[Federal Register Volume 69, Number 69 (Friday, April 9, 2004)]
[Pages 18988-18990]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 04-8046]



[Docket No. 50-284]

Idaho State University Research Reactor Facility Environmental 
Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact

    The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering the 
issuance of an amendment for Facility Operating License No. R-110, 
issued to the Idaho State University (the licensee or ISU) for 
operation of the Idaho State University Reactor Facility (ISURF) 
located in Pocatello, Bannock County, Idaho.

Environmental Assessment

Identification of the Proposed Action

    Renewal of the license (the proposed action) would allow an 
additional 20 years of operation for the Idaho State University Reactor 
Facility (ISURF). The proposed action is in accordance with the 
licensee's application for amendment dated November 21, 1995, as 
supplemented on January 31, 2003 and July 10, 2003. The licensee 
submitted an Environmental Report for license renewal. Therefore, as 
required by 10 CFR 51.21, the NRC is issuing this environmental 
assessment and finding of no significant impact.

Need for the Proposed Action

    The proposed action is needed to allow continued operation of the 
ISURF to continue educational training and academic research beyond the 
current term of the license.

Environmental Impacts of the Proposed Action

    The research reactor is on the campus of the Idaho State University 
in the Lillibridge Engineering Laboratory. Lillibridge Engineering 
Laboratory has research and teaching laboratories, lecture halls, 
classrooms, library/study room, offices, and workshops. It is 
surrounded by similar facilities in the immediate area.
    The ISURF is authorized by an NRC license to operate at steady-
state thermal power levels up to a maximum of 5 watts(t). The operating 
license was issued on October 11, 1967. Facility modifications have 
been minor as outlined in the SAR. The licensee has not indicated any 
plans to significantly change the design or usage. Since initial 
operation, the gaseous Argon-41 radiological release has been 
conservatively estimated to be less than 185,000 becquerels per year (5 
microcuries per year). Average concentrations of Argon-41 are 
conservatively estimated to be less than 1.0 x 10-12 
microcuries/milliliter. This concentration is well below the 10 CFR 20, 
Appendix B, Table 2 limit of 1.0 x 10\8\ microcuries/milliliter. Since 
1992, the facility has had no radiological liquid or solid radiological 
releases. Material has been stored as required. Radioactive waste has 
been transferred and disposed of following the requirements of the 
licensee's byproduct license. Currently, there are no plans to change 
any operating or radiological release practices or characteristics of 
the reactor during the license renewal period.
    The NRC concludes that conditions are not expected to change and 
that the radiological effects of the continued operation will continue 
to be minimal. The radiological exposures for facility operations have 
been within regulatory limits and should remain so.
    Currently, there are no plans to change any operating or 
radiological release practices or characteristics of the reactor during 
the license renewal period. The NRC concludes that conditions are not 
expected to change and that the radiological effects of operation 
during the renewal period will continue to be minimal.
    The proposed action will not significantly increase the probability 
or consequences of accidents, no changes are being made in the types or 
amounts of any effluents that may be released off-site, and there is no 
significant increase to occupational or public radiation exposure. 
Therefore, there are no significant radiological environmental impacts 
associated with the proposed action.
    Potential non-radiological impacts related to the proposed action 
were evaluated. The license renewal does not involve any historic 
sites. The facility is wholly located within the Lillibridge building 
on the campus of Idaho State University. The licensee does not plan any 
major refurbishment activities, therefore, there will be no new

[[Page 18989]]

construction or ground disturbance. The proposed license renewal does 
not affect non-radiological facility effluents and has no other 
environmental impact. Therefore, there are no significant non-
radiological environmental impacts associated with the proposed action.
    In addition, the environmental impact associated with operation of 
research reactors has been generically evaluated by the staff and is 
given in the attached generic evaluation. This evaluation concludes 
that no significant environmental impact is associated with the 
operation of research reactors licensed to operate at power levels up 
to and including 2 megawatts thermal. The NRC staff has determined that 
this generic evaluation is applicable to operation of the ISURF and, 
that there are no special or unique features that would preclude 
reliance on the generic evaluation.
    Accordingly, the NRC concludes that there are no significant 
environmental impacts associated with the proposed action.

