[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 188 (Wednesday, September 28, 2011)]
[Pages 60017-60020]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-24947]



National Nuclear Security Administration

Notice of Intent To Prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact 
Statement (SEIS) for the Production of Tritium in a Commercial Light 
Water Reactor

AGENCY: National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), U.S. 
Department of Energy (DOE).

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a supplemental environmental impact 
statement and conduct public scoping meetings.


SUMMARY: The Council on Environmental Quality's implementing 
regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and DOE's 
NEPA implementing regulations require the preparation of a supplement 
to an environmental impact statement (EIS) when there are substantial 
changes to a proposal or when there are significant new circumstances 
or information relevant to environmental concerns. DOE may also prepare 
a SEIS at any time to further the purposes of NEPA. Pursuant to these 
provisions, the NNSA, a semi-autonomous agency within DOE, intends to 
prepare a SEIS to update the environmental analyses in DOE's 1999 EIS 
for the Production of Tritium in a Commercial Light Water Reactor (CLWR 
EIS; DOE/EIS-0288). The CLWR EIS addressed the production of tritium in 
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) reactors using tritium-producing 
burnable absorber rods (TPBARs). In the Record of Decision (ROD) for 
the CLWR EIS, NNSA selected TVA's Watts Bar Unit 1 and Sequoyah Units 1 
and 2, located in Spring City and Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, respectively, 
for tritium production. TVA has been producing tritium for NNSA at 
Watts Bar Unit 1 since 2004.
    After several years of tritium production experience at TVA's Watts 
Bar Unit 1, NNSA has determined that tritium permeation through TPBAR 
cladding into the reactor cooling water occurs at a higher rate than 
previously projected. The proposed SEIS will analyze the potential 
environmental impacts associated with increased tritium permeation 
levels observed since 2004; DOE's revised estimate of the maximum 
number of TPBARs required to support the current Nuclear Posture Review 
tritium supply requirements; and proposed changes to TVA facilities 
that may be used for future tritium production. TVA will be 
participating as a cooperating agency in the preparation of the SEIS. 
Any other agency that would like to be a cooperating agency in the 
preparation of the SEIS is requested to contact the SEIS Document 
Manager as noted in this Notice under ADDRESSES.

