[Federal Register Volume 67, Number 131 (Tuesday, July 9, 2002)]
[Notices]
[Pages 45555-45559]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 02-17118]


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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

[Docket No. 70-143]


Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact of 
License Amendment for Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc.

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Amendment of Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc., Materials License 
SNM-124 to authorize construction and operation of the Uranyl Nitrate 
Storage Building.

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    The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering the amendment 
of Special Nuclear Material License SNM-124 to authorize construction 
and operation of the Uranyl Nitrate Storage Building at the Nuclear 
Fuel Services site in Erwin, Tennessee, and has prepared an 
Environmental Assessment in support of this action. The accession 
number for the Environmental Assessment is ML021790068.

Summary of Environmental Assessment

Identification of the Proposed Action

    The proposed action currently before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission (NRC) is to allow the licensee to construct and operate a 
Low-Enriched Uranyl Nitrate Storage Building (UNB) at the Nuclear Fuel 
Services, Inc. (NFS) site in Erwin, Tennessee, and to increase the 
235 U possession limit. This action is part of the Blended 
Low-Enriched Uranium (BLEU) project described below. The other related 
future activities which were considered to contribute to the 
environmental impacts for this project are: construction and operation 
of an Oxide Conversion Building (OCB), construction and operation of a 
new Effluent Processing Building (EPB), and relocation of downblending 
operations within the NFS protected area in a BLEU Preparation Facility 
(BPF).
    On March 4, 2002, NRC issued a notice of intent to prepare an 
environmental assessment (EA) for amendment of Special Nuclear Material 
(SNM) License No. SNM-124 for NFS. To avoid segmentation of the 
environmental review, NFS has submitted environmental documentation for 
three proposed license amendments, which will impact the site over the 
next few years.
    The Environmental Assessment (EA) for these actions does not serve 
as authorization for any proposed activities, rather it assesses the 
environmental impacts of the actions. As each amendment application is 
submitted, the NRC staff will perform a separate safety evaluation, 
which will be the basis for the approval or denial of the application. 
As part of the safety evaluation, the NRC will perform an environmental 
review. If the review indicates that this EA appropriately and 
adequately assesses the environmental effects of the proposed action, 
then no further assessment will be performed. However, if the 
environmental review indicates that this EA does not evaluate fully the 
environmental effects, another EA [or environmental impact statement 
(EIS)] will be prepared in accordance with the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA).

Need for the Proposed Action

    The Blended Low Enriched Uranium (BLEU) Project is part of a 
Department of Energy (DOE) program to reduce stockpiles of surplus high 
enriched uranium (HEU) through re-use or disposal as radioactive waste. 
Re-use as low enriched uranium (LEU) is considered the favorable option 
by the DOE because (1) weapons grade material is converted to a form 
unsuitable for nuclear weapons (addressing a proliferation concern), 
(2) the product can be used for peaceful purposes, and (3) the 
commercial value of the surplus material can be recovered. An 
additional benefit of re-use is avoidance of unnecessary use of limited 
radioactive waste disposal space. Framatome ANP Inc. has contracted

[[Page 45556]]

with NFS to downblend surplus HEU material to a LEU nitrate and to 
convert the LEU to an oxide form. The NFS LEU oxide product is expected 
to be fabricated into commercial reactor fuel at a separate facility, 
for use in a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) nuclear power reactor; 
however, the NFS proposed action is limited to the production of LEU 
oxide, receipt and storage of LEU nitrate, down blending of HEU to LEU, 
and conversion of LEU nitrate to LEU oxide.

