Ocmulgee and 
Oconee Rivers, which drain the Piedmont Region, and flows about 153 mi 
(246 km) to the Atlantic Ocean near Darien, Georgia. The drainage area 
is about 2,850 mi\2\ (7,380 km\2\), and lies entirely in the State of 
Georgia. The main stem of the river is confined to the Coastal Plain 
Physiographic Province, has no dams, and supports a healthy aquatic 
ecosystem.
    The fish fauna is diverse and includes 93 species belonging to 25 
different families. Common resident taxa include members of the catfish 
family (Ictaluridae), such as channel catfish and flathead catfish; and 
members of the sunfish family (Centrarchidae), including redbreast 
sunfish (Lepomis auritus), bluegill (L. macrochirus), redear sunfish 
(L. microlophus), black crappie (Pomixis nigromaculatus), and 
largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides); minnows (Cyprinidae); and 
suckers (Catostomidae). Flathead catfish are not endemic, but where 
introduced in the 1970s, and their increase has resulted in a decrease 
in populations of some native species, such as bullhead catfishes 
(Ictalurus spp.) and redbreast sunfish. The fish community seasonally 
includes anadromous herring (Clupeidae) and sturgeon (Acipenseridae) 
species that ascend rivers from the sea to breed, including American 
shad (Alosa sapidissima), hickory shad (A. mediocris), blueback herring 
(A. aestivalis), and both shortnose (Acipenser brevirostum) and 
Atlantic sturgeon (A. oxyrhynchus).
    Other aquatic invertebrates include cottonmouth or water moccasin 
(Agkistrodon piscivorus); water snakes (Nerodia spp.); turtles, 
including softshell turtles (Apalone spp.) and river cooter (Pseudemys 
concinna); American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis); frogs; 
salamanders; and mammals, such as West Indian manatee (Trichechus 
manatus), muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), river otter (Lontra 
canadensis), and beaver (Castor canadensis). Common aquatic 
invertebrates include the aquatic life stages of insects such as 
caddisflies, mayflies, stoneflies, dragonflies, damselflies, 
hellgrammites, beetles, midges, and black flies. Aquatic invertebrates 
also include freshwater mussels (Elliptio spp.) and the Asian clam 
corbicula (Corbicula fluminea), which is an invasive, non-native 
species. In addition to Federally protected species, which are also 
protected by Georgia and are addressed below, Appling County has one 
State-protected aquatic species: a freshwater mussel (Alasmidonta 
arcula, Altamaha arcmussel). Asian clam populations have been 
increasing and may adversely affect the rare, native freshwater mussels 
by ingestion and displacement of juveniles.
    HNP has two nuclear units that use a closed-loop evaporative 
cooling system that withdraws from and discharges to the Altamaha River 
through a shoreline intake and offshore discharge structures at river 
mile [RM] 112 (river kilometer (RKm) 180), slightly southeast of the 
U.S. Highway 1 crossing of the Altamaha River. Water withdrawn for the 
river at the single intake structure is used to replace evaporation and 
to dilute the buildup of dissolved solids in the closed cycle system. 
Trash racks remove large debris, and vertical traveling screens with a 
\3/8\-in. (1-cm) mesh remove smaller material.
    The proposed license amendment would not affect the rate of water 
withdrawal or discharge, but would slightly affect the intake velocity, 
and would also affect the ratio of water withdrawn and discharged in 
relation to the river flow. The change in HNP's use of Altamaha River 
water for cooling and other purposes can affect aquatic resources 
through impingement of fish on intake screens, entrainment of smaller 
fish and invertebrates with the intake water, and discharge of heated 
wastewater. Only these effects are addressed here as specific to the 
proposed license amendment; other operational effects are addressed in 
NRC's NUREG-1437, Supplement 4.
    Fish impingement rates are low, and SNC estimated that from 1975 
through 1980, total fish impingement ranged from 146 to 438 fish per 
year. Entrainment rates of small fish and invertebrates are also low. 
SNC estimates that the hydraulic entrainment would be about 11 percent 
of the river flow passing the plant under minimum flow conditions 
without the proposed license amendment and about 11.5 percent with the 
license amendment. With much of the heat produced by SNC transferred to 
the atmosphere through evaporation by the closed-loop cooling system, 
the discharge of heated wastewater in minimal. In support of its 
discharge permit for the State of Georgia, SNC modeled the thermal

