Frequently Asked Questions About the Waste Confidence Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) and Rulemaking
On this page:
- Impacts of the Federal Government Shutdown on Waste Confidence
- National Environmental Policy Act - NEPA
- What is NEPA?
- How is NEPA implemented for Waste Confidence?
- In light of the recently issued Inspector General's audit report on 10 CFR Part 51 relative to NRC's environmental impact statements, is the Waste Confidence generic environmental impact statement in compliance with NEPA and the NRC's own regulations implementing NEPA?
- Public Involvement
- How can I get involved in this NEPA process?
- How long is the public comment period on the proposed rule and draft GEIS?
- Will you accept comments submitted after the new comment due date of December 20, 2013?
- How can I tell what changes were made to the Commission review versions of the draft GEIS and proposed rule as a result of the Commission’s Staff Requirements Memo?
- Where and when are the draft GEIS public meetings being held?
- What will be the format of the public meetings and open houses?
- Will there be time limits on presenting oral comments at the public meetings?
- How does the webcast and moderated teleconference line work for the NRC headquarters meetings?
- How do I request accessibility modifications or reasonable accommodations?
- What happened to the scoping comments I submitted last fall or winter?
- How do I stay informed of Waste Confidence activities?
- Who do I contact with questions about the Waste Confidence environmental review?
- The Waste Confidence Rulemaking
- What is Waste Confidence?
- How can the NRC complete this GEIS in two years when before Staff said they needed five to seven years?
- How is the Waste Confidence Directorate Organized?
- How is the NRC paying for Waste Confidence?
- What is the Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses?
- Has the NRC already determined the outcome of the Waste Confidence rulemaking?
- How can the NRC evaluate the environmental impacts of the Waste Confidence rule on a generic basis when each reactor/fuel storage site is unique?
- Are research reactors dependent on Waste Confidence?
- Will the Waste Confidence rule authorize the storage of spent nuclear fuel at the reactor near me?
- If the Waste Confidence rule allows for extended onsite storage of spent nuclear fuel, how is that different from onsite disposal? And further, does NRC support a policy of permanent, onsite disposal?
- Which current NRC licensing actions are affected by the Waste Confidence remand?
- How and why are the revised Waste Confidence rulemaking documents different from older versions?
Impacts of the Federal Government Shutdown on Waste Confidence
Will the NRC reschedule Waste Confidence meetings cancelled as a result of the shutdown?
The Chelmsford, Tarrytown, Charlotte, Orlando, and November 14 Headquarters meetings are taking place as scheduled.
The NRC has rescheduled the Oak Brook, IL meeting for Tuesday, November 12; the Carlsbad, CA meeting for Monday, November 18; the San Luis Obispo meeting for Wednesday, November 20; the Perrysburg meeting for Monday, December 2; and the Minnetonka meeting for Wednesday, December 4. Meeting locations and times have not changed.
Will the NRC extend the Waste Confidence public comment period in response to the shutdown?
The NRC has extended the public comment period to Friday, December 20, 2013. Comments received after December 20, 2013, will be considered as practicable. The NRC can only guarantee consideration of comments received on or before the close of the comment period on December 20, 2013.
What is NEPA?
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) requires federal agencies to evaluate the environmental effects of major federal actions. At the NRC, major federal actions typically include licensing actions (such as issuance of a new reactor license or a reactor license renewal) and rulemakings. Before the NRC makes a final decision on such actions, it must first conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the potential environmental impacts of the proposed action. The NRC then publishes the results of its environmental review in an environmental assessment (EA) or an environmental impact statement (EIS).
How is NEPA implemented for Waste Confidence?
The NRC has developed a generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) to comply with NEPA and support the Waste Confidence rulemaking. The Waste Confidence draft GEIS describes the environmental impacts of continuing to store spent nuclear fuel beyond the licensed life for operation of a reactor, and is the regulatory basis for the proposed Waste Confidence rule. Public participation in the environmental review process is important to the NRC and is an essential part of NEPA. The NRC conducted an environmental scoping period from October 25, 2012, through January 2, 2013, and published the scoping summary report on March 5, 2013. Right now, the NRC is asking for comments on the draft GEIS and the proposed Waste Confidence rule. The comment period ends on Wednesday, November 27, 2013. See the NRC's Waste Confidence Public Involvement page for more information on the comment period.
In light of the recently issued Inspector General's audit report on 10 CFR Part 51 relative to NRC's environmental impact statements, is the Waste Confidence generic environmental impact statement in compliance with NEPA and the NRC's own regulations implementing NEPA?
