Amended Record of Decision for the Production of Tritium in Commercial Light Water Reactors

CourtNational Nuclear Security Administration
Citation88 FR 63099
Published date14 September 2023
Record Number2023-19909
SectionNotices
Federal Register, Volume 88 Issue 177 (Thursday, September 14, 2023)
[Federal Register Volume 88, Number 177 (Thursday, September 14, 2023)]
                [Notices]
                [Pages 63099-63100]
                From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
                [FR Doc No: 2023-19909]
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                DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
                National Nuclear Security Administration
                Amended Record of Decision for the Production of Tritium in
                Commercial Light Water Reactors
                AGENCY: National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy.
                ACTION: Amended record of decision.
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                SUMMARY: The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-
                autonomous agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), is announcing
                this amendment to the June 22, 2016, Record of Decision (ROD) for the
                Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Production of
                Tritium in a Commercial Light Water Reactor (CLWR SEIS) (DOE/EIS-0288-
                S1). NNSA is amending the 2016 decision in partnership with the
                Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). TVA is considering increasing the
                number of TPBARs irradiated in their reactors at Watts Bar Nuclear
                Plant (WBN) using tritium-producing burnable absorber rods (TPBARs).
                NNSA initially decided to implement the CLWR SEIS Preferred
                Alternative, Alternative 6, which allows for the irradiation of up to a
                total of 5,000 TPBARs every 18 months using TVA reactors at both the
                Watts Bar and Sequoyah sites. Subsequent to the CLWR SEIS, WBN Unit 1
                increased tritium production under Unit 1 License Amendment #107 (July
                2016) and Unit 2 tritium production was authorized under Unit 2 License
                Amendment #27 (May 2019). Hence, TVA and NNSA are now opting to choose
                the previously analyzed CLWR SEIS Alternative 4, which allows for the
                irradiation of up to a total of 5,000 TPBARs every 18 months at the
                Watts Bar site using Watts Bar Units 1 and 2.
                FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information on NNSA's NEPA
                process, please contact Mr. James Sanderson, NEPA Compliance Officer,
                National Nuclear Security Administration, Office of General Counsel,
                Telephone (202) 586-1402; or by email to [email protected].
                This Amended Record of Decision is available on the internet at https://energy.gov/nepa. The 2016 ROD, the CLWR SEIS, and related NEPA
                documents are available on the DOE NEPA website at https://www.energy.gov/nepa/doe-environmental-impact-statements.
                SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NNSA is the lead Federal agency responsible
                for maintaining and enhancing the safety, security, reliability, and
                performance of the United States (U.S.) nuclear weapons stockpile.
                Tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, is an essential component
                of every weapon in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile and must be
                replenished periodically due to its short half-life. In March 1999, DOE
                published the 1999 EIS, which addressed the production of tritium in
                the TVA's Watts Bar and Sequoyah nuclear reactors using TPBARs. The
                1999 EIS assessed the potential environmental impacts of irradiating up
                to 3,400 TPBARs per reactor per fuel cycle (a fuel cycle lasts about 18
                months). On May 14, 1999, DOE published the ROD for the 1999 EIS (64 FR
                26369) in which it announced its decision to enter into an agreement
                with TVA to irradiate TPBARs in the Watts Bar Unit 1 reactor (Watts Bar
                1) in Rhea County, Tennessee, near Spring City; and Sequoyah Units 1
                and 2 reactors (Sequoyah 1 and 2) in Hamilton County, Tennessee, near
                Soddy-Daisy. In 2002, TVA received license amendments from the U.S.
                Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to irradiate TPBARs in those
                reactors. (However, TVA's license for the Sequoyah reactors no longer
                allows for the irradiation of TPBARs.) Since 2003, TVA has been
                irradiating TPBARs for NNSA by irradiating TPBARs only in Watts Bar 1.
                (In 2020, TVA began irradiating TPBARs in Watts Bar 2.) After
                irradiation, NNSA transports the TPBARs to the Tritium Extraction
                Facility at the DOE Savannah River Site in South Carolina. NNSA's
                Interagency Agreement with TVA to irradiate TPBARs is in effect until
                the earlier of either (a) November 30, 2035, or (b) the date TVA no
                longer has a pressurized water reactor in operation.
