[Federal Register Volume 69, Number 50 (Monday, March 15, 2004)]
[Pages 12185-12186]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E4-554]



[Docket No. 71-6703]

General Atomics Model No. Rg-1 Package; Issuance of Environmental 
Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact Regarding a Proposed 

    The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or Commission) is 
considering issuance of an exemption, pursuant to 10 CFR 71.8, from 
certain requirements of 10 CFR 71.38 ``Renewal of a certificate of 
compliance or quality assurance program approval'' to General Atomics 
Company. The exemption would permit renewal of Certificate of 
Compliance No. 6703 for the Model No. RG-1 radioactive material 
transportation package even though General Atomics Company, the 
certificate holder, did not request renewal at least 30 days before the 
expiration of the Certificate of Compliance. Therefore, as required by 
10 CFR 51.21, the NRC is issuing this Environmental Assessment and 
Finding of No Significant Impact.

Environmental Assessment (EA)

    Identification of the Proposed Action: Requirements for renewal of 
a certificate of compliance are specified in 10 CFR 71.38. 
Specifically, 10 CFR 71.38(b) states:

    In any case in which a person, not less than 30 days before the 
expiration of an existing Certificate of Compliance or Quality 
Assurance Program Approval issued pursuant to the part, has filed an 
application in proper form for renewal of either of those approvals, 
the existing Certificate of Compliance or Quality Assurance Program 
Approval for which the renewal application was filed shall not be 
deemed to have expired until final action on the application for 
renewal has been taken by the Commission.

    Certificate of Compliance No. 6703, Revision No. 5, expired on May 
31, 1990. General Atomics Company requested renewal on May 29, 1990. 
Although the renewal application was dated before the certificate 
expiration date, it was not at least 30 days before expiration. The 
certificate was deemed to have expired on May 31, 1990, and NRC 
terminated use of the package by letter dated June 13, 1990, stating 
that the termination was due to the late filing of the application.
    General Atomics Company by application dated February 26, 2004, has 
again requested renewal of Certificate of Compliance No. 6703. Although 
this renewal application from General Atomics Company is not timely, as 
defined in 71.38(b), NRC proposes to renew Certificate of Compliance 
No. 6703 for approximately an 18-month period to authorize use of the 
package for the limited shipments identified in the renewal 
    The Model No. RG-1 package is a radioisotope thermoelectric 
generator (RTG). It is approximately cylindrical, is 18 inches high, 
and has a base diameter of 14 inches. The package incorporates a fixed 
radioactive source within a main housing that is closed by a bolted 
closure flange. The radioactive source is a maximum 8,300 curies of 
strontium-90 titanate doubly encapsulated in a Type 304L stainless 
steel liner and Hastelloy C capsule. The thermoelectric module, that 
converts the radioactive heat source into low voltage electrical power, 
and uranium and tungsten shields are also fixed within the main 
housing. The package has an electrical connector, top end lifting lugs, 
and a bottom flange used for package tie-down. The device is designed 
to be transported and operated as an integral unit. It is designed for 
marine use at sea depths which may result in external pressures up to 
10,000 psi. The package weighs approximately 800 pounds.
    The Need for the Proposed Action: The proposed exemption would 
allow renewal of Certificate of Compliance No. 6703 for the Model No. 
RG-1 package for a limited period of time (approximately 18 months) for 
the purpose of authorizing the shipment of two packages from the 
General Atomics Company site in San Diego, California, to the Los 
Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, for storage and 
final disposition.
    Environmental Impacts of the Proposed Action: Continued use of 
certain Type B packages previously-approved by the NRC (including the 
Model No. RG-1 package) is authorized under general license by the 
provisions in 71.13(a). Section 71.13 includes several restrictions 
with respect to continued use of these packages, including limited 
fabrication of new units (71.13(a)(1)) and limited modifications to the 
package that can be authorized (71.13(c)). Renewal of Certificate of 
Compliance No. 6703 would allow continued use of this package, subject 
to the conditions specified in 71.13, the general license provisions of 
71.12, and the Certificate of Compliance.
    The Certificate of Compliance will be renewed for approximately an 
18-month term that will expire on September 30, 2005. The following 
condition will be included in the renewed certificate:

    This certificate authorizes a one-time shipment from General 
Atomics Company site in San Diego, California, to the Los Alamos 
National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, for two packages 
(Serial Nos. -001 and -002).