The Waste Confidence draft GEIS is in compliance with the NRC's regulations in 10 CFR Part 51 that implement the National Environmental Policy Act. Although the Inspector General's audit did not include Waste Confidence in its scope, the Waste Confidence Directorate reviewed the audit report and ensured the Waste Confidence GEIS remains in compliance with all regulations.
How can I get involved in this NEPA process?
Currently, the NRC is asking for comments on the Waste Confidence draft GEIS and proposed rule. The comment period begins on September 13, 2013, and ends on Friday, December 20, 2013. Comments on the draft GEIS and proposed rule can be submitted in a number of ways:
E-mail comments to Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov, citing Docket ID No. NRC–2012–0246
Submit comments online at www.regulations.gov using Docket ID No. NRC–2012–0246
|Mail comments to||Secretary
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001
ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff
(cite Docket ID No. NRC–2012–0246)
|Fax comments to||
Hand-deliver comments to 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852, between 7:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Federal workdays; telephone 301-415-1677.
Additionally, the NRC is holding ten public meetings around the country, along with two nationally webcast public meetings (conducted here at our headquarters in Rockville, MD), so members of the public can hear the preliminary conclusions of our environmental review and submit comments on the draft GEIS and proposed Waste Confidence rule.
No matter how comments are submitted, whether by e-mail, www.regulations.gov, mail, fax, or presented orally at one of our twelve public meetings, all comments will be considered during our preparation of the final GEIS and rule.
How long is the public comment period on the proposed rule and draft GEIS?
The comment period for the draft GEIS and proposed Waste Confidence is 98 days long. It begins on September 13, 2013, and ends on December 20, 2013. See the Public Involvement page for information on how to submit comments.
Will you accept comments submitted after the new comment due date of December 20, 2013?
The NRC will consider comments received after December 20 , 2013, as practicable. The NRC can only guarantee consideration of comments received on or before December 20, 2013, so we encourage you to try to submit your comments in a timely manner.
How can I tell what changes were made to the Commission review versions of the draft GEIS and proposed rule as a result of the Commission’s Staff Requirements Memo?
On August 5, 2013, the Commission approved publication of the Waste Confidence proposed rule and draft GEIS in a Staff Requirements Memorandum. The Staff Requirements Memo instructed the staff to make certain changes to the proposed rule and draft GEIS. To assist the public's review of the proposed rule and draft GEIS, the Waste Confidence Directorate has posted "tracked changes" versions of these documents on the main page of the Waste Confidence website. Please note that these "tracked changes" versions are not for public comment. This "tracked changes" or "redline" version is being provided to facilitate the public's review of the draft GEIS and proposed rule. This redline version highlights the changes made to the document as compared to the version that was provided for Commission review in June 2013 in SECY-13-0061, "Proposed Rule: Waste Confidence – Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel (RIN 3150-AJ20)." Please use the official proposed rule and draft GEIS for public comment.
Where and when are the draft GEIS public meetings being held?
The NRC is holding public meetings in the following locations:
- NRC headquarters in Rockville, Maryland (two nationally webcast and telephone-accessible public meetings)
- Denver, Colorado
- San Luis Obispo, California (Central California)
- Carlsbad, California (Southern California)
- Perrysburg, Ohio (Toledo area)
- Minnetonka, Minnesota (Minneapolis metro area)
- Oak Brook, Illinois (Chicago metro area)
- Chelmsford, Massachusetts (Boston metro area)
- Tarrytown, New York (New York metro area)
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Orlando, Florida
Please see the NRC's Waste Confidence Public Involvement page for specific meeting locations, dates, times, and instructions on how to register to attend a meeting and present oral comments.
What will be the format of the public meetings and open houses?
Each public meeting will be preceded by a one-hour open house, where NRC staff members will be available to speak informally with attendees. The open houses are an opportunity for members of the public to ask NRC staff members clarifying questions on the Waste Confidence draft GEIS and proposed rule. Regional meeting open houses will begin at 6 p.m. local time and the NRC headquarters open houses will begin at 1 p.m. Eastern time.
The public meetings will begin promptly at 7 p.m. local time for the regional meetings and 2 p.m. Eastern time for the NRC headquarters meetings. The meeting will begin with a short presentation by the NRC staff that provides an overview of the draft GEIS and proposed rule. The rest of the meeting will be dedicated to receiving public comments on the draft documents. The meeting facilitator will be calling members of the public up to the microphone to present their oral comments. All public meetings will be transcribed by a court reporter so public comments are captured for the record; transcripts will be made publicly available within 10 days of each meeting. Regional meetings are scheduled to end at 10 p.m. local time and the NRC headquarters meetings are scheduled to end at 5 p.m. Eastern time.
