[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 97 (Tuesday, May 20, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 28973-28975]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-11615]


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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

[Docket Nos. 50-266 and 50-301; NRC-2014-0117]


Exemption for NextEra Energy Point Beach, LLC; Point Beach 
Nuclear Plant, Units 1 and 2

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 4, 2013, request from NextEra Energy 
Point Beach, LLC, requesting an exemption to use of a different fuel 
rod cladding material (Optimized ZIRLO\TM\).

ADDRESSES: Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2014-0117 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-2014-0117. 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 the NRC's PDR, Room O1-F21, One White Flint North, 11555 
Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Terry A. Beltz, Office of Nuclear 
Reactor Regulation, telephone: 301-415-3049; email: 
Terry.Beltz@nrc.gov, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington DC 
20555-0001.

I. Background

    NextEra Energy Point Beach, LLC (NextEra or the licensee) is the 
holder of renewed Facility Operating License Nos. DPR-24 and DPR-27, 
which authorize operation of the Point Beach Nuclear Plant (Point 
Beach), Units 1 and 2, respectively. 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 two pressurized-water reactors located in 
Manitowac County in Wisconsin.

II. Request/Action

    Pursuant to Section 50.12 of Title 10 of the Code of Federal 
Regulations (10 CFR), ``Specific exemptions,'' the licensee has, by 
letter dated June 4, 2013 (ADAMS Accession No. ML13155A239), requested 
an exemption from 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, paragraph I.A.5 of 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\. Thus, the strict application of 
these regulations does not permit 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\, and the regulations specify a cladding material other than 
Optimized ZIRLO\TM\, a plant-specific exemption is required to allow 
the use of, and application of these regulations to, Optimized 
ZIRLO\TM\ at Point Beach.
    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 allow 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 4, 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 the use of 
Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ fuel rod cladding material at Point Beach.

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)(ii), 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 to 
provide reasonable assurance of safety in the event of a loss-of-
coolant accident (LOCA). Although the regulations in 10 CFR 50.46 and 
Appendix K are not expressly applicable to Optimized ZIRLO\TM\, the 
evaluations described in the following sections of this exemption show 
that the purpose of the regulations are met by this exemption in that, 
subject to certain

[[Page 28974]]

conditions, the acceptance criteria are valid for Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ 
fuel cladding material, Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ would maintain better post-
quench ductility, and the Baker-Just correlation conservatively bounds 
LOCA scenario metal-water reaction rates and is applicable to Optimized 
ZIRLO\TM\. Thus, a strict application of the rule (which would preclude 
the applicability of ECCS performance acceptance criteria to, and the 
use of, Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ fuel cladding material) is not necessary to 
achieve the underlying purposes of 10 CFR 50.46 and Appendix K to 10 
CFR Part 50. The purpose of these regulations is achieved through 
application of the requirements to the use of Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ fuel 
rod cladding material. Therefore, 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 operations at Point Beach. As 
stated above, 10 CFR 50.12 allows the NRC to grant exemptions from the 
requirements of 10 CFR Part 50 provided that special circumstances are 
present. As described above, the NRC staff has determined that special 
circumstances exist to grant the requested exemption. In addition, 
granting the exemption will 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 dioxide pellets 
within cylindrical zircaloy or ZIRLO\TM\ cladding must be provided with 
an ECCS that must be designed so that its calculated cooling 
performance following a postulated loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA) 
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 Electric 
Company, LLC (Westinghouse), and subject to compliance with the 
specific conditions of approval established therein, the NRC staff 
found that Westinghouse demonstrated the applicability of these ECCS 
acceptance criteria to Optimized ZIRLOTM. Ring compression 
tests performed by Westinghouse on Optimized ZIRLOTM (see 
WCAP-14342-A & CENPD-404-NP-A at ADAMS Accession No. ML062080569) 
demonstrate an acceptable retention of post-quench ductility up to 10 
CFR 50.46 limits of 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit and 17 percent equivalent 
clad reacted. Furthermore, the NRC staff has concluded that oxidation 
measurements provided by the licensee in 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 located at ADAMS Accession No. ML073130560), illustrate 
that oxide thickness and associated hydrogen pickup for Optimized 
ZIRLOTM at any given burnup would be less than both 
zircaloy-4 and ZIRLOTM. Hence, the NRC staff concludes that 
Optimized ZIRLOTM would be expected to maintain better post-
quench ductility than ZIRLOTM. 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 post-quench 
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 10 CFR 50.46 acceptance criteria. In its letter 
dated June 4, 2013, the licensee stated that it will evaluate fuel 
assemblies using Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ fuel rod cladding material using 
NRC-approved analytical methods and plant-specific models to address 
the changes in cladding material properties. The NRC staff concludes 
that granting the exemption to allow the licensee to use Optimized 
ZIRLO\TM\ fuel rod cladding material and apply 10 CFR 50.46 criteria 
would not diminish this requirement of periodic evaluation of ECCS 
performance. Thus, the underlying purpose of the rule to maintain post-
quench ductility in the fuel cladding material through ECCS performance 
criteria will continue to be achieved for Point Beach.
    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 Optimized ZIRLOTM fuel rod 
cladding material for determining acceptable fuel performance. The 
underlying purpose of this regulation, however, is to ensure that 
analyses of fuel response to LOCAs are conservatively calculated. In 
its evaluation of the approved topical reports, the NRC staff 
previously found that metal-water reaction tests performed by 
Westinghouse on Optimized ZIRLOTM (see Appendix B of WCAP-
12610-P-A and CENPD-404-P-A, Addendum 1-A) demonstrate conservative 
reaction rates relative to the Baker-Just equation, and that the Baker-
Just equation conservatively bounds post-LOCA scenarios of, and 
applicable to, Optimized ZIRLOTM fuel rod cladding. Thus, 
the NRC staff determined that the strict application of Appendix K, 
Paragraph I.A.5 (which would preclude its applicability to, and the use 
of, Optimized ZIRLOTM) 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 to allow the application of an 
improved fuel rod cladding material to the regulations in 10 CFR 50.46 
and paragraph I.A.5 of Appendix K to 10 CFR 50. In its letter dated 
June 4, 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 reactor core 
internals is adequately controlled by NRC requirements and is not 
related to security issues. Therefore, the NRC staff determined that 
this exemption does not impact, and thus is consistent with, the 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 issuance 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

