[Federal Register Volume 68, Number 88 (Wednesday, May 7, 2003)]
[Pages 24521-24524]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 03-11303]



[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 include source reduction measures as authorized 
decommissioning-related activities.


Environmental Assessment


    The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering the 
amendment of Special Nuclear Material License SNM-124. The proposed 
amendment will allow the licensee to reduce the source term at the site 
through removal of contaminated soil from the Nuclear Fuel Services 
(NFS) site in Erwin, Tennessee. The NRC has prepared an Environmental 
Assessment (EA) in support of NFS' amendment request, in accordance 
with 10 CFR part 51. The conclusion of the EA is a Finding of No 
Significant Impact (FONSI) for the proposed licensing action.


    By request for license amendment dated April 3, 2002, NFS applied 
for approval to reduce the source term at the site by removal of 
contaminated soil to levels at or below those protective of worker 
health as defined in 10 CFR 20.1201 (Ref. 1).
    NFS began operations at the Erwin, Tennessee facility in 1957. 
Through the years, portions of the site became contaminated with 
radioactive material. From 1957 until 1981, portions of the site were 
used for disposal, through burial, of radioactive waste in accordance 
with 10 CFR 20.304, which allowed for this type of disposal. The 
regulations in 10 CFR part 20 have since been revised and Sec.  20.304 
no longer exists and burial disposal is no longer allowed. The soil in 
the area of the disposal site is now considered to be contaminated. 
Soils in other portions of the site are also contaminated due to 
accidental spills of licensed material and from inadvertent leaks from 
process equipment.

Review Scope

    In accordance with 10 CFR part 51, this EA serves to (1) present 
information and analysis for determining whether to

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issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) or to prepare an 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS); (2) fufill the NRC's compliance 
with the National Environmental Policy Act when no EIS is necessary; 
and (3) facilitate preparation of an EIS when one is necessary. Should 
the NRC issue a FONSI, no EIS would be prepared and the license 
amendment would be granted.
    This document serves to evaluate and document the impacts of the 
proposed action. Other activities on the site have previously been 
evaluated and documented in the 1999 EA for the Renewal of the NRC 
license for NFS (Ref. 2). The 1999 document is referenced when no 
significant changes have occurred. Besides the proposed licensing 
action, operations will continue to remain limited to those authorized 
by the license.

Proposed Action

    The proposed action is to reduce the source term at the site by 
removal of contaminated soil to levels at or below those protective of 
worker health as defined in 10 CFR 20.1201. The licensee's current 
remediation efforts are being performed under existing license 
conditions so that activities will be protective of worker health.

Need for Proposed Action

    The current license conditions do not authorize removal of 
contaminated soil, thus the licensee needs approval from the NRC to do 
so. The proposed action is consistent with the requirements in 10 CFR 
70.38 and 10 CFR part 20. At the time of license termination for the 
entire NFS site, the results of soil removal would be reassessed in 
order to incude any possible contribution from the remediated area in 
the dose assessment for the entire site.
    The proposed action would allow NFS to remove contaminated material 
and soil until the residual concentrations of radionuclides are at or 
below levels protective of human health. The major activities include 
the following:
    [sbull] Remove buildings, surrounding tanks, utilities, and 
    [sbull] Remove contaminated soil and dispose of it in accordance 
with regulations controlling material of the concentration in the soil, 
    [sbull] Backfill the area with clean soil.
    NFS will stockpile and cover contaminated soil that exceeds the 
applicable criteria as appropriate, transport it to a processing area, 
or load it directly into containers. This material will be disposed of 
in a licensed facility.
    The soil remediation activities proposed are essentially the same 
as those NFS is currently using in the North Site area. NRC has 
evaluated these in detail and found that the activities were acceptable 
in the EA for the North Site remediation (66 FR 27168) (Ref. 3). An 
existing license condition authorizes building deconstruction; NRC has 
evaluated this and found all licensed activities to be acceptable 
during the licensing process. The addition of the relatively small 
volume of contaminated waste from the contaminated portions of the 
facility ([sim] 68,000 cubic ft), to that of the North Site Area ([sim] 
1 million cubic feet), will not have a measurable impact, either 
locally, in transit to disposal, or at the disposal sites.
    Ground water remediation is not a specific goal of this activity. 
If, however, contaminated ground water is encountered during soil 
excavation, it will be processed at either the licensee's Wastewater or 
Ground Water Treatment Facilities.