Will there be time limits on presenting oral comments at the public meetings?
The goal of the NRC's Waste Confidence public meetings is to hear from as many people as possible. So depending on the number of people signed up to present oral comments at the public meetings, the NRC may need to implement time limits. Time limits on oral comments could be three, four, or five minutes. The implementation of time limits depends entirely on the number of people signed up to speak, so the implementation of any time limits will be determined at the start of the meeting and will be made very clear to be fair to all attendees. Even though you can sign up to present comments in-person at the start of the meeting, the NRC encourages you to register to present oral comments. Members of the public that register to present comments will be given priority during the public comment portion of the meeting.
If you do not get to present an oral comment at a public meeting, or you would like to supplement your oral comments with additional information, the NRC encourages you to submit written comments via e-mail, www.regulations.gov, mail, or fax. You can also submit written comments to NRC staff at the public meetings. Written comments and comments submitted on the record at public meetings will be treated equally as the NRC develops the final GEIS and rule.
How does the webcast and moderated teleconference line work for the NRC headquarters meetings?
For the NRC headquarters meetings, the webcast will begin at 2 p.m. Eastern time. Simply go to the NRC's Webcast Portal just before 2 p.m. Please note that computer speakers or headphones will be needed to hear the webcast audio.
If you will be calling in to the moderated teleconference line to present public comments, the NRC encourages you to call in about 5-10 minutes prior to the 2 p.m. meeting start time, to allow sufficient time for you to register with the operator and be connected to the call. To listen to the meeting or provide comments by telephone, please dial 1-888-603-9749 and provide the operator with passcode 5132332. The meeting facilitator will be coordinating the presentation of comments from in-person attendees and those on the moderated teleconference line. Until your name is called to present a comment, all phone lines will be in listen-only mode.
Please note that there is a small delay in the webcast video. If you watch the webcast and listen to the audio of the moderated teleconference line simultaneously, note that the video of the webcast will be slower than the audio of the teleconference line, i.e., the webcast video will not be in sync with the phone audio.
How do I request accessibility modifications or reasonable accommodations?
The NRC provides accessibility modifications where appropriate. If you need special equipment or accessibility modifications to participate in any Waste Confidence meetings or webinars, or need information in another format (e.g. Braille, large print), please notify Ms. Wittick at 1-800-368-5642, extension 287-9174 or Ms. Rowe at 1-800-368-5642, extension 287-9245. Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis.
What happened to the scoping comments I submitted last fall or winter?
At the end of the 70-day scoping period for the Waste Confidence GEIS, the NRC summarized what it heard and responded to public comments in its Scoping Summary Report, which was issued on March 5, 2013. Appendix D of the Scoping Summary Report provides ADAMS accession numbers for all the comment correspondence the NRC received during the Waste Confidence scoping period. A separate document (issued in concert with the Scoping Summary Report) provides numbered comment excerpts, organized by category. Appendix A of the draft GEIS also provides a brief summary of the scoping effort.
Additionally, the Federal rulemaking Website, Regulations.gov, lists scoping comments submitted to the Waste Confidence docket. Search for Docket ID NRC-2012-0246.
How do I stay informed of Waste Confidence activities?
Throughout the Waste Confidence rulemaking, NRC staff will periodically send out email announcements of new material and upcoming events. Anyone may sign up to receive emails about the Waste Confidence environmental review by emailing WCOutreach@nrc.gov.
NRC staff will also periodically post updates to the Waste Confidence website. You can sign up for automatic email alerts whenever the Waste Confidence website is updated using GovDelivery. Under Subscriber Preferences you can choose the Waste Confidence Decision (WCD) pages on which you would like to receive updates.
You can monitor the docket for the Waste Confidence rulemaking on the Federal rulemaking Website, Regulations.gov, by searching on Docket ID NRC-2012-0246. In addition, the Federal rulemaking Website allows you to receive alerts when changes or additions occur in a docket folder. To subscribe: 1) navigate to the docket folder NRC-2012-0246; 2) click the "E-mail Alert" link; and 3) enter your e-mail address and select how frequently you would like to receive e-mails (daily, weekly, or monthly).
Who do I contact with questions about the Waste Confidence environmental review?
Sarah Lopas, NEPA Communications Project Manager, Sarah.Lopas@nrc.gov or telephone 1-800-368-5642, extension 287-0675.
The Waste Confidence Rulemaking
What is Waste Confidence?
