GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy; Vallecitos Nuclear Center, Vallecitos Boiling Water Reactor and Empire State Atomic Development Agency; Vallecitos Experimental Superheat Reactor

Federal Register, Volume 84 Issue 196 (Wednesday, October 9, 2019)
[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 196 (Wednesday, October 9, 2019)]
[Pages 54188-54190]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office []
[FR Doc No: 2019-21982]
[Docket Nos. 50-18 and 50-183; NRC-2019-0082]
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy; Vallecitos Nuclear Center, Vallecitos
Boiling Water Reactor and Empire State Atomic Development Agency;
Vallecitos Experimental Superheat Reactor
AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
ACTION: Environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact;
SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing an
environmental assessment (EA) and finding of no significant impact
(FONSI) regarding a partial site release for license Nos. DPR-1
(Vallecitos Boiling Water Reactor) and DR-10 (Empire State Atomic
Development Agency Vallecitos Experimental Superheat Reactor), issued
to GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy at the Vallecitos Nuclear Center in Sunol,
DATES: The EA and FONSI set forth in this document is available on
October 9, 2019.
ADDRESSES: Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2019-0082 when contacting the
NRC about the availability of information regarding this document. You
may obtain publicly-available information related to this document
using any of the following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Website: Go to and search for Docket ID NRC-2019-0082. Address
questions about NRC docket IDs in to Jennifer Borges;
telephone: 301-287-9127; email: [email protected]. For technical
questions, contact the individual listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
CONTACT section of this document.
     NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System
(ADAMS): You may obtain publicly-available documents online in the
ADAMS Public Documents collection at To begin the search, select ``Begin Web-based ADAMS
Search.'' For problems with ADAMS, please contact the NRC's Public
Document Room (PDR) reference staff at 1-800-397-4209, 301-415-4737, or
by email to [email protected]. The ADAMS accession number for each
document referenced in this document (if that document is available in
ADAMS) is provided the first time that a document is referenced.
     NRC's PDR: You may examine and purchase copies of public
documents at the NRC's PDR, Room O1-F21, One White Flint North, 11555
Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jack Parrott, Office of Nuclear
Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission,
Washington, DC 20555-00001; telephone: 301-415-6634; email:
[email protected].
I. Introduction
    The NRC received, by letter dated December 14, 2018 (ADAMS
Accession No. ML18348A425), a request from GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy
(GEH or licensee) to approve a partial site release of a non-impacted
portion of its Vallecitos Nuclear Center (VNC) site located at 6705
Vallecitos Road, Sunol, California. The December 14, 2018 letter
transmitted a report, entitled ``Evaluation for Unconditional Release
of Route 84 Frontage of VNC Site,'' prepared by GEH evaluating the
proposed release. The information in the request letter was
supplemented by information provided in a letter dated February 26,
2019 (ADAMS Accession No. ML19057A466).
    The VNC site contains two shutdown power reactor units licensed
under part 50, ``Domestic Licensing of Production and Utilization
Facilities,'' of title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR).
These two units are the Vallecitos Boiling Water Reactor (VBWR), NRC
License DPR-1, Docket 50-18, and the Empire State Atomic Development
Agency Vallecitos Experimental Superheat Reactor (EVESR), NRC License
DR-10, Docket 50-183. In accordance with 10 CFR 50.4(b)(8)-(9), the
licensee has certified, pursuant to 10 CFR 50.82(a)(1), that both units
have permanently ceased operation and that all nuclear fuel has been
removed from the respective reactor vessels of both units. These units
are presently in ``SAFSTOR'' \1\ status awaiting the termination of the
power reactor licenses.
    \1\ SAFSTOR is the decommissioning method in which a nuclear
facility is placed and maintained in a condition that allows the
safe storage of radioactive components of the nuclear plant and
subsequent decontamination to levels that permit license
    In accordance with 10 CFR 50.83, ``Release of Part of a Power
Reactor Facility or Site for Unrestricted Use,'' the licensee requested
release from the NRC licenses, for unrestricted use, an approximately
2.8-hectare (7-acre) irregularly shaped parcel along the southern edge
of the VNC site. The licensee is declaring the parcel as a ``non-
impacted area,'' which is defined in 10 CFR 50.2 to mean an area ``with
no reasonable potential for residual radioactivity in excess of natural
background or fallout levels.'' If approved, the 2.8-hectare (7-acre)
parcel will no longer be considered part of the licensed site and thus,
no longer under NRC jurisdiction. Once released, the 2.8-hectare (7-
acre) parcel will be available for unrestricted use. In this regard,
GEH intends to make this irregularly shaped parcel a construction
easement along State Route 84 (Vallecitos Road) available to Alameda
County Transportation Commission (ACTC) to support road development and
widening of Vallecitos Road.