[[Page 21491]]

discharge under ambient river temperature conditions for summer and 
winter and historical river and HNP discharge flow rates. The 
calculated temperature difference between the discharge plume and 
ambient river temperature was 2.5[emsp14][deg]F (1.4 [deg]C) or less at 
a distance of 140 ft (42.7 m) downstream from the point of discharge, 
with a plume surface area of 0.05 ac (0.02 ha) and a plume cross-
sectional area 3 percent of the river cross-section. The State of 
Georgia, not the NRC, regulates the effects of the cooling water intake 
and discharge, and the NRC relies on the State to protect aquatic 
resources. Considering the above information, the NRC staff concludes 
that proposed license amendment would have no significant effects on 
aquatic resources.
    Terrestrial Resources:
    Like other Coastal Plain rivers and streams, the Altamaha River 
meanders across a broad floodplain that has both steep bluff-like 
features and wide swampy regions. Most of the river flows through mixed 
forest where evergreen oaks, laurel species, and magnolia are common. 
Riparian plants found along the river and in forested wetlands include 
swamp black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), water tupelo (N. aquatica), bald 
cypress (Taxodium distichum), water hickory (Carya aquatica), red maple 
(Acer rubrum), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and oaks (Querca 
spp.). The lower reaches flow through interior swamps and coastal 
marshes.
    In addition to Federally protected species, which are also 
protected by Georgia and are addressed below, Appling County has 
several State-protected terrestrial species. Georgia-protected animals 
include three birds (Aimophila aestivalis, Bachman's sparrow; Elanoides 
forficatus, swallow-tailed kite; and Haliaeetus leucocephalus, bald 
eagle) and a mammal (Corynorhinus rafinesquii, Rafinesque's big-eared 
bat). Six Georgia-protected plant species also occur in Appling County: 
Carex dasycarpa, velvet sedge; Marshallia ramosa, pineland Barbara 
buttons; Penstemon dissectus, cutleaf beardtongue; Sarracenia flava, 
yellow flytrap; Sarracenia minor var. minor, hooded pitcherplant; and 
Sideroxylon macrocarpum, Ohoopee bumelia.
    The proposed license amendment will not affect terrestrial habitats 
and so will have no adverse effects on terrestrial species or habitats.

Federally Protected Species

    Under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(ESA), Federal agencies, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) 
(as appropriate), must insure that any action the agency authorizes, 
funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize the continued 
existence of any listed species or result in the destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat. On August 31, 2000, the NRC submitted 
a biological assessment to NMFS regarding the effects of SNC's then-
proposed license renewal for HNP on the shortnose sturgeon and 
concluded that license renewal may affect, but is not likely to 
adversely affect, the shortnose sturgeon (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML003746456). The NRC and NMFS then began consultation under ESA 
Section 7. The NMFS requested that NRC modify the biological assessment 
to include the effects of periodic maintenance dredging near the intake 
structure. In July 2004, NRC submitted to NMFS a revised biological 
assessment that included more recent information and examined the 
effects of periodic dredging and that concluded that the HNP may 
affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the shortnose sturgeon 
and that the effects would be discountable (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML041910254). In August 2005, NMFS concurred with the conclusion of the 
biological assessment (ADAMS Accession No. ML052640354). Detailed 
information on the effects of HNP operations on shortnose sturgeon can 
be found in the referenced biological assessment and concurrence 
documents.
    In February 2012, the NRC asked the FWS to identify Federally 
listed species near HNP as part of reviewing SNC's proposed license 
amendment. The FWS identified the four species shown in the following 
table as potentially occurring near HNP.

