Frequently Asked Questions About the Waste Confidence Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS)
On this page:
- National Environmental Policy Act - NEPA
- Public Involvement
- How can I get involved in this NEPA process?
- Where and when are the draft GEIS public meetings being held?
- How long will the public comment period be and how can I comment?
- What happened to the scoping comments I submitted last fall or winter?
- How do I stay informed of Waste Confidence activities?
- How do I request reasonable accommodations?
- 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?
- 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 being considered as part of the GEIS?
- 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?
- Will the Waste Confidence rulemaking address concerns about safety and security?
- Will the Waste Confidence rulemaking address natural disasters?
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 chosen as a matter of discretion to develop a generic EIS (GEIS) as its method of complying with NEPA in support of the Waste Confidence rulemaking. The GEIS will look at the potential environmental impacts of the proposed Waste Confidence rule and will form the technical basis for the proposed 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. The NRC will ask for comments on the draft GEIS and the proposed Waste Confidence rule when they are published later in 2013.
How can I get involved in this NEPA process?
In late summer or early fall 2013, the NRC will publish the draft GEIS and proposed Waste Confidence rule for public comment. During the public comment period, the NRC will hold eight regional public meetings, along with two nationally webcast public meetings (conducted here at our headquarters in Rockville, MD), wherein members of the public can hear the preliminary conclusions of our environmental review and ask questions and submit comments on the draft GEIS and proposed Waste Confidence rule.
Where and when are the draft GEIS public meetings being held?
The NRC will be holding public meetings in or near the following vicinities:
- NRC headquarters in Rockville, Maryland (two nationally webcast and telephone-accessible public meetings)
- New York metro area, New York
- Boston metro area, Massachusetts
- Denver, Colorado
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- San Luis Obispo, California
- San Clemente, California
- Toledo, Ohio
- Charlotte, North Carolina
As soon as the NRC finalizes the dates, times, and specific locations of the public meetings, this information will be made available on the NRC’s Waste Confidence Public Involvement page and the NRC’s Public Meeting Schedule page.
How long will the public comment period be and how can I comment?
The comment period for the draft GEIS and proposed Waste Confidence rule will be 75 days long. As the NRC gets closer to publication of the draft GEIS and proposed rule, we will provide additional details about how to submit comments and the 75-day comment period deadline.
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.
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 GEIS development, 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 routinely holds monthly public teleconference status calls. Interested members of the public may participate by telephone via a toll-free teleconference line. Prior to the start of the meeting, please dial 1-800-857-2553 and provide the operator with passcode 3682386. More information on these monthly public teleconference status calls can be found on our Public Involvement page.
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 which Waste Confidence Decision (WCD) pages you would like to receive updates on.
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).
How do I request reasonable accommodations?
The NRC provides accessibility modifications for individuals with disabilities 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.
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.
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?
The Director reports to the NMSS Office Director and is responsible for the updated Waste Confidence rule and supporting GEIS within the Commission’s 2-year timeframe mandate. Roles and responsibilities for other staff in the Director’s office are listed below.
Deputy Director: assists the Director in leading the Directorate and managing day-to-day activities. This position serves as primary interface with the Office of General Counsel, Office of Commission Appellate Adjudication, and the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.
Senior Level Advisor: provides expert advice on past EIS development activities, technical issues, and approaches to developmental challenges for the GEIS.
Program Assistant: maintains contracting activities, Microsoft Project schedule, and work item tracking database.
Administrative Assistant: provides administrative support to the Directorate.
Communication, Planning, and Rulemaking Branch
The Communications, Planning, and Rulemaking Branch is responsible for managing public meetings associated with Directorate products for other external stakeholder interactions (e.g., correspondence, Web sites, and phone calls), managing the interface with other Federal and State agencies, and proactively interfacing with industry and other interested parties. This work will include related tasks, as prescribed by the Director. As part of the development of the Waste Confidence GEIS, the communications team will obtain information and comments from a wide range of external stakeholders, including representatives from industry, States, Native American tribes, and public interest groups.
NEPA Communications Project Manager: arranges all public meetings and interface activities directly related to the GEIS development effort. This project manager is responsible for communication with other Federal and State agencies on GEIS matters.
Programmatic Communications Project Manager: manages internal and external communication activities related to the overall effort, including such things as the status, overall approach, and timing of meetings. This includes preparation of Commission papers, communications plans, question-and-answer sessions, and congressional correspondence.
Web-Based Communications Project Manager: designs and maintains Web site information about GEIS status and maintains the blog and other forms of communication.
Licensing Assistant and Meeting Coordinator: supports organization of efforts for public meetings. This person works with the Center to arrange public meetings.
Communications Specialist: supports communications project managers in the design and implementation of effective internal and external communications.
Rulemaking Project Manager: manages rulemaking efforts to develop a Waste Confidence rule.
Environmental Impact Statement Branch
The Environmental Impact Statement Branch has overall responsibility for the timely development of the Waste Confidence GEIS, which will provide the regulatory basis for the Waste Confidence rule. It works closely with liaison staff from other offices and OGC to resolve issues raised in the court’s remand. This branch works effectively with the Communications, Planning, and Rulemaking Branch to support public meetings and to schedule planning and completion of the draft and final Waste Confidence rule.
EIS Development Project Manager: responsible for overall project management of the effort to ensure the 24-month effort is completed and interim milestones are identified and tracked. Works with the program assistant and Communication, Planning, and Rulemaking Branch to carry out an overall project plan.
Environmental Project Managers: responsible for producing a high-quality GEIS and for supporting efforts to communicate activities internally and externally.
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 Commission has made the decision to develop a GEIS to support the update to the Waste Confidence rule, but the conclusions in the GEIS and the content of the rule have not yet been determined. The NRC published the results of its scoping process for the Waste Confidence GEIS on March 5, 2013, and is still developing the GEIS. The environmental analyses contained in the GEIS will provide the regulatory basis for the Waste Confidence rule.
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. For this effort, the NRC plans to use existing information and data on environmental resources to create a baseline and an “envelope” of parameters and impacts for analysis in the Waste Confidence GEIS.
Are research reactors being considered as part of the GEIS?
The focus of the Waste Confidence GEIS will be 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 will not be considered.
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.
Will the Waste Confidence rulemaking address concerns about safety and security?
The Waste Confidence GEIS will disclose the impacts of continued storage of spent nuclear fuel on public health and safety, and the environment. In addition, separate from the generic NEPA determinations that are the focus of this GEIS, acts of terrorism and matters of security are evaluated, as appropriate, on a site-specific basis as part of individual plant and spent fuel storage licensing actions. Further, the NRC addresses security matters on an ongoing basis for NRC-licensed facilities.
Will the Waste Confidence rulemaking address natural disasters?
Natural disasters such as seismic events, floods, and tornadoes will be included in the Waste Confidence GEIS generic analysis.