United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Response to Inquiry Regarding Deletion of NRC Water Quality Requirements from Maine Yankee

HPPOS-111 PDR-9111210255

See the memorandum from H. K. Shapar and H. R. Denton to Commissioner Bradford dated March 21, 1980.

This memo concerns the NRC role in assessing water quality. Based on Appeal Board rulings, NRC does not have the authority to impose conditions of operation, including monitoring requirements, in the water quality area.

Regulation of water quality lies in the NPDES system under EPA or the States. HPPOS-115 contains a related topic.

The Appeal Board, after analysis of the legislative history of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, concluded that by virtue of Section 511 (c) (2) of the Act, EPA, or those states to whom permitting authority has been delegated, had exclusive responsibility for water quality protection and that the regulation of water quality lies in the NPDES permit system. The NRC's role in water quality is limited to assessing aquatic impacts as part of its NEPA cost-benefit balance in its licensing decision.

The NRC role does not include any right for "undertaking its own analysis and reaching its own conclusions on water quality issues already decided by EPA" (8 NRC at 715), or including any limiting conditions of operation or monitoring requirements of its own in the license for the protection of the aquatic environment (8 NRC at 713-714).

The NRC will continue to require aquatic monitoring programs and NRC notification if the NPDES permit limits are exceeded, or if the limits are revised. Under review is the issue of whether NRC has jurisdiction under NEPA to impose conditions protecting the aquatic environment where EPA or a permitting state has not issued an NPDES or the NPDES permit is not effective because of appeal proceedings. The deletion of conditions relating to water quality from technical specifications are considered license amendments.

They are noticed in the Federal Register after they have been effected. These changes are considered ministerial actions required as a matter of law and therefore no environmental impact assessment need be prepared as a condition precedent to taking the action.

Regulatory references: Technical Specifications

Subject codes: 12.9, 12.13

Applicability: Reactors

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, June 09, 2015