  Table of Federally Listed Species Occurring in Toombs County, Georgia
------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Common name               Scientific name      ESA Status\(a)\
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Aquatic Invertebrates
    Altamaha spinymussel......  Elliptio spinosa......  E, H
Reptiles
    eastern indigo snake......  Drymarchon corais       T
                                 couperi.
    gopher tortoise...........  Gopherus polyphemus...  C
Fish
    shortnose sturgeon........  Acipenser brevirostrum  E
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\(a)\ C = Candidate, E = Endangered, T = Threatened, H = Critical
  Habitat designated.
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (ADAMS Accession No.
  ML13063A517).

    Two of the four listed species, the gopher tortoise and eastern 
indigo snake, are terrestrial, and the proposed license amendment would 
have no adverse effect on these species because SNC proposes no 
modifications to the terrestrial environment.
    The mechanisms by which HNP might adversely affect shortnose 
sturgeon include entraining eggs and early larvae, impinging juveniles 
and adults, discharging heated effluent that results in physiological 
or behavioral changes, and affecting prey and other biotic or abiotic 
constituents of the habitat. Regarding entrainment, the 2004 revised 
biological assessment found that ``[b]oth the design of the plant 
(location, shoreline intake, closed cycle cooling) and the behavioral 
characteristics of juvenile and adult shortnose sturgeon lead to the 
conclusion that impingement of healthy adult and juvenile fish 
unlikely.'' For impingement, it found that ``[t]he design and location 
of the plant (shoreline intake on the opposite side of the thalweg, 
closed cycle cooling, and the plant not located in any known spawning 
areas) and the lack of a confirmed upstream spawning grounds leads the 
staff to conclude that the site has a very low potential for 
entrainment of shortnose sturgeon larvae.'' Regarding the thermal 
effluent, it found that ``. . . thermal modeling of the discharge 
demonstrated that thermal blockage of the river will not occur'' and 
that ``[t]he area of temperature rise in the river of a few degrees is 
limited to a small area just below the outfall even during low flow 
conditions'' so that ``. . . thermal

[[Page 21492]]

discharges from the plant will not adversely affect the migration of 
shortnose sturgeon in the Altamaha River.'' The relatively small and 
infrequent increase in intake velocity that may result from the 
proposed change in the minimum water level in the PSW pump well should 
not alter the conclusions regarding entrainment or impingement. The 
characteristics of the thermal effluent during extreme low river flow 
would change, but SNC reports that the effluent should still comply 
with the NPDES-permitted limits authorized and monitored by the State 
of Georgia to protect aquatic resources, including shortnose sturgeon.
    Because the license amendment would not change the effects of HNP 
on shortnose sturgeon, the NRC's 2004 biological assessment conclusion, 
with which FWS concurred in 2005, would not change: the operation of 
HNP may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect, the shortnose 
sturgeon and any effects would be discountable.
    The FWS also identified one aquatic invertebrate as listed and 
possibly occurring near the plant: the endangered Altamaha spinymussel, 
for which FWS also designated critical habitat in the Altamaha River. 
The FWS listed the Altamaha spinymussel on October 11, 2011 (76 FR 
62939), well after the NRC's 2000 biological assessment for license 
renewal and its subsequent consultation with NMFS regarding the 
shortnose sturgeon. The NRC had not considered the potential effects of 
operation of HNP on the mussel prior to this license amendment request.
    In August 2013, the NRC sent a biological assessment for the 
Altamaha spinymussel to FWS and requested concurrence with its findings 
(ADAMS Accession No. ML13193A366). The biological assessment made the 
following conclusions. The Altamaha spinymussel has historically been 
found in the main stem of the Altamaha River and its larger 
tributaries. HNP lies close to the center of its present range. 
Although FWS has designated critical habitat above and below HNP, 
critical habitat does not include the Altamaha River near HNP. The NRC 
staff examined several sources of stress associated with the operation 
of HNP that the FWS listing announcement suggested might affect the 
species. The staff found that the potential effects of dredging and 
sediment contamination, entrainment and impingement of host fish 
species, trophic interactions, and habitat fragmentation are 
insignificant or discountable. The staff also found no adverse effects 
to critical habitat. The staff concluded that the present and future 
operation of HNP may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect, 
Altamaha spinymussel and that the present and future operation of HNP 
would have no effect on Altamaha spinymussel critical habitat. On 
December 10, 2013, the FWS concurred with NRC's biological assessment 
and stated that the requirements of Section 7 of the ESA have been 
satisfied (ADAMS Accession No. ML14006A295).