Environmental Impacts of the Proposed Action

    For the proposed license amendments, construction and processing 
operations will result in the release of low levels of chemical and 
radioactive constituents to the environment. Under accident conditions, 
higher concentrations of materials could be released to the environment 
over a short period of time.
Normal Operations
    Radiological impacts from the proposed BLEU Project operations 
include release of small quantities of radioactive material to the 
atmosphere and surface water. Radionuclides that may be released 
include isotopes and some daughter products of the actinide elements 
uranium, thorium, plutonium, americium, actinium, and lesser quantities 
of fission products including technetium, cesium, and strontium. Based 
on source material properties and processing information, NFS has 
estimated the quantities of airborne and liquid effluents and used this 
information to estimate doses to the maximally exposed individual. 
While some effluents for the proposed action are increasing in relation 
to current releases, the total annual dose estimate for the maximally 
exposed individual from all planned effluents is 0.022 mSv (2.2 mrem). 
This result is well below the annual public dose limit of 1 mSv (100 
mrem) in 10 CFR Part 20 and the 0.1 mSv (10 mrem) ALARA constraint. The 
estimated dose for a number of radionuclides is conservative, because 
the analysis assumed no pollution controls were in place.
    Solid wastes generated by BLEU Project operations will be packaged 
into drums or boxes. Each container will be assayed for uranium content 
to verify that storage, shipment, and disposal requirements are met.
    The potential for increase in dose to workers at NFS due to the 
BLEU project was evaluated. Operation of the BPF, OCB and UNB is not 
expected to increase the dose to workers at the NFS facility, because 
the types and quantity of material, and the processing, will be similar 
to what is already licensed at the site. NFS is committed to keeping 
doses as low as reasonable achievable (ALARA) by maintaining a 
radiation protection program that minimizes radiation exposures and 
releases of radioactive material to the environment. In order to 
accomplish this, NFS has procedures for working with radioactive 
materials and monitoring programs to determine the doses received by 
employees.
    Impacts from non-radiological contaminants to air, surface water, 
and groundwater were also assessed. Air quality is protected by 
enforcing emission limits and maintenance requirements for pollution 
control equipment, as required by several operating permits issued by 
the Tennessee Air Pollution Control Board, Department of Environment 
and Conservation. The primary non-radiological emissions are expected 
to include nitrogen oxides, hydrogen and ammonia. Normal emissions of 
gaseous effluents from the new processes are not expected to have a 
significant impact on offsite non-radiological air quality, because the 
estimated concentrations at the nearest site boundary are below the 
State of Tennessee primary air quality standards, with the exception of 
nitrogen oxides. For nitrogen oxides, NFS will exceed the current 
allowable limit; however, NFS is requesting modification to the 
existing air pollution control permit for the main stack. Modification 
of the permit is required because of changes in material input from the 
BPF and installation of additional process and ventilation equipment. 
This modified permit for the main stack has not been issued as of this 
EA; however, NRC expects that the State, under its authority to 
regulate air quality, will continue to set permit levels to limit 
environmental impacts from NFS effluents.
    The proposed BPF and BLEU Complex are expected to produce liquid 
effluents. BPF waste streams will be sent to the NFS wastewater 
treatment facility and discharged into the Nolichucky River in 
accordance with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System 
(NPDES) permit and NRC radiological effluent limits in 10 CFR part 20. 
This liquid effluent will consist of raffinate, condensate, scrubber 
waste solution, and sodium hydroxide. The basic and acidic waste 
streams will be treated using precipitation and ion exchange processes.
    Surface water quality is expected to be protected from future site 
activities by enforcing release limits and monitoring programs, as 
required under the NPDES permit. No impact on NPDES permit limits is 
anticipated with respect to operations at the proposed BLEU Complex or 
downblending at the BPF. Surface water runoff from the proposed action 
will generally flow to the northwest across the proposed BLEU Complex. 
This runoff will drain to culverts at the northwest boundary of the NFS 
site, and then empty into Martin Creek. A storm water construction 
permit will be obtained from the Tennessee Department of Environment 
and Conservation prior to any construction activities that would 
disturb the land. Erosion and sediment control measures (e.g., straw 
bales and silt fences) will be employed to mitigate surface runoff into 
the drainage ditches and Martin Creek, thus reducing the impacts to 
surface water during the construction of the proposed BLEU Complex. 
Sluice gates will be installed at collection points within the proposed 
BLEU Complex for containment of any hazardous spills during the 
lifetime of BLEU operations.
    Previous operation of the plant has resulted in localized chemical 
and radiological contamination of groundwater, including beneath the 
BPF. Groundwater monitoring conducted by NFS indicates that plumes of 
uranium, tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, 1,2-dichloroethylene, 
and vinyl chloride, from past operations, could migrate offsite in the 
direction of the Nolichucky River. To address potential environmental 
impacts from this contamination, NFS has removed much of the source 
contamination through extensive remediation projects including 
excavation of contaminated areas in the North Site. In addition, NFS is 
decommissioning the Radiological Burial Ground and the North Site to 
remove more of the source of this contamination. NFS also is working 
with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the 
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to design remedial strategies and 
to investigate the off-site extent of existing plumes.
    The addition of the BLEU Complex will expand the physical site of 
the Erwin plant. Current environmental monitoring stations do not 
provide adequate coverage of the expanded site area. In addition, the 
current monitoring program lacks adequate coverage for groundwater in 
the vicinity of the proposed BLEU Complex. NFS plans to expand the 
existing environmental monitoring program to cover the BLEU Complex. 
Additional monitoring locations (e.g., air, vegetation, soil,