DATES: NNSA invites comments on the scope of the SEIS. The public 
scoping period starts with the publication of this Notice in the 
Federal Register and will continue until November 14, 2011. NNSA will 
consider all comments received or postmarked by that date in defining 
the scope of the SEIS. Comments received or postmarked after that date 
will be considered to the extent practicable. A public scoping meeting 
is scheduled to be held on October 20, 2011, from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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ADDRESSES: The public scoping meeting will be held at the Southeast 
Tennessee Trade and Conference Center, Athens, TN. NNSA will publish 
additional notices on the date, time, and location of the scoping 
meeting in local newspapers in advance of the scheduled meeting. Any 
necessary changes will be announced in the local media. The scoping 
meeting will provide the public with an opportunity to present 
comments, ask questions, and discuss issues with NNSA officials 
regarding the SEIS.
    Written comments or suggestions concerning the scope of the SEIS or 
requests for more information on the SEIS and public scoping process 
should be directed to: Mr. Curtis Chambellan, Document Manager for the 
SEIS, U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security 
Administration, Box 5400, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185-5400; facsimile 
at 505-845-5754; or e-mail at: tritium.readiness.seis@doeal.gov. Mr. 
Chambellan may also be reached by telephone at 505-845-5073.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For general information on the NNSA 
NEPA process, please contact: Ms. Mary Martin, NNSA NEPA Compliance 
Officer, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW, 
Washington, DC 20585, or telephone 202-586-9438. For general 
information about the DOE NEPA process, please contact: Ms. Carol 
Borgstrom, Director, Office of NEPA Policy and Compliance (GC-54), U.S. 
Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 
20585, or telephone 202-586-4600, or leave a message at 1-800-472-2756. 
Additional information about the DOE NEPA process, an electronic 
archive of DOE NEPA documents, and other NEPA resources are provided at 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NNSA is responsible for supplying nuclear 
materials for national security needs and ensuring that the nuclear 
weapons stockpile remains safe and reliable. Tritium, a radioactive 
isotope of hydrogen, is an essential component of every weapon in the 
U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. Unlike other nuclear materials used in 
nuclear weapons, tritium decays at a rate of 5.5 percent per year. 
Accordingly, as long as the Nation relies on a nuclear deterrent, the 
tritium in each nuclear weapon must be replenished periodically. The 
last reactor used for tritium production during the Cold War was shut 
down in 1988. Since then, tritium requirements for the stockpile have 
largely been met from the existing original inventory through the 
harvest and recycle of tritium gas during the dismantlement of weapon 
systems, and the replacement of tritium-containing weapons components 
as part of Limited Life Component Exchange programs. In December 1999, 
a new tritium production capability was established through an 
Interagency Agreement with TVA in which TPBARs are irradiated in the 
Watts Bar Unit 1 commercial nuclear power reactor and undergo 
extraction at the Tritium Extraction Facility (TEF) located at DOE's 
Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina. In order to continue to 
provide the required supply, irradiation will increase from today's 544 
TPBARs per fuel cycle to a projected steady state rate of approximately 
1,700 TPBARs per fuel cycle, i.e., approximately every 18 months.
    To provide sufficient capacity to ensure the ability to meet 
projected future stockpile requirements, NNSA and TVA anticipate 
requesting authorization for TPBAR irradiation to be increased in 
fiscal year 2016 to a level that is beyond currently licensed rates for 
one reactor. Meeting the increased demand will require a license 
amendment from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to permit the 
irradiation of a greater number of TPBARs per reactor than can 
currently be irradiated at either the Watts Bar or Sequoyah site. 
License amendments are reactor specific. NNSA and TVA will supplement 
the 1999 CLWR EIS with analyses supporting the anticipated license 
amendment requests that also evaluate a higher level of tritium 
permeation through TPBAR cladding into the reactor cooling water than 
was previously analyzed. The tritium releases associated with the 
proposed increase in the number of TPBARs that could be irradiated at 
Watts Bar, Sequoyah, or both sites (compared to the number currently 
authorized by the NRC) would remain below Environmental Protection 
Agency (EPA) and NRC regulatory limits. Subsequently, TVA plans to 
adopt the SEIS for use in obtaining the necessary NRC license 
    The production of tritium in a CLWR is technically straightforward. 
All of the Nation's supply of tritium has been produced in reactors. 
Most commercial pressurized water reactors were designed to utilize 12-
foot-long rods containing an isotope of boron (boron-10) in ceramic 
form. These rods are sometimes called burnable absorber rods. The rods 
are inserted in the reactor fuel assemblies to absorb excess neutrons 
produced by the uranium fuel in the fission process for the purpose of 
controlling power in the core at the beginning of an operating cycle. 
DOE's tritium program developed TPBARs in which neutrons are absorbed 
by a lithium aluminate ceramic rather than boron ceramic. While the two 
types of rods function in a very similar manner to absorb excess 
neutrons in the reactor core, there is one notable difference: When 
neutrons strike the lithium aluminate ceramic material in a TPBAR, 
tritium is produced inside the TPBAR. These TPBARs are placed in the 
same locations in the reactor core as the standard boron burnable 
absorber rods. There is no fissile material (uranium or plutonium) in 
the TPBARs. Tritium produced in TPBARs is captured almost 
instantaneously in a solid zirconium material in the rod, called a 
``getter.'' The getter material that captures the tritium is very 
effective. During each reactor refueling cycle, the TPBARs are removed 
from the reactor and transported to SRS. At SRS, the TPBARs are heated 
in a vacuum at the TEF to extract the tritium from the getter material.
    DOE's May 1999 Consolidated Record of Decision for Tritium Supply 
and Recycling (64 FR 26369) announced the selection of TVA's Watts Bar 
Unit 1, Sequoyah Unit 1 and Sequoyah Unit 2 for use in irradiating 
TPBARs and stated that a maximum of approximately 3,400 TPBARs would be 
irradiated per reactor during each 18-month fuel cycle. Since then, the 
projected need for tritium has decreased significantly. NNSA has 
determined that tritium demand to supply the Nuclear Weapons Stockpile 
could be satisfied using a maximum of approximately 2,500 TPBARs per 
fuel cycle, with a projected steady state number of approximately 1,700 
TPBARs per fuel cycle.