Radiological Impacts

    In its license amendment application, SNC states that the proposed 
TS change would not result in or require any physical changes to HNP 
systems, structures, and components, including those intended for the 
prevention of accidents. The proposed action to revise the minimum 
water level in the PSW pump well would not have a significant adverse 
effect on the probability of an accident occurring or result in an 
increased radiological hazard beyond those analyzed in the licensee's 
Updated Final Safety Analysis Report. There will be no change to 
radiation levels or the types or quantities of radioactive effluents 
(gaseous or liquid) that affect radiation exposures to plant workers 
and members of the public. No changes or different types of 
radiological impacts are expected as a result of the proposed action. 
Therefore, the radiological impacts of granting the license amendment 
would be negligible and would not have a significant adverse effect on 
the environment.

Cumulative Impacts

    The NRC considered potential cumulative impacts on the environment 
resulting from the incremental impact of the proposed license amendment 
when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future 
actions. For the purposes of this analysis, past actions are related to 
the resource conditions when HNP, Units 1 and 2, and were licensed and 
constructed. Present actions are related to the resource conditions 
during current operations, and future actions are those that are 
reasonably foreseeable through the end of HNP's current license renewal 
term and which may be likely to affect the same resources as those 
considered for the proposed license amendment.
    The NRC has not identified any reasonably foreseeable actions 
within the context of the scope of this environmental assessment. 
Nevertheless, the proposed operational change to lower the minimum 
water level in the PSW pump well for normal cooling water withdrawals 
does not result in or require any physical changes to HNP systems, 
structures, and components. For the resource areas potentially affected 
by the proposed operational changes (i.e., surface water and 
groundwater resources, aquatic resources, terrestrial resources, and 
threatened and endangered species), the contributions of ongoing 
actions within a region to cumulative impacts are regulated and 
monitored through a permitting or other regulatory consultation or 
certification processes (e.g., 401 certification, and NPDES and 404 
permits under the Clean Water Act) under State or Federal authority. In 
these cases, the cumulative impacts are managed as long as the actions 
are in compliance with their respective permits and conditions of 
certification. The proposed license amendment entails no increase in 
water use or effluents requiring modification of HNP's state-issued 
surface water withdrawal permit or its NPDES permit that regulates the 
discharge of combined process wastewaters to the Altamaha River and 
their potential nonradiological and radiological effects on water 
quality and aquatic resources. Thus, there are no incremental 
contributions to cumulative impacts with respect to these attributes of 
the proposed action.
    The staff also conducted a review of terrestrial and aquatic 
resources, including threatened and endangered species, that could be 
impacted by the proposed license amendment. NRC staff prepared a 
biological assessment for the Federally endangered Altamaha 
spinymussel, as previously described. The staff found that proposed 
operational changes at HNP may affect, but are not likely to adversely 
affect the species. The biological assessment was submitted to the U.S. 
FWS in accordance with consultation requirements under Section 7 of the 
ESA. In December 2013, the FWS concurred with the staff's biological 
assessment and findings and concluded that the requirements of Section 
7 of the ESA had been satisfied, thus concluding Section 7 informal 
consultation.
    Based on the above, the staff concludes that cumulative impacts 
would not be significant from implementation of the proposed license 
amendment.

Alternatives to the Proposed Action

    As an alternative to the proposed action, the NRC staff considered 
denial of the proposed license amendment (i.e., the ``no-action'' 
alternative). Denial of the application would result in no change in 
current environmental impacts. However, denial would result in reduced 
operational flexibility.