                 NNSA prepared the 2016 CLWR SEIS to update the environmental
                analyses in the 1999 Final Environmental Impact Statement for the
                Production of Tritium in a Commercial Light Water Reactor (DOE/EIS-
                0288; the 1999 EIS). The 2016 CLWR SEIS provides analysis of the
                potential environmental impacts from TPBAR irradiation based on a
                conservative estimate of the tritium permeation rate through the TPBAR
                cladding, NNSA's revised estimate of the maximum number of TPBARs
                necessary to support the current and projected future tritium supply
                requirements, and a maximum production scenario of irradiating no more
                than a total of 5,000 TPBARs every 18 months. NNSA initially decided to
                implement the Preferred Alternative, Alternative 6, which allows for
                the irradiation of up to a total of 5,000 TPBARs every 18 months using
                TVA reactors at both the Watts Bar and Sequoyah sites. Although near-
                term tritium requirements could likely be met with the irradiation of
                2,500 TPBARs every 18 months, at the time, this decision provided the
                greatest flexibility to meet potential future needs that could arise
                from various plausible but unexpected events. Subsequent to the 2016
                SEIS, WBN Unit 1 increased the irradiation of TPBARs under Unit 1
                License Amendment #107 (July 2016) and Unit 2 TPBAR irradiation was
                authorized under Unit 2 License Amendment #27 (May 2019). Hence, TVA
                and NNSA are now opting to choose the previously analyzed CLWR SEIS
                Alternative 4, which allows for the irradiation of up to a total of
                5,000 TPBARs every 18 months at the Watts Bar site using Watts Bar 1
                and 2. TVA noted new information or circumstances relevant to
                environmental concerns that could potentially have a bearing on the
                current proposal or its impacts. This new information was analyzed in a
                February 6, 2023 TVA memorandum, ``Determination of NEPA Adequacy,
                Production of Tritium in a Commercial Light Water Nuclear Reactor
                (Watts Bar Nuclear Plant), Tennessee Valley Authority.'' In this memo,
                TVA addressed their recent review of the
                [[Page 63100]]
                2016 CLWR SEIS to determine if additional environmental review under
                NEPA was needed, consistent with CEQ regulations at 40 CFR 1502.9(d).
                The analysis demonstrated that the current proposal does not represent
                a substantive change to operations, activities, and associated impacts
                assessed in existing NEPA documentation. Both the TVA analysis and the
                CLWR SEIS analysis indicate that there would not be any significant
                increase in radiation exposure associated with TPBAR irradiation for
                facility workers or the public. For all analyzed alternatives
                (including both Alternatives 4 and 6), estimated radiation exposures
                would remain well below regulatory limits. The calculated estimated
                exposures for normal reactor operations with even the maximum number of
                TPBARs are comparable to those for normal reactor operation without
                TPBARs.
                Amended Decision
                 NNSA is amending its previous decision (81 FR 40685), which was to
                choose the 2016 CLWR SEIS's Alternative 6 that assumes TVA would
                irradiate up to a total of 5,000 TPBARs every 18 months using both the
                Watts Bar and Sequoyah sites. Because TVA would irradiate a maximum of
                2,500 TPBARs in any one reactor, this could involve the use of one or
                both reactors at each of the sites. Instead, NNSA's new decision is to
                choose the 2016 CLWR SEIS's Alternative 4 that assumes TVA would
                irradiate up to a total of 5,000 TPBARs every 18 months at the Watts
                Bar site using Watts Bar 1 and 2 reactors. Since TVA would irradiate a
                maximum of 2,500 TPBARs in any one reactor, this would involve use of
                both Watts Bar reactors. Under this decision, TVA will not irradiate
                TPBARs for tritium production at the Sequoyah site.