    The potential environmental impact of transporting radioactive 
material pursuant to 10 CFR part 71 was initially presented in the 
``Final Environmental Statement on the Transportation of Radioactive 
Material by Air and Other Modes,'' for the proposed rule to amend 10 
CFR part 71 (40 FR 23768(1977)). The environmental statement was 
published in 1977 as NUREG-0170, Volumes 1 and 2. A categorical 
exclusion for transportation package approvals is given in 10 CFR 
    NUREG-0170 included an evaluation of environmental impacts from 
three parts: The radiological impact from normal, incident-free 
transport, the risk of radiological effects from accidents involving 
vehicles carrying radioactive materials, and all non-radiological 
impacts. The principal unavoidable environmental effect was found to be 
the population exposure resulting from normal transport of radioactive 
materials. The much smaller risk from accidents that have the potential 
for releasing radioactive material from packages will always be 
present, but such accidents have a very small probability of 
occurrence. The calculated, unavoidable non-radiological impact 
resulting from transport amounts to about two injuries and one fatality 
every five years, from transportation accidents from all radioactive 
material transport. Other non-radiological impacts such as the use of 
vehicle fuel and other resources were found to be insignificant. The 
assessment included impacts due to shipments such as the RG-1 package, 
that is, shipment of sealed, industrial sources within accident-
resistant packages.
    The RG-1 package design was originally approved by NRC on November 
28, 1972. The Certificate of Compliance was subsequently renewed on 
January 23, 1975; February 6, 1980; and May 30, 1985. Although the 
renewal application in 1990 was filed late, there is no indication that 
the renewal request would have been denied if the application had been

[[Page 12186]]

