United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

NRC's Environmental Review Process

FAST-41

On December 4, 2015, the Fixing American's Surface Transportation Act was enacted. Title 41 (FAST-41) of this law is intended to increase efficiency, transparency and consultation in infrastructure projects being reviewed by the federal government.

FAST-41's procedures and funding authorities improve the federal environmental review and authorization process for covered infrastructure projects. FAST-41 uses existing government procedures to improve efficiency in the environmental review process by promoting early consultation, interagency coordination and project-specific planning. FAST-41 applies to infrastructure projects which are large enough and have opted into this expedited process.

The Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC) implements FAST-41. This group of senior executive members from covered agencies is chaired by an Executive Director appointed by the President. All major deadlines for FAST-41 covered project are required to be posted to the Permitting Dashboard website, which tracks permitting and environmental review milestones to increase transparency and public involvement. Another important component of this process is a conflict resolution process for permitting agencies so differences can quickly be addressed.

For more information on Fast 41 and NRC covered projects, see the FAST-41 Fact Sheet or visit FPISC's Permitting Dashboard website.

EO 13807

On August 15, 2017, the President signed Executive Order (EO) 13807 titled 'Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects," (82 FR 40463). EO 13807 increases coordination, predictability, and transparency in the federal environmental review and authorization process for major infrastructure projects. New processes under this EO are intended to ensure interagency coordination of environmental reviews and expanding the role of agencies leading a particular review. When multiple agencies are involved in the environmental review process, this EO provides the framework for more defined responsibilities, as well as requiring increased timeliness and synchronization.

EO 13807 has three main components. The first component is the One Federal Decision (OFD) Framework which establishes a coordinated approach to increase timeliness in the environmental review process for major infrastructure projects that results in a single federal decision. The second component is the requirement for a predictable schedule for each major infrastructure project. The final component is a requirement for shorter review times and transparency in reporting the timetable for reviews.

FAST-41 provides additional services to projects that have opted into this process, whereas EO13807 applies to all major infrastructure projects which meet the requirements for inclusion into this order. For more information on how these initiatives work together see the Permitting Dashboard: FAST-41 and EO 13807.

NRC's Environmental Review Process

The NRC may become involved in FAST-41 or EO13807 through its license reviews for new reactors and facilities that contribute to the nuclear fuel cycle.

New Reactors

The environmental review process for new reactors under Parts 50 or 52 is part of a larger licensing process for new reactors. The review of an application includes three distinct, but related processes; the environmental review, the safety review, and hearings. The environmental portion of an application is referred to as an environmental report (ER). What follows is a brief discussion of the environmental review portion of the process. See also Title 10 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 51.

Before an application is received, the NRC staff may carry out pre-application activities to become familiar with the proposed project and with the expected contents of the application. These activities allow the staff to (1) arrange for the right expertise for the environmental review, and (2) determine whether the environmental portion of the application appears to be ready for submission. In addition, prior to the submittal of the application, the NRC staff will establish contacts with other Federal, state and local agencies, and hold public outreach meetings.

Once the application is submitted, the NRC reviews it. If the application is acceptable, the formal review begins. The NRC then publishes a notice of intent (NOI) to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS). For the environmental review, the staff carries out "scoping" by requesting public comments. As part of its review, the staff reviews the environmental report and gathers additional information to support the development of the EIS. Based on all of the information it has collected, the NRC publishes for comment a draft EIS. The NRC reviews all of the public comments it receives on the draft, responds to the comments making appropriate changes to the EIS, and then creates and publishes the final EIS. In many situations, this will be reviewed as part of a mandatory hearing before a decision is made whether to issue the requested license or permit. Currently, the NRC staff estimates that the environmental review process will take approximately 24-36 months. The NRC staff conducts its environmental reviews using NUREG-1555, "Environmental Standard Review Plan" (ESRP).

To view a flowchart of the process, please refer to the new reactor environmental review process.

Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities

The NRC conducts environmental reviews in support of reactor decommissioning, uranium recovery facilities, fuel cycle facilities, spent fuel and transportation, and byproduct materials licensing and regulatory activities. Each one of these licensing programs is governed by its own set of regulations. For example, 10 CFR Part 72, "Licensing Requirements for the Independent Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel, High-Level Radioactive Waste, and Reactor-Related Greater than Class C Waste," governs the licensing of spent fuel storage; 10 CFR Part 40, "Domestic Licensing of Source Material," and 10 CFR Part 40 Appendix A govern the licensing of uranium recovery facilities; and 10 CFR Part 70, "Domestic Licensing of Special Nuclear Material," governs the licensing of facilities possessing and using special nuclear material.

Similar to the new reactor licensing process, the environmental review process for nuclear fuel cycle facilities is part of a larger licensing process that consists of a safety review, an environmental review, and could include hearings. See also 10 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 51 and NRC's Materials Environmental Reviews web page at https://www.nrc.gov/materials/active-nepa-reviews.html.

Before an application is received the NRC may review pre-application material to become familiar with the license application and provide constructive feedback. In addition, prior to the submittal of the application, the NRC may start reaching out to other Federal, state, local, and tribal government agencies.

Once the application is submitted, the NRC reviews it. If the application is acceptable, the formal review begins. The NRC then publishes a notice of intent (NOI) to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS). For the environmental review, the staff carries out "scoping" by requesting public comments. As part of its review, the staff reviews the environmental report and gathers additional information to support the development of the EIS. Based on all of the information it has collected, the NRC publishes for comment a draft EIS. The NRC reviews all of the public comments it receives on the draft, responds to the comments making appropriate changes to the EIS, and then creates and publishes the final EIS. In many situations, this will be reviewed as part of a mandatory hearing before a decision is made whether to issue the requested license or permit. Currently, the NRC staff estimates that the environmental review process will take approximately 24-36 months.

For more information or answers to your questions please email NRC_FAST41_EO13807.Resource@nrc.gov.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Wednesday, October 31, 2018