                Basis for Decision
                 The environmental impacts of this proposed action have been
                addressed in previous environmental impact statements, i.e., the 1999
                Final EIS for the Production of Tritium in a Commercial Light Water
                Reactor (DOE/EIS-0288) and the 2016 CLWR SEIS. However, TVA staff
                reviewed new information or circumstances relevant to environmental
                concerns that could potentially have a bearing on the current proposal
                or its impacts. This new information was analyzed in a February 6, 2023
                TVA memorandum, i.e., ``Determination of NEPA Adequacy, Production of
                Tritium in a Commercial Light Water Nuclear Reactor (Watts Bar Nuclear
                Plant), Tennessee Valley Authority.'' In this memo, TVA addresses their
                recent review of the 2016 CLWR SEIS to determine if additional
                environmental review under NEPA was needed, consistent with CEQ
                regulations at 40 CFR 1502.9(d). During an interagency teleconference
                held in May 2021, NNSA requested information from TVA to help NNSA in
                its determination of the adequacy of the 2016 SEIS as far as TVA's
                updated proposal. Additional information given to NNSA addresses
                anticipated effects on the amount of spent fuel to be generated at
                Watts Bar, the fuel cycle there, and the amount of tritiated wastewater
                estimated to be generated from TPBAR irradiation. In terms of the
                amount of spent fuel to be generated at Watts Bar, TVA's current
                proposal would result in 36 additional fuel assemblies every 18 months.
                The SEIS assumed up to 41 additional fuel assemblies, so it provides a
                conservative bounding analysis of the approximately 2500 TPBAR
                equilibrium core designs. There would be additional spent fuel
                generated with the new proposal. However, TVA has assured NNSA that it
                has infrastructure in place to manage the increased volume of spent
                nuclear fuel assemblies. Regarding the new proposal's effects on the
                fuel cycle, the cycle length is only mentioned in the SEIS twice, and
                only in the context of being a ``potential uncertainty'' in determining
                if it was necessary to assume in the SEIS a higher, more conservative
                tritium permeation rate. TVA does not consider the operating cycle
                length to be uncertain, and it also does not anticipate that
                irradiation of up to 2500 TPBARs at each reactor would affect the
                typical fuel cycle. Therefore, the issue has no bearing on the review
                for adequacy of the SEIS for any future TVA action to irradiate up to
                5000 TPBARs at Watts Bar. Lastly, the estimated amount of tritiated
                wastewater (due to permeation from the TPBARs into the cooling water)
                was not identified in the SEIS, as it is difficult to separate this out
                from other releases from such things as turbine building sumps, floor
                drain collector sumps, groundwater sumps, etc. However, to keep maximum
                tritium concentrations low, TVA will use a ``feed and bleed''
                technique, which will require additional cooling water per fuel cycle
                in order to ensure that TVA discharges are within regulatory limits.
                TVA estimates that using this technique will increase water usage by
                approximately 25% but is not expected to affect environmental impacts.
                The current proposal does not represent a substantive change to
                operations, activities, and associated impacts assessed in existing
                NEPA documentation. Therefore, the decision to choose the previously
                analyzed 2016 CLWR SEIS Alternative 4, along with the updated analysis
                provided by TVA (summarized previously) and confirmed by NNSA, is
                reasonable, and accordingly, no further NEPA analysis of this TVA
                proposal is required.
                Signing Authority
                 This document of the Department of Energy was signed on June 29,
                2023, by Jill Hruby, Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and
                Administrator, NNSA, pursuant to delegated authority from the Secretary
                of Energy. That document with the original signature and date is
                maintained by DOE. For administrative purposes only, and in compliance
                with requirements of the Office of the Federal Register, the
                undersigned DOE Federal Register Liaison Officer has been authorized to
                sign and submit the document in electronic format for publication, as
                an official document of the Department of Energy. This administrative
                process in no way alters the legal effect of this document upon
                publication in the Federal Register.
                 Signed in Washington, DC, on September 11, 2023.
                Treena V. Garrett,
                Federal Register Liaison Officer, U.S. Department of Energy.
                [FR Doc. 2023-19909 Filed 9-13-23; 8:45 am]
                BILLING CODE 6450-01-P
                

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