The Waste Confidence rule codifies the Commission's generic determination of the environmental impacts associated with the storage of spent fuel after the end of a reactor's licensed life for operation. This generic analysis is found in Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 51.23. The Waste Confidence draft GEIS describes the environmental impacts of continuing to store spent nuclear fuel beyond the licensed life for operation of a reactor, and is the regulatory basis for the proposed rule.
How can the NRC complete this GEIS in two years when before Staff said they needed five to seven years?
The Waste Confidence update is a high priority for the Commission, so there are resources and energy being put into its completion within the two-year timeframe, while ensuring ample public involvement. The Staff's schedule for the previous effort was based on fewer resources, fewer staff members, and a variety of new issues related specifically to the long-term update.
How is the Waste Confidence Directorate Organized?
|WASTE CONFIDENCE DIRECTORATE
How is the NRC paying for Waste Confidence?
The Waste Confidence effort is paid for by annual fees assessed to Part 50 power reactors licensees, and Part 72 licensees who do not hold a Part 50 license. The NRC's fee rule was published in the Federal Register at 78 FR 39461 on July 1, 2013.
What is the Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses?
The NRC contracted with the Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses (CNWRA®) to assist in developing the Waste Confidence generic GEIS. CNWRA is a technical division of the Southwest Research Institute® and was established in 1987 as a federally funded research and development center. CNWRA's technical areas of expertise include transportation of radioactive materials, storage and disposal of radioactive wastes, environmental assessments, safety evaluations of nuclear fuel cycle facilities, and decommissioning of nuclear facilities. More information can be found at CNWRA.
Has the NRC already determined the outcome of the Waste Confidence rulemaking?
No. The NRC Commissioners have approved the publication of the proposed rule and draft GEIS for publication and public comment. Following the NRC's well-established rulemaking process, after receiving public comments, the NRC staff will consider all comments on the GEIS and rule and make a recommendation to the Commissioners. Once the staff's recommendation is provided to the NRC Commissioners, the Commissioners will consider the staff's recommendations and consider the public comments. Ultimately, the Commission will decide to approve, disapprove, or modify the final rule and final GEIS.
How can the NRC evaluate the environmental impacts of the Waste Confidence rule on a generic basis when each reactor/fuel storage site is unique?
Historically, the Commission has chosen to address Waste Confidence generically, and this approach was reaffirmed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the same decision that vacated and remanded the 2010 Waste Confidence update. Examples of other NRC GEISs include nuclear power plant decommissioning (NUREG-0586), nuclear power plant license renewal (NUREG-1437), and uranium recovery in-situ leach facility licensing (NUREG-1910)
Are research reactors dependent on Waste Confidence?
No. The focus of the Waste Confidence GEIS is a generic assessment of the environmental impacts associated with the continued storage of spent nuclear fuel generated by nuclear power reactors. The continued storage of spent nuclear fuel generated at research reactors, either in the United States or abroad, is outside the scope of the GEIS and is not addressed.
Will the Waste Confidence rule authorize the storage of spent nuclear fuel at the reactor near me?
No, the Waste Confidence rule will not authorize the storage of spent nuclear fuel at any site, and it is not a substitute for site-specific NEPA and safety analyses for individual licensing actions.
If the Waste Confidence rule allows for extended onsite storage of spent nuclear fuel, how is that different from onsite disposal? And further, does NRC support a policy of permanent, onsite disposal?
The Waste Confidence rule does not allow for onsite disposal. Waste Confidence assesses the environmental impacts of continued storage after license expiration pending disposal in a repository.
The United States' policy is disposal in a geological repository. The Blue Ribbon Commission (on America's Nuclear Future) reaffirmed the need for and feasibility of geological disposal in its January 2012 report to the Secretary of Energy. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Energy's January 2013 report in response to the Blue Ribbon Commission's recommendations also reaffirms the national policy of geological disposal. The NRC is responsible for ensuring that the national policy for disposal is carried out in a safe manner.
Which current NRC licensing actions are affected by the Waste Confidence remand?
Please see the NRC Staff's paper "Licensing Actions Affected by the Waste Confidence Remand" for a list of NRC projects affected by the Waste Confidence Proceeding.
How and why are the revised Waste Confidence rulemaking documents different from older versions?
To take advantage of the GEIS as the basis for the Waste Confidence rule, the revised rulemaking documents have been structured differently than the previous versions. Because the rule is based on the GEIS, a separate, standalone Waste Confidence Decision and "findings," as were present in previous Waste Confidence proceedings, were not needed. The 2014 Waste Confidence rulemaking has been structured to look similar to other NRC rulemakings.