[[Page 28975]]

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)(i)-
(iii).
Requirements in 10 CFR 51.22(c)(9)(i)
    The NRC staff evaluated whether the exemption involves 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 exemption would allow the use of Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ 
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 
ZIRLO\TM\,' '' prepared by Westinghouse, addresses Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ 
and demonstrates that Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ has essentially the same 
properties as currently licensed ZIRLO[supreg]. The fuel cladding 
itself is not an accident initiator and does not affect accident 
probability. Use of Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ fuel 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 exemption 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 ZIRLO\TM\ fuel rod cladding material will not 
result in changes in the operation or configuration of the facility. 
Topical Reports WCAP-12610-P-A and CENPD-404-P-A demonstrated that the 
material properties of Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ are similar to those of 
standard ZIRLO[supreg]. Therefore, Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ 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 exemption 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 exemption will not involve a significant reduction in 
the margin of safety because it has been demonstrated that the material 
properties of the Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ are not significantly different 
from those of standard ZIRLO[supreg]. Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ 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 Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ 
material properties relative to standard ZIRLO[supreg] 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.
    Therefore, the proposed exemption does not involve a significant 
reduction in a margin of safety.
    Based on the above evaluation of the standards set forth in 10 CFR 
50.92(c), the NRC staff concludes that the proposed exemption involves 
no significant hazards consideration. Accordingly, the requirements of 
10 CFR 51.22(c)(9)(i) are met.
Requirements in 10 CFR 51.22(c)(9)(ii)
    The proposed exemption would allow the use of Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ 
fuel rod cladding material in the reactors. Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ has 
essentially the same material properties and performance 
characteristics as the currently licensed ZIRLO[supreg] cladding. Thus, 
the use of Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ 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 requirements of 10 CFR 51.22(c)(9)(ii) 
are met.
Requirements in 10 CFR 51.22(c)(9)(iii)
    The proposed exemption would allow the use of Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ 
fuel rod cladding material in the reactors. Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ has 
essentially the same material properties and performance 
characteristics as the currently licensed ZIRLO[supreg] cladding. Thus, 
the use of Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ fuel rod cladding material will not 
significantly increase individual occupational radiation exposure, or 
significantly increase cumulative occupational radiation exposure. 
Therefore, the requirements of 10 CFR 51.22(c)(9)(iii) are met.
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 pursuant to 10 CFR 
50.12(a)(2)(ii) 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 application of those criteria to, and 
the use of, Optimized ZIRLO\TM\ fuel rod cladding material at the Point 
Beach Nuclear Plant, Units 1 and 2.
    This exemption is effective upon issuance.

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

    For The Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Michele G. Evans,
Director, Division of Operating Reactor Licensing, Office of Nuclear 
Reactor Regulation.
[FR Doc. 2014-11615 Filed 5-19-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7590-01-P