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

To top of page

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 Energy 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

To top of page

License Renewal Process

  1. Application Received - Month 0
  2. Notice of Intent - Month 1
  3. Scoping Meeting - Month 2
  4. Environmental Review Site Audit - Month 2
  5. Requests for Additional Information (RAI) - Month 4
  6. Draft Supplement Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) - Month 10
  7. Final SEIS - Month 17

For additional information, see License Renewal Process.

To top of page

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

(To top of page)

Information Gathering

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

To top of page

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.

To top of page

Analysis Approach

For additional information, see Detail Analysis Approach.

To top of page

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

To top of page

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

Seventy eight issues considered for refurbishment and renewal

  • 59 Category 1 Issues - NRC Generically Resolved
  • 17 Category 2 Issues - Addressed in Application
  • Two Uncategorized Issues - Addressed by NRC

Detailed List: 92 issues in GEIS

To top of page

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

To top of page

Postulated Accidents

Initial License Renewal (For additional information, see SAMA Evaluation Process)

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

To top of page

Review Milestone

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

For additional information, see Review Milestone.

To top of page

Environmental Review

Take the Review.

To top of page

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, May 18, 2020