Purpose and Need

    Although NNSA's projected need for tritium to support the nuclear 
weapons stockpile today is less than originally planned, a higher than 
expected rate of permeation of tritium from TPBARs into reactor coolant 
water and subsequent release to the environment has restricted the 
number of TPBARs irradiated at TVA's Watts Bar Unit 1. Before TVA 
increases tritium production rates to meet expected national security 
requirements, the environmental analyses in the CLWR EIS are being 
updated to analyze and evaluate the effects of the higher tritium 
permeation, as well as any potential effects related to other changes 
in the regulatory and operating environment since publication of the 
original CLWR EIS.
    As a cooperating agency in the preparation of the SEIS, TVA plans 
to use the SEIS in pursuing NRC licensing amendments to increase TPBAR

[[Page 60019]]

irradiation at TVA's Watts Bar Nuclear Plant (WBN) at Spring City, 
Tennessee, and/or the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant at Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, 
beyond levels set in 2002. Four alternatives are expected to be 
analyzed in the SEIS: The No Action Alternative and three action 
alternatives, one using only the Watts Bar site, one using only the 
Sequoyah site, and one using both the Watts Bar and Sequoyah sites. As 
a matter of note, in a separate proceeding, DOE and TVA are also 
analyzing the potential use of mixed oxide fuel during some fuel cycles 
at the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant as part of the U.S. program for surplus 
plutonium disposition (75 FR 41850. July 19, 2010).

Proposed Action and Alternatives

    The CLWR EIS assessed the potential impacts of irradiating up to 
3,400 TPBARs per reactor unit operating on 18 month fuel cycles. It 
included TPBAR irradiation scenarios using multiple reactor units to 
achieve a maximum level of 6,000 TPBARs every 18 months. Subsequently, 
tritium production requirements have been reduced such that irradiation 
of approximately 1,700 TPBARs every reactor fuel cycle is expected to 
be sufficient to fulfill current requirements, consistent with the 2010 
Nuclear Posture Review. To provide flexibility in future tritium supply 
decisions, the revised environmental analysis is expected to consider 
irradiation of up to a total of 2,500 TPBARs every 18 months. This 
approach would provide sufficient reserve capacity to accommodate 
potential future changes in requirements and to allow for production 
above currently expected annual requirement levels for short durations 
(i.e., several years) to recover from potential future shortfalls 
should that become necessary.
    In the CLWR EIS, the permeation of tritium through the TPBAR 
cladding into the reactor coolant systems of potential tritium 
production reactors was estimated to be less than or equal to one 
tritium curie/TPBAR/year. After several years of tritium production 
experience at Watts Bar Unit 1, NNSA has determined that tritium 
permeation through TPBAR cladding is approximately three to four times 
higher than this estimate; nevertheless, tritium releases have been 
below regulatory limits. To conservatively bound the potential 
environmental impacts, the SEIS will assess the impacts associated with 
tritium production in CLWRs based on a permeation rate of approximately 
five tritium curies/TPBAR/year.
    An assessment of tritium mitigation and management measures will be 
included as part of the environmental analyses in the SEIS. Mitigation 
and management measures include an assessment of technologies 
commercially available to treat tritiated effluents, transportation of 
tritiated effluents and/or low level radioactive waste streams, and 
other applicable effluent management actions.
    The SEIS, which will supplement the 1999 CLWR EIS, will support 
agency deliberations regarding potential changes in the tritium 
production at NRC licensed TVA facilities in order to meet the 
requirements of TVA's agreement with NNSA. These changes also require 
TVA to pursue an NRC license amendment request for these facilities. 
Accordingly, the SEIS is expected to substantially meet NRC 
requirements for an environmental report necessary to support TVA's 
license amendment request(s) for tritium production at the Watts Bar 
and/or Sequoyah Nuclear Plants.
    No Action Alternative: Produce tritium at currently approved TVA 
facilities (Watts Bar Unit 1 and Sequoyah Units 1 and 2) at appropriate 
levels to keep permeation levels within currently approved NRC license 
and regulatory limits.
    Alternative 1: Utilize TVA's Watts Bar site only to a maximum level 
of 2,500 TPBARs every reactor fuel cycle (18 months).
    Alternative 2: Utilize TVA's Sequoyah site only to a maximum level 
of 2,500 TPBARs every 18 months.
    Alternative 3: Utilize both the Watts Bar and Sequoyah sites to a 
maximum total level of 2,500 TPBARS every 18 months. The level of 
production per site would be determined by TVA. This alternative would 
provide the ability to supply stockpile requirements at either site 
independently, or using both sites with each supplying a portion of the 