Alternatives to the Proposed Action

    As an alternative to the proposed action, the staff considered 
denial of the proposed action (i.e., the ``no-action'' alternative). If 
the NRC denied license renewal, ISURF operations would stop with no 
change in current environmental impacts. The environmental impacts of 
the proposed action and alternative action are similar.

Agencies and Persons Contacted

    On November 13, 2003, the staff consulted with the Idaho State 
official, Mr. Doug Walker, Senior Health Physicist, Department of 
Environmental Quality, regarding the environmental impact of the 
proposed action. The State official had no comments.

Finding of No Significant Impact

    On the basis of the environmental assessment, the NRC concludes 
that the proposed action will not have a significant effect on the 
quality of the human environment. Accordingly, the NRC has determined 
not to prepare an environmental impact statement for the proposed 
    For further details with respect to the proposed action, see the 
licensee's letter dated November 21, 1995, as amended on January 31, 
2003, and July 10, 2003. Documents may be examined, and/or copied for a 
fee, at the NRC's Public Document Room, located at One White Flint 
North, 11555 Rockville Pike (first floor), Rockville, Maryland. The NRC 
maintains an Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS), 
which provides text and image files of NRC's public documents. 
Documents from November 24, 1999, may be accessed through the NRC's 
Public Electronic Reading Room on the Internet at http://www.nrc.gov/NRC/ADAMS/index.html. If you do not have access to ADAMS or 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 to [email protected].

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 30th day of March 2004.
    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Marvin M. Mendonca,
Acting Chief, Research and Test Reactors Section, New, Research and 
Test Reactors Program, Division of Regulatory Improvement Programs, 
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.
    Attachment to Environmental Assessment and Finding of No 
Significant Impact

Environmental Considerations Regarding the Licensing of Research 
Reactors and Critical Facilities


    This discussion deals with research reactors and critical 
facilities designed to operate at low power levels, 2 MWt and lower. 
These small research reactors are used primarily for basic research in 
neutron physics, neutron radiography, isotope production, experiments 
associated with nuclear engineering, training, and as a part of a 
nuclear physics curriculum. Generally, these facilities are operated 
less than 8 hours per day and fewer than 5 days per week, or about 2000 
hours per year. These reactors are located adjacent to technical 
service support facilities with convenient access for students and 
    These reactors are usually housed in appropriately modified 
existing structures, or placed in new buildings that are designed and 
constructed to blend in with existing facilities on the campuses of 
large universities. However, the environmental considerations discussed 
herein are not limited to those facilities which are part of 


    There are no exterior conduits, pipelines, electrical or mechanical 
structures or transmission lines attached to or adjacent to the 
facility other than for utility services, which are similar to those 
required in other similar facilities, specifically laboratories. Heat 
dissipation, if required, is generally accomplished by a heat exchanger 
whose secondary side includes a cooling tower located on the roof of or 
nearby the reactor building. The size of these cooling towers typically 
are on the order of 10 ft by 10 ft by 10 ft (3 m by 3 m by 3 m) and are 
comparable to cooling towers associated with the air-conditioning 
systems of large office buildings. Heat dissipation may also be 
accomplished by transfer through a heat exchanger to water flowing 
directly to a sewer or a chilled water system. Make-up for the cooling 
system is readily available and usually obtained from the local water 
    Radioactive gaseous effluents during normal operations are usually 
limited to argon-41. The release of radioactive liquid effluents can be 
carefully monitored and controlled. Liquid wastes are collected in 
storage tanks to allow for decay and monitoring prior to dilution and 
release to the sanitary sewer system or the environment. This liquid 
waste may also be solidified and disposed of as solid waste. Solid 
radioactive wastes are packaged and shipped offsite for storage or 
disposal at NRC-approved sites. The transportation of such waste is 
done in accordance with existing NRC-DOT regulations in approved 
shipping containers.
    Chemical and sanitary waste systems are similar to those existing 
at other similar laboratories and buildings.