timely. No specific design or safety problems were identified as 
contributing to the decision not to renew the certificate. Because it 
considered shipments similar to the shipments proposed in the RG-1 
package, it is concluded that the environmental impacts of the proposed 
action would not change the potential environmental effects assessed in 
the 10 CFR part 71 rulemaking (40 FR 23768 (1977)). Therefore, the NRC 
has determined that there will be no significant environmental impacts 
as a result of approving the exemption for the one-time shipments of 
the two Model No. RG-1 packages.
    Alternatives to the Proposed Action: The following alternatives 
were identified that could eliminate the need for an exemption to 
71.38. The identified alternatives are: (1) Denial of the exemption 
request (i.e., the ``no-action'' alternative), (2) repackaging the 
radioactive sources in an alternative, certified transportation 
package, and (3) repackaging the RG-1 device within a certified 
transportation package i.e., overpacking the RG-1 package).
    The no-action alternative would result in the sources remaining at 
the current location for the indefinite future, since funding for 
recovery of these sources is currently available, but may not continue 
to be available indefinitely. This alternative would increase the 
likelihood of loss of control of this radioactive material that is 
currently stored at some expense from a facility that no longer has a 
use for this material. It is judged that the sources would eventually 
need to be transported from the facility, in which case any 
environmental impacts associated with transport will also be incurred. 
Therefore, it is concluded that the no-action alternative is not 
desirable and does not reduce environmental impact.
    General Atomics Company has stated that it knows of no currently-
certified packagings that could be readily made available and used to 
transport the sources. Other packages designed for the transport of RTG 
sources are not suitable and cannot be used for transporting sources 
designed for the RG-1 package. This is because the sources and 
transport package, which also serves as the RTG device housing and 
radiation shield, are designed as an integral unit and are not intended 
to be separated for the useful lifetime of the source. Other 
transportation packages that could be used for these sources would 
likely need design modifications to safely accommodate these sources, 
and the certificates of compliance for these alternative packages would 
almost certainly require amendment to authorize these specific sources. 
These design and certificate changes would constitute a lengthy and 
expensive process that would not result in an increase in safety for 
these shipments. Transferring the sources from the RG-1 package would 
also require handling the ``bare'' sources, that is, handling the 
sources outside of the package's radiation shielding. This process can 
be accomplished; however, it is an evolution that presents significant 
safety risk and potential radiation exposure to workers. In addition, 
General Atomics Company has decommissioned and dismantled its hot cell 
facility, which would further complicate source removal. It is judged 
to be desirable from a safety and environmental impact perspective to 
limit the handling of the sources outside the shielded configuration.
    Handling the bare sources would not be required if the RG-1 package 
could be placed within another certified transportation package. 
However, a package that can accommodate the RG-1 package and is 
authorized for transport of the type of source in the RG-1 package does 
not currently exist.
    It is therefore concluded that safety is enhanced if the RG-1 
package is expeditiously shipped intact with its integral sources.
    Agencies and Persons Consulted: On March 1, 2004, Mr. Richard 
Boyle, Chief of the Radioactive Materials Branch of the U.S. Department 
of Transportation, Office of Hazardous Materials Technology, was 
contacted about the EA for the proposed action and had no comments. In 
addition, on March 1, 2004, Mr. James Shuler, Health Physicist, Office 
of Environmental Management, U.S. Department of Energy, was also 
contacted and had no comments. The NRC has determined that a 
consultation under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act is not 
required because the proposed action is administrative/procedural in 
nature and will not affect listed species or critical habitat. The NRC 
has also determined that the proposed action is not a type of activity 
having the potential to cause effects on historic properties because it 
is an administrative/procedural action. Therefore, no further 
consultation is required under section 106 of the National Historic 
Preservation Act.
    Conclusion: Granting the exemption to the timely-renewal provision 
that authorizes the shipments proposed in the Model No. RG-1 package 
will result in insignificant environmental impact. These shipments fall 
well within the number and types of shipments considered in NUREG-0170, 
which found that the transportation of radioactive materials in the 
U.S. results in acceptably small radiological and non-radiological 
    Sources Used:
    1. General Atomics application dated February 26, 2004, 
    2. ``Final Environmental Statement on the Transportation of 
Radioactive Material by Air and Other Modes,'' NUREG-0170, Vols. 1 and 
2, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC, December 1977, 

Finding of No Significant Impact

    The environmental impacts of the proposed action have been reviewed 
in accordance with the requirements set forth in 10 CFR part 51. Based 
upon the foregoing EA, the Commission finds that the proposed action of 
granting an exemption to 10 CFR 71.38(b) by renewing Certificate of 
Compliance No. 6703 for limited shipments without a timely application 
being filed will not significantly impact the quality of the human 
environment. Accordingly, the Commission has determined that a Finding 
of No Significant Impact is appropriate, and that an environmental 
impact statement for the proposed exemption is not necessary.
    For further details with respect to the exemption request, see the 
General Atomics Company renewal application dated February 26, 2004. 
The renewal request and request for exemption was docketed under 10 CFR 
part 71, Docket No. 71-6703. These documents are available for public 
inspection at the Commission's Public Document Room, One White Flint 
North Building, 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD, or from the 
publicly available records component of NRC's Agencywide Documents 
Access and Management System (ADAMS). These documents may be accessed 
through the NRC's Public Electronic Reading Room on the Internet at 
http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. If there are problems in 
accessing the documents located in ADAMS, contact the NRC Public 
Document Room (PDR) Reference staff at 1-800-397-4209, 301-415-4737 or 
by e-mail at pdr@nrc.gov.

    Dated in Rockville, Maryland, this 3rd day of March, 2004.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Nancy L. Osgood,
Senior Project Manager, Spent Fuel Project Office, Office of Nuclear 
Material Safety and Safeguards.
 [FR Doc. E4-554 Filed 3-12-04; 8:45 am]