Alternatives to the Proposed Action

    NRC considered two alternatives to the proposed action. These are 
described below.
    Alternative 1--No action.
    This alternative is to leave the site in its current, contaminated 
condition. Leaving the site in this condition would not comply with NRC 
regulations that require remediation of unused outdoor areas. 
Therefore, this alternative is not acceptable.
    Alternative 2--Require remediation of both groundwater and soil to 
levels such that doses from all pathways meet criteria for unrestricted 
    This alternative would require calculation of doses from existing 
contamination both in soil and in water-borne sources. NFS would have 
to calculate residual contamination limits in both media. NFS would 
then have to reduce the residual concentration in both media to levels 
that would limit the all-pathways-dose to 25 mrem/yr as specified in 10 
CFR 20.1402.
    NRC has concluded that this alternative is not appropriate for the 
following reasons:
    [sbull] The active use area of the facility will not be released 
from the license at this time, therefore it is not available for 
unrestricted use; and
    [sbull] The licensee is obligated to remediate affected areas to 
comply with limits in the License Termination Rule at the time of 
license termination.

Affected Environment

    The affected environment for the proposed action and all of the 
alternatives is the NFS site. A full description of the site and its 
characteristics is given in the 1999 Environmental Assessment (EA) for 
the Renewal of the NRC license for NFS (Ref. 2).
Facility Operations
    Before NFS operations, the area was a farm, as was much of the 
surrounding area. The area being remediated is inside the plant 
protected area that is defined by a double security fence. Within the 
protected area are Banner Spring Branch, a small marsh, open grass-
covered grounds, the three surface impoundments, and Pond 4. Banner 
Spring Branch runs through the property originating in the east just 
outside the security fence and discharging into Martin Creek to the 
north. The grounds outside the plant protected area, but inside the 
outer access control fence (the perimeter fence), include grass-covered 
fields, wooded areas, and a marsh. Also present are a burial ground and 
a demolition landfill. Trees cover most of the grounds outside the 
perimeter fence.
Radiological Status of Surface and Subsurface Soils
    The primary radioactive contaminants in the contaminated soils are 
uranium (U-234, U-235, and U-238), thorium (Th-228, Th-230, and Th-
232), plutonium (Pu-238, Pu-239/240, Pu-241, and Pu-242), americium 
241, and technetium 99. Levels of radioactive contamination currently 
exceed the release criteria in soil and sediment across much of the 
site inside the plant protected area. Contamination is present down to 
the level of auger refusal in much of the protected area. Contamination 
also exists between the cobbles.

Environmental Impacts of the Proposed Action

Radiological Impacts
    NFS will ship excavated material to a licensed disposal facility. 
The licensee's radiological protection program requires use of 
hazardous work permits that will limit dose to workers to less than or 
equal to the limits in 10 CFR part 20.
    Minor spills and releases may occur as contaminated soil is being 
prepared for shipment or during transport to an offsite disposal 
facility. Spills and releases of dirt would pose only negligible impact 
to human health and the environment. In case of a spill of this nature, 
decontamination efforts and any required notification would be 
performed in accordance with NFS procedures.

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Non-Radiological Impacts

    Portions of the site, primarily the ground water, are contaminated 
with solvents (perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE)) 
from NFS activities. These materials are the subject of an U.S. 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Tennessee Department of 
Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Resource Conservation and Recovery 
Act (RCRA)/Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA) Permit requiring 
investigation and remediation in a timeframe agreed upon between, EPA, 
TDEC and NFS. Separate from the proposed action, however, NFS has 
recently implemented a pilot groundwater remediation study to 
accommodate all groundwater contaminants; i.e., radioactive and non-
radioactive. These activities were reviewed in the North Site EA by the 
NRC, TDEC and EPA, and are not specifically addressed herein (Ref. 3).

Historical and Archaeological Resources

    The Tennessee Historic Preservation Officer reviewed the site for 
historic structures during the EA for the North Site decommissioning 
and determined `` that there is no national register of historic places 
listed or eligible properties affected by this undertaking.'' This 
activity is in the same general area as the North Site decommissioning 
activities (Ref. 4), therefore, the Historic Preservation Office was 
not consulted for this EA.
    In the consultations for the EA on the North Site area, the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determined that there are two Federally 
endangered mollusks (Epioblasma torulosa torulose and Alasmidonta 
reveneliana) in the Nolichucky River upstream of the NFS site; these 
will not be affected by the planned operation. There is also a 
Federally threatened plant in the vicinity of the NFS site: Virginia 
spiraea (Spiraea virginiana). These evaluations collectively considered 
the entire NFS site area, and concluded that because of the industrial 
nature of the NFS site and surrounding area, there is no suitable 
habitat for these species at the site. The FWS confirmed that these are 
the only listed species in Unicoi County (Ref. 5).
Water Resources
    Ground water remediation is not a specific part of the proposed 
alternative. The contamination, except that encountered during soil 
excavation, will remain in the alluvial groundwater. However, as 
previously discussed in the North Site decommissioning plan (Ref. 3), 
this groundwater will not be used as a water supply, therefore it will 
not contribute to a dose to members of the public.
    Surface water is not expected to be impacted from approval of this 
amendment application. There will be no direct effluent discharges to 
surface water as a result of the proposed activity. Surface water is 
expected to continue to be protected from site activities through 
release limits and monitoring programs, as required by the National 
Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which is 
regulated by the TDEC.
Construction Impacts
    No building destruction will occur as part of this action; removal 
of buildings was previously authorized and evaluated by license 
condition. Soil excavation will be done in the same manner as for the 
North Site that NRC previously evaluated and authorized (Ref. 6). No 
adverse effects will occur in the environment from this activity.
Impacts to Aesthetic, Economic, Cultural, Social, Air Quality, Noise 
Resources and Habitat Destruction
    There will be no discernable impacts on aesthetics, socio-economics 
or cultural resources because the work is being done by existing staff 
and the physical configuration of the facility will remain the same.
    There may be minor, temporary impacts on air quality and noise 
during remediation activities. NFS has dust-control measures in place 
for excavation activities, and the use of equipment will not 
significantly change from the current industrial environment.