Preliminary Identification of Environmental Issues

    NNSA has tentatively identified the issues for analysis in the 
SEIS. Additional issues may be identified as a result of the scoping 
comment process. The SEIS will analyze the potential impacts on:
    1. Air, water, soil, and visual resources.
    2. Plants and animals, and their habitats, including state and 
Federally-listed threatened or endangered species and their critical 
    3. Irretrievable and irreversible consumption of natural resources 
and energy, including transportation issues.
    4. Cultural resources, including historical and pre-historical 
resources and traditional cultural properties.
    5. Infrastructure and utilities.
    6. Socioeconomic conditions.
    7. Human health under routine operations and accident conditions, 
including potential impacts from seismic events.
    8. Minority and low-income populations (Environmental Justice).
    9. Intentional Destructive Acts, including terrorist acts.
    10. Other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable actions 
(cumulative impacts).
    SEIS Process and Invitation to Comment. The SEIS scoping process 
provides an opportunity for the public to assist the NNSA in 
determining issues and alternatives to be addressed in the SEIS. One 
public scoping meeting will be held as noted under DATES in this 
Notice. The purpose of the scoping meeting is to provide attendees with 
an opportunity to present comments, ask questions, and discuss issues 
regarding the SEIS with NNSA officials. Comments can also be mailed to 
Mr. Chambellan as noted in this Notice under ADDRESSES. The SEIS 
scoping meeting will include an informal open house from 6:30-7 p.m. to 
facilitate dialogue between NNSA and the public. Once the formal 
scoping meeting begins at 7:00 pm, NNSA will present a brief overview 
of the SEIS process and provide individuals the opportunity to give 
written or oral statements. NNSA welcomes specific scoping comments or 
suggestions on the SEIS. Copies of written comments and transcripts of 
oral comments provided to NNSA during the scoping period will be 
available on the Internet at http://nnsa.energy.gov/nepa/clwrseis.
    After the close of the public scoping period, NNSA will begin 
preparing the Draft SEIS. NNSA expects to issue the Draft SEIS for 
public review in 2012. A Federal Register Notice of Availability, along 
with notices placed in local newspapers, will provide dates and 
locations for public hearings on the Draft SEIS and the deadline for 
comments on the draft document. Persons who submit comments with a 
mailing address during the scoping process will receive a copy of or 
link to the Draft SEIS. Other persons who would like to receive a copy 
of or link to the Draft SEIS for review should notify Mr. Chambellan at 
the address noted under ADDRESSES. NNSA will include all comments 
received on the Draft SEIS, and responses to those comments in the 
Final SEIS.
    Issuance of the Final SEIS is currently anticipated to take place 
in 2013. NNSA

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will issue a ROD no sooner than 30 days after publication of EPA's 
Notice of Availability of the Final SEIS.

    Issued in Washington, DC, this 23rd day of September 2011.
Thomas P. D'Agostino,
Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration.
[FR Doc. 2011-24947 Filed 9-27-11; 8:45 am]