Environmental Effects of Site Preparation and Facility Construction

    Construction of such facilities invariably occurs in areas that 
have already been disturbed by other building construction and, in some 
cases, solely within an already existing building. Therefore, 
construction would not be expected to have any significant effect on 
the terrain, vegetation, wildlife or nearby waters or aquatic life. The 
societal, economic and aesthetic impacts of construction would be no 
greater than those associated with the construction of an office 
building or similar research facility.

Environmental Effects of Facility Operation

    Release of thermal effluents from a reactor of less than 2 MWt will 
not have a significant effect on the environment. This small amount of 
waste heat is generally rejected to the atmosphere by means of small 
cooling towers. Extensive drift and/or fog will not occur at this low 
power level. The small amount of waste heat released to sewers, in the 
case of heat exchanger secondary flow directly to the sewer, will not 
raise average water temperatures in the environment.
    Release of routine gaseous effluents can be limited to argon-41, 
which is

[[Page 18990]]

generated by neutron activation of air. In most cases, this will be 
kept as low as practicable by using gases other than air for supporting 
experiments. Experiments that are supported by air are designed to 
minimize production of argon-41. Yearly doses to persons in 
unrestricted areas will be at or below established 10 CFR part 20 
limits. Routine releases of radioactive liquid effluents can be 
carefully monitored and controlled in a manner that will ensure 
compliance with the regulations. Solid radioactive wastes will be 
shipped in approved containers to an authorized disposal site or to a 
facility licensed to treat and consolidate radioactive waste. These 
wastes should not require more than a few shipping containers a year.
    Based on experience with other research reactors, specifically 
TRIGA reactors operating in the 1 to 2 MWt range, the annual release of 
gaseous and liquid effluents to unrestricted areas should be less than 
30 curies (1,110,000 MBq) and 0.01 curies (370 MBq), respectively.
    No release of potentially harmful chemical substances will occur 
during normal operation. Small amounts of chemicals and/or high-solid 
content water may be released from the facility through the sanitary 
sewer during periodic blowdown of the cooling tower or from laboratory 
experiments. The quality of secondary cooling water may be maintained 
using biocides, corrosion inhibitors and pH control chemicals. The use 
of these chemicals for this purpose is approved by the Environmental 
Protection Agency (EPA). The small amounts of laboratory chemicals that 
may be used in research laboratories are disposed of in accordance with 
EPA and state requirements.
    Other potential effects of the facility, such as aesthetics, noise, 
societal or impact on local flora and fauna are expected to be too 
small to measure.

Environmental Effects of Accidents

    Accidents ranging from the failure of experiments up to the largest 
core damage and fission product release considered possible result in 
doses that are less than 10 CFR part 20 limits and are considered 
negligible with respect to the environment.

Unavoidable Effects of Facility Construction and Operation

    The unavoidable effects of construction and operation involve the 
materials used in construction that cannot be recovered and the 
fissionable material used in the reactor. No adverse impact on the 
environment is expected from either of these unavoidable effects.

Alternatives to Construction and Operation of the Facility

    To accomplish the objectives associated with research reactors, 
there are no suitable alternatives. Some of these objectives are 
training of students in the operation of reactors, production of 
radioisotopes, and use of neutron and gamma ray beams to conduct 

Long-Term Effects of Facility Construction and Operation

    The long-term effects of research facilities are considered to be 
beneficial as a result of the contribution to scientific knowledge and 
training. Because of the relatively small amount of capital resources 
involved and the small impact on the environment, very little 
irreversible and irretrievable commitment is associated with such 

Costs and Benefits of Facility Alternatives

    The costs are on the order of several millions of dollars with very 
little environmental impact. The benefits include, but are not limited 
to, some combination of the following: conduct of activation analyses, 
conduct of neutron radiography, training of operating personnel, and 
education of students. Some of these activities could be conducted 
using particle accelerators or radioactive sources which would be more 
costly and less efficient. There is no reasonable alternative to a 
nuclear research reactor for conducting this spectrum of activities.


    The staff concludes that there will be no significant environmental 
impact associated with the licensing of research reactors or critical 
facilities designed to operate at power levels of 2 MWt or lower and 
that no environmental impact statements are required to be written for 
the issuance of construction permits, operating licenses or license 
renewals for such facilities.
    Revised: March 30, 2004.
[FR Doc. 04-8046 Filed 4-8-04; 8:45 am]