[[Page 45557]]

groundwater) will be proposed in a forthcoming license amendment 
request for the BLEU Project. For groundwater monitoring, NFS has 
indicated a minimum of one upgradient and three downgradient wells will 
be installed in the vicinity of the proposed BLEU Complex. NRC review 
of the proposed environmental monitoring program to determine 
compliance with 10 CFR part 20 requirements provides assurance that an 
adequate program will be in place prior to making a decision on the 
license amendments.
    For normal operations, the proposed action will not discharge any 
effluents to the groundwater; therefore, no adverse impacts to 
groundwater are expected. Accidental releases of contaminants to 
groundwater appear unlikely due to design and control measures 
implemented by NFS.
    A field investigation was conducted on the proposed BLEU complex 
site to determine the absence or presence of rare, threatened, or 
endangered plants. The survey focused primarily on the twenty federally 
listed threatened and endangered plants, but the State of Tennessee 
listing of rare and endangered vascular plants was also used for this 
survey. The results of the survey were that none of the plants on the 
federal or state lists were found to be present on this site, and the 
proposed actions on this site are not likely to adversely affect state 
and federally listed rare, threatened, or endangered plant species.
    Unicoi County, the area in which the NFS site is located, contains 
one Federally Endangered mussel species, Appalachian elktoe 
(Alasmidonta raveneliana) near the confluence of the Nolichucky River 
and South Indian Creek. Because this is upstream of the confluence of 
the Nolichucky River and Martin Creek and the NFS site, no impact is 
expected on this species. No other threatened or endangered species 
listed on the Federal or State Threatened or Endangered Species List 
for the Region of Interest are known to potentially reside on the NFS 
site.
    No impacts are expected on land use, biotic resources, 
socioeconomic resources, or cultural resources.
Accident Conditions
    The conversion of HEU materials to low-enriched uranium dioxide at 
the BLEU Project will require the handling, processing, and storage of 
radioactive material and hazardous chemicals. An uncontrolled release 
of these materials from accidents could pose a risk to the environment 
as well as to workers and public health and safety.
    The evaluation of potential accidents is carried out at a general 
level of detail in the EA to establish that the proposed processes, as 
described by NFS, will function safely with no significant adverse 
impacts to safety or the environment. A more detailed evaluation of the 
proposed processes will be carried out by the NFS in its integrated 
safety analysis, summaries of which will be submitted in the 
forthcoming BLEU Project license amendment requests.
    The dissolution and downblending of HEU feed materials to low-
enriched uranyl nitrate (UN) solution will be carried out in the BLEU 
Processing Facility. Remaining operations will be performed in the BLEU 
Complex area. This will include the storage of low-enriched UN solution 
in the UNB followed by further processing into uranium dioxide powder 
in the OCB, and treatment of the liquid effluent stream from the OCB in 
the EPB.
    The primary chemicals used in the dissolution and downblending 
processes taking place in the BPF are: Nitric acid (70 percent 
solution); hydrogen peroxide (30 percent solution); sodium hydroxide 
(30 percent solution); sodium nitrate (45 percent solution); barium 
oxide (BaO); tributyl phosphate 
[(C4H9)3PO4]; normal 
paraffin fluid (Nopar 12 fluid); sodium carbonate 
(Na2CO3). The radioactive feed materials used 
include HEU/aluminum alloy, HEU metal (buttons), and natural uranium 
oxide. Reaction products and intermediates include sodium diuranate and 
UN solutions.
    The main chemicals to be used and stored in the BLEU Complex are: 
low-enriched UN solution, anhydrous ammonia, aqueous ammonia (23 
percent solution), nitric acid (50 percent solution), nitric acid (7 
percent solution), liquid nitrogen, sodium hydroxide (50 percent 
solution), liquified petroleum gas (propane), and diesel fuel.
    Many of the proposed process operations are patterned after 
existing NRC licensed processes, so operational experience and history 
build confidence that operations can be executed safely. Proposed 
process operations, such as the downblending of high-enriched UN to 
low-enriched UN, liquid-liquid extraction to purify UN solution, and 
HEU storage are very similar to corresponding processes licensed under 
NRC License SNM-124. The LEU solution will be converted to uranium 
dioxide powder in the OCB using the Framatome ANP Inc. process that is 
authorized by NRC License SNM-1227. Potential hazards associated with 
new operations were evaluated during the NRC review.
    Primary hazards associated with the operation of the BLEU Project 
facilities involve: spill of chemical and or radioactive material in 
the building, leak in a storage tank or supply piping, release of 
gaseous and particulate effluents (chemical and/or radioactive 
materials) due to a malfunction of the process off gas treatment 
system, and upset in the control of process parameters leading to 
undesirable reactions and release of hazardous or explosive compounds 
such as hydrogen, hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, nitrogen oxides, nitric 
acid vapors. The loss of control of the process may include release of 
radioactive materials and nuclear criticality. These accidents can 
potentially impact worker safety, public health and safety, and the 
environment.
    Primary controls relied upon to guard against inadvertent nuclear 
criticality in processing operations include concentration limits and 
use of favorable geometry process vessels. Measures to ensure chemical 
safety and safe handling of radioactive materials include the 
following:
     Tanks will be bermed for spill control and isolation
     Tanks will be equipped with level control for overfill 
protection
     Process off gases will be treated through scrubbers and 
HEPA filters prior to stack discharge
     Process parameters will be controlled, and concentrations 
of hazardous or explosive chemicals will be maintained at safe levels. 
For example, sodium nitrate will be used in the HEU aluminum alloy 
dissolution process to minimize the formation of hydrogen, and air will 
be used in the dissolver to dilute the small quantities of hydrogen 
formed to safe levels
    Based on the information furnished in the NFS reports and 
summarized above, the safety controls to be employed in the processes 
for the BLEU Project appear to be sufficient to ensure planned 
processing will be safe.
Cumulative Impacts
    The Studsvick Facility is located adjacent to the NFS property, 
just south of the proposed BLEU complex. This facility is licensed by 
the state to process radioactive wastes. Due to the proximity of the 
two facilities, the staff evaluated cumulative radiological impacts 
from air effluents, liquid effluents, and direct radiation. The annual 
average of NFS effluent data from 1996 through 2000 and the most recent 
effluent data (CY2000) from the operations at Studsvick adequately 
characterize the impacts from current

