United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Environmental Impact of Reactor License Renewal

The NRC has responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which calls for a review of the environmental impact of reactor license renewal.

On this page:

Contents of an Application

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Rules and Regulations (10 CFR Part 51)

  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Federal agencies to use a systematic approach to consider environmental impacts
  • Atomic Enery Act
  • Energy Reorganization Act
  • National Environmental Policy Act
  • Other Statutes
  • Commission has determined that an environmental impact statement will be prepared for a license renewal action

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License Renewal Process

  1. Application Received - Month 0
  2. Notice of Intent - Month 3
  3. Scoping Meeting - Month 4
  4. Environmental Review Site Audit - Month 4
  5. Requests for Additional Information (RAI) - Month 6
  6. Draft Supplement Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) - Month 11
  7. Final SEIS - Month 19

For additional information, see License Renewal Process.

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Environmental Guidance

  • USNRC Regulatory Guides 4.2 (NUREG-0099), Content of Environmental Reports, and Reactor Site Criteria 4.7
  • NUREG-1555, Environmental Standard Review Plan

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Information Gathering

The following diagram shows how a Draft Supplement Environmental Impact Statement is derived.

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Team Expertise

For the review, the Environmental PM or EPM establishes a team made up of the NRC staff, supplemented by experts in various fields from labs like Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

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Analysis Approach

For additional information, see Detail Analysis Approach.

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How Impacts Are Quantified

NRC-defined impact levels that are consistent with the Council on Environmental Quality guidance for NEPA analysis:

  • Small: Effect is not detectable or too small to destabilize or noticeably alter any important attribute of the resource
  • Moderate: Effect is sufficient to alter noticeably, but not destabilize, important attributes of the resource
  • Large: Effect is clearly noticeable and sufficient to destabilize important attributes of the resource

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GEIS Structural Attribute

Categorization of Issues

  • Category 1 criteria:
    • Impacts apply to all plants or, for some issues, to plants having a specific type of cooling system or other specified plant or site characteristic
    • Single significance level (i.e., small, moderate or large) assigned to the impacts with two exceptions (certain fuel cycle impacts)
    • Additional plant-specific mitigation measures not likely to be sufficiently beneficial to warrant implementation
  • Category 2 criteria:
    • One or more Cat-1 criteria cannot be met

Ninety-two issues considered for refurbishment and renewal

  • 69 Category 1 Issues - NRC Generically Resolved
  • 21 Category 2 Issues - Addressed in Application
  • Two Uncategorized Issues - Addressed by NRC

Detailed List: 92 issues in GEIS

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Application Process - Environmental Review

  • Environmental Report (ER) submitted with application
    • Cat-1 Issues: Applicant not required to include analysis of impacts nor required to consider mitigation
    • Cat-2 Issues: Applicant required to include analysis and required to consider mitigation alternatives
    • Applicant required to include any known new and significant information on Cat-1 environmental impact issues to ensure Cat-1 conclusions are valid for current application

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Postulated Accidents

  • Design-Basis Accidents
  • Severe Accidents
    • Severe Accidents Mitigation Alternatives (SAMAs)

For additional information, see SAMA Evaluation Process.

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Review Milestone

  • Scoping and Comment Period
  • Issue draft Supplement Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)
  • Issue final SEIS

For additional information, see Review Milestone.

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Environmental Review

Take the Review.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, April 29, 2013