[[Page 21493]]

Alternative Use of Resources

    The action does not involve the use of any different resources than 
those previously considered in NUREG-1437, Supplement 4 prepared for 
license renewal of HNP.

Agencies and Persons Consulted

    In accordance with its stated policy, on February 19, 2014, the 
staff notified the Georgia State official, Mr. Chuck Mueller, of the 
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, regarding the environmental 
impact of the proposed action. The State official had no comments.
    Additionally, the staff contacted the FWS in August 2013 as part of 
soliciting comments and obtaining concurrence on the staff's biological 
assessment for the Altamaha spinymussel, as part of informal Section 7 
consultation under the Endangered Species Act. The FWS's comments and 
findings with respect to the proposed action have been noted and are 
further discussed under the sections for Federally Protected Species 
and Cumulative Impacts in this environmental assessment.

III. Finding of No Significant Impact

    The NRC is considering issuing an amendment for Renewed Facility 
Operating License Nos. DPR-57 and NPF-5, issued to Southern Nuclear 
Operating Company (SNC) for operation of the Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear 
Plant (HNP), Units 1 and 2, to revise the minimum water level 
referenced in the Technical Specification (TS) associated with the 
Limiting Condition for Operation for the plant service water (PSW) 
system and ultimate heat sink. The TS change would revise the minimum 
water level in the PSW pump well from 60.7 feet (ft) (18.5 meters [m]) 
to 60.5 ft (18.4 m) mean sea level.
    On the basis of the environmental assessment included in Section II 
above and incorporated by reference in this finding, the NRC concludes 
that the proposed action will not have significant effects on the 
quality of the human environment. The proposed action has no 
significant impacts on surface water or ground water resources, no 
significant effect on aquatic resources, and no adverse effects on 
terrestrial species or habitat. In addition, the action is not likely 
to adversely affect any endangered species or affect a critical 
habitat, and the radiological and cumulative impacts are either 
negligible or are not significant. Accordingly, the NRC decided not to 
prepare an environmental impact statement for the proposed action.
    The environmental documents related to this finding and listed 
below are available for public inspection and may be inspected online 
through the NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System 
(ADAMS) at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. You may also 
inspect these documents at the NRC's Public Document Room as described 
previously.
    Related documents include the following: SNC's December 15, 2011 
license amendment request (ADAMS Accession No. ML113500108); SNC's 
subsequent withdrawal of the request by letter dated April 20, 2012 
(ADAMS Accession No. ML12122A113); SNC's resubmittal of the amendment 
request dated July 5, 2012 (ADAMS Accession No. ML13015A089); SNC's 
response to NRC's request for additional information dated October 10, 
2012 (ADAMS Accession No. ML12284A299); the NRC's May 2001 evaluation 
of ongoing operational impacts under the renewed license presented in 
the Generic Environmental Impact Statement for License Renewal of 
Nuclear Plants: Regarding Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Plant, Units 1 and 2--
Final Report (NUREG-1437, Supplement 4; ADAMS Accession No. 
ML011420018); NRC's August 31, 2000 biological assessment regarding the 
effects of SNC's then-proposed license renewal for HNP on the shortnose 
sturgeon (ADAMS Accession No. ML003746456); NRC's revised biological 
assessment of July 2004 (ADAMS Accession No. ML041910254); NMFS's 
concurrence with the conclusion of that biological assessment in August 
2005 (ADAMS Accession No. ML052640354); the NRC's August 2013 
biological assessment for the Altamaha spinymussel (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML13193A366); and FWS's concurrence with the conclusion in that 
biological assessment (ADAMS Accession No. ML14006A295).
    For further details with respect to the proposed action, see the 
licensee's application letters dated July 5 and October 10, 2012 (ADAMS 
Accession Nos. ML13015A089 and ML12284A299).

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 9th day of April 2014.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Robert Pascarelli,
Chief, Plant Licensing Branch II-1, Division of Operating Reactor 
Licensing, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.
[FR Doc. 2014-08639 Filed 4-15-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7590-01-P