[[Page 45558]]

operations. Foreseeable future impacts of the BLEU Project (including 
BLEU Preparation facility, additional Waste Water Treatment Facility 
effluents and BLEU Complex effluents) were also considered.
    Future impacts from air emissions from NFS operations are estimated 
using environmental monitoring data from 1996 through 2000. The air 
emissions estimate for Studsvick, Inc., is based on year 2000 data. To 
bound the impacts, the baseline dose from NFS operations and current 
estimates of doses attributable to Studsvick are added to the 
foreseeable future impacts of BLEU Project operations. Though it is not 
likely that the same individual is the maximally-exposed individual for 
each of the facilities, the sum of these doses are considered to bound 
future impacts.
    As demonstrated in semi-annual effluent reports, current liquid 
releases from the NFS site are well within the regulatory limits listed 
in 10 CFR part 20. NFS has provided conservatively-derived estimates of 
future discharges from the BLEU Project which were estimated using NCRP 
123. The dose from these effluents, which are dominated by 
contributions from the solvent extraction raffinate at the BLEU 
preparation facility, when added to existing effluents, remain within 
regulatory limits.
    The staff evaluated cumulative impacts to the sewer system of 
combined NFS, BLEU Project and Studsvick by estimating bounding 
concentrations that would be present in individual streams. NFS 
estimated the discharge from the BLEU Complex to be 6,300 gallons per 
day. This daily discharge volume was used to convert estimated 
quantities of annual discharges from the BLEU Complex (in units of 
curies) in terms of liquid concentration. Concentration values for 
Studsvick were also obtained from a year 2000 inspection report.
    The bounding contributions from either NFS baseline operations or 
future BLEU operations are used to compare against the 10 CFR part 20, 
appendix B sewer discharge limits. These impacts, along with the 
discharge fractions from Studsvick operations, are summed for 
comparison using the unity rule. The value of 0.059 is considerably 
less than 1, which indicates that sewer discharges will remain a low 
cumulative impact.
    Direct radiation monitoring data are available for both Studsvick, 
Inc. and NFS operations. Both licensees and the State of Tennessee 
Department of Environment and Conservation monitor direct radiation. 
Because the direct radiation monitored at the fenceline is a cumulative 
value (dose from both sites), the monitoring program ensures that this 
dose will not exceed regulatory limits. Both facilities have 
successfully demonstrated compliance in the past. Due to the nature of 
the materials in the BLEU complex, direct radiation is not expected to 
increase as a result of this project.