Environmental Monitoring

    NFS conducts a sampling program of ambient soil, vegetation, 
surface water, and sediment to monitor impacts from the Erwin Plant to 
the surrounding area. Details of the monitoring program are described 
in the Renewal EA (Ref. 2). Also, environmental dosimeters are at 
onsite and offsite locations to monitor ambient external dose rates and 
to assist with the assessment of potential accidents.
    The areas to be remediated will remain within licensee control and 
will be monitored according to the pertinent provisions of the license 
for operational and environmental monitoring.

Agencies and Individuals Consulted, and Sources Used

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region IV
    EPA Region IV has reviewed the proposed action and concludes that:
    [sbull] The RCRA/HSWA Permit issued to NFS will be used to enforce 
appropriate groundwater pilot studies and necessary groundwater 
remediation of all contaminated groundwater; and
    [sbull] The RCRA/HSWA Permit issued to NFS will be used to enforce 
appropriate and necessary layered institutional controls (ICs).
    [sbull] EPA Region IV has no objection to the proposed activity 
(Ref. 7).
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC)
    TDEC has no objections to the proposed action (Ref. 8).
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was consulted for North Site 
decommissioning (Ref. 5). Its evaluations collectively considered the 
entire NFS site area, and concluded that because of the industrial 
nature of the NFS site and surrounding area, there is currently no 
suitable habitat for the three local endangered/threatened species at 
the site. FWS was contacted to confirm that there are still only three 
listed species in Unicoi County, TN.

Finding of No Significant Impact

    Based upon the environmental assessment, the Commission has 
concluded that the proposed action will not have a significant effect 
on the quality of the human environment. Accordingly, the Commission 
has concluded that environmental impacts associated with the proposed 
action would do not warrant the preparation of an Environmental Impact 
Statement. It has been determined that a Finding of No Significant 
Impact is appropriate.


    1. B. Marie Moore, April 3, 2002. License Amendment Request to 
Include Source Reduction Measures as Authorized Decommissioning-Related 
Activities. (ADAMS accession number ML021010075).
    2. T. Cox, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Letter to T.S. Baer, 
Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc., ``Finding of No Significant Impact and 
Environmental Assessment (TAC NO. L30873),'' January 29, 1999.
    3. Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. (NFS). 1999. North Site 
Characterization Report for Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc., Erwin, 
Tennessee, Revision 1.
    4. Tennessee Historical Commission May 22, 2002. Personal 
communications between Jennifer Bartlett and Julie Olivier.
    5. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Tennessee Field Office, 
November 12,

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2002. Personal communications between Jim Widlak and Julie Olivier.
    6. NFS North Site Decommissioning Plan, Revision 1, July, 1999.
    7. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, September 18, 
2002. Personal communications between Leo J. Romanowski, Jr. to James 
    8. Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation 2002. 
Communication, Debra Shults, TDEC and J. C. Shepherd. October 18, 2002.
    The references with ADAMS accession numbers may also be viewed in 
the NRC's Electronic Public Document Reading Room at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. Any questions with respect to his 
action should be referred to Ms. Mary Adams, Fuel Cycle Facilities 
Branch, Division of Fuel Cycle Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission, Mail Stop T-8 A33, Washington, DC 20555-0001. 
Telephone 301-415-7249.

    Dated in Rockville, MD, this 24th day of April, 2003.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Susan M. Frant,
Chief, Fuel Cycle Facilities Branch, Division of Fuel Cycle Safety and 
Safeguards, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.
[FR Doc. 03-11303 Filed 5-6-03; 8:45 am]