Agencies and Persons Consulted

    The following agencies were consulted during the preparation of the 
EA:
     Tennessee Historical Commission, Division of Archaeology
     U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and
     State of Tennessee, Department of Environment and 
Conservation, Division of Radiological Health.

Conclusion

    The NRC has concluded that the proposed action to construct and 
operate the UNB at the NFS site will not result in significant impact 
to human health or the environment.

Finding of No Significant Impact

    The Commission has prepared an Environmental Assessment, as 
summarized above, related to the amendment of Special Nuclear Material 
License SNM-124. On the basis of the assessment, the Commission has 
concluded that environmental impacts associated with the proposed 
action would not be significant and do not warrant the preparation of 
an Environmental Impact Statement. Accordingly, it has been determined 
that a Finding of No Significant Impact is appropriate.
    In accordance with 10 CFR 2.790 of the NRC's ``Rules of Practice,'' 
the Environmental Assessment and the documents related to this proposed 
action will be available electronically for public inspection from the 
Publicly Available Records (PARS) component of NRC's document system 
(ADAMS), accession number ML021790068. ADAMS is accessible from the NRC 
Web site at http://www.nrc.gov/NRC/ADAMS/index.html (the Public 
Electronic Reading Room).

Notice of Opportunity for Hearing

    The NRC hereby provides notice of an opportunity for a hearing on 
the license amendment under the provisions of 10 CFR part 2, Subpart L, 
``Informal Hearing Procedures for Adjudications in Materials and 
Operator Licensing Proceedings.'' Pursuant to Sec. 2.1205(a), any 
person whose interest may be affected by this proceeding may file a 
request for a hearing. In accordance with Sec. 2.1205(d), a request for 
hearing must be filed within 30 days of the publication of this notice 
in the Federal Register. The request for a hearing must be filed with 
the Office of the Secretary, either:
    (1) By delivery to the Docketing and Service Branch of the Office 
of the Secretary at One White Flint North, 11555 Rockville Pike, 
Rockville, MD 20852; or
    (2) By mail or telegram addressed to the Secretary, U.S. Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555, Attention: Docketing and 
Service Branch.
    In accordance with 10 CFR 2.1205(f), each request for a hearing 
must also be served, by delivering it personally or by mail, to:
    (1) The applicant, Nuclear Fuel Services, 1205 Banner Hill Road, 
Erwin Tennessee, 37650-9718; and
    (2) The NRC staff, by delivery to the Executive Director for 
Operations, One White Flint North, 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 
20852, or by mail addressed to the Executive Director for Operations, 
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555.
    In addition to meeting other applicable requirements of 10 CFR Part 
2 of the NRC's regulations, a request for a hearing filed by a person 
other than an applicant must describe in detail:
    (1) The interest of the requestor in the proceeding;
    (2) How that interest may be affected by the results of the 
proceeding, including the reasons why the requestor should be permitted 
a hearing, with particular reference to the factors set out in 
Sec. 2.1205(h);
    (3) The requestor's areas of concern about the licensing activity 
that is the subject matter of the proceeding; and
    (4) The circumstances establishing that the request for a hearing 
is timely in accordance with Sec. 2.1205(d).
    The request must also set forth the specific aspect or aspects of 
the subject matter of the proceeding as to which petitioner wishes a 
hearing.
    In addition, members of the public may provide comments on the 
subject application within 30 days of the publication of this notice in 
the Federal Register. The comments may be provided to Micheal Lesar, 
Chief, Rules Review and Directives Branch, Division of Administration 
Services, Office of Administration, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 
Washington DC 20555.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 28th day of June, 2002.


[[Page 45559]]


    For the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Daniel M. Gillen,
Chief, Fuel Cycle Facilities Branch, Division of Fuel Cycle Safety and 
Safeguards, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.
[FR Doc. 02-17118 Filed 7-8-02; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7590-01-P