    The NRC is considering approval of the requested partial site
release for the VBWR and EVESR licenses at the VNC site. Therefore, in
compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, as amended, 42
U.S.C. 4321 et seq. (NEPA), and its NEPA implementing regulations in 10
CFR part 51, the NRC has prepared this environmental assessment (EA).
In accordance with 10 CFR 50.83(b)(5), if an environmental impact
statement (EIS) had been previously prepared, then the licensee would
have been required to discuss whether the environmental impacts
associated with the proposed partial site release were bounded by a
previous EIS. If those impacts were bounded, then the preparation of an
EA would not be necessary. However, because the VNC site was licensed
prior to the enactment of NEPA, no EIS was prepared when the VNC site
was first licensed, and there is no other appropriate EIS that could
bound these impacts. Therefore, the NRC has prepared an EA for this
proposed action. Based on the results of the EA that follows, the NRC
has determined not to prepare an EIS for the partial site release and
is issuing a finding of no significant impact (FONSI).
II. Environmental Assessment
Description of the Proposed Action
    The proposed action would approve the release of a 2.8-hectare (7-
acre), non-impacted parcel, located along the southern boundary of the
VNC site, for
[[Page 54189]]
unrestricted use. Once released, the 2.8-hectare (7-acre) parcel would
no longer be part of the licensed site and thus, no longer under NRC
jurisdiction.\2\ Under the applicable NRC regulation, 10 CFR 50.83(b),
a licensee may submit a written request for the release of non-impacted
land if a license amendment is not otherwise required. Pursuant to 10
CFR 50.83(c), upon determining that the licensee's submittal is
adequate, the NRC shall inform the licensee in writing that a partial
release of non-impacted land for unrestricted use is approved.
    \2\ Under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, 42 U.S.C.
2011 et seq. (AEA), the NRC's jurisdiction is limited to matters of
radiological health and safety, for both members of the public and
occupational workers, and of physical security for NRC licensed
facilities and radioactive materials possessed by NRC licensees. The
NRC holds no property interest in licensee owned or controlled lands
nor does the NRC have any land or natural resources management
Need for the Proposed Action
    The licensee has requested the release of the 2.8-hectare (7-acre),
non-impacted parcel as the VNC property is entirely on the north side
of Vallecitos Road which is a two to four-lane paved highway currently
being improved and widened under a California Department of
Transportation project in cooperation with the ACTC. According to the
licensee, the property proposed to be released is an area that has
never been used for licensed activity. The land is undeveloped
grassland serving as road frontage with a small area landscaped to
provide an aesthetic entrance to VNC. The licensee plans to release
this property as soon as approval is received from the NRC. The
property will then be expediently afforded to the ACTC.
VNC Site
    VNC is located near the center of the Pleasanton quadrangle of
Alameda County, California. The site is east of San Francisco Bay,
approximately 56 air kilometers (35 air miles) east-southeast of San
Francisco and 32 air kilometers (20 air miles) north of San Jose. The
properties surrounding the site are primarily used for agriculture and
cattle raising, with some residences, which are mostly to the west of
the property. The nearest sizeable towns are Pleasanton located 6.6
kilometers (4.1 miles) to the north-northwest and Livermore located 10
kilometers (6.2 miles) to the northeast.
    The VNC site is on the north side of Vallecitos Road, which is a
two and four-lane paved highway. A Union Pacific railroad line lies
about three kilometers (2 miles) west of the site. There is light
industrial activity within a 16-kilometer (10-mile) radius of the
plant. San Jose (32 kilometers (20 miles) south), Oakland (48
kilometers (30 miles) northwest) and San Francisco (56 kilometers (35
miles) northwest) are major industrial centers. The property boundary,
which has not changed since the original property purchase in 1956, is
fenced and posted ``No Trespassing.'' A security gate at the entrance
to the developed area of the VNC provides access control to the active
area of the site. The GEH provided evaluation reports provide
additional information about the site (ADAMS Accession Nos. ML18348A425
and ML19057A466).
Safety Evaluation of the Proposed Action
    The NRC staff evaluated the safety impacts of the proposed action
and concludes that the requirements of 10 CFR 50.83, 10 CFR 50.59, and
other applicable NRC regulations have been met (ADAMS Accession No.
Environmental Impacts of the Proposed Action
    The NRC staff evaluated the environmental impacts of the proposed
action and concludes that the release of the 2.8-hectare (7-acre)
parcel will not have any adverse environmental impacts. The 2.8-hectare
(7-acre) parcel is along the southern boundary of the site. This parcel
is mostly undeveloped grassland road frontage with a small area
landscaped to provide an aesthetic entrance to the VNC. There is no
evidence of pre-existing industrial structures indicative of
radiological work. The power reactors at the site have permanently
ceased operations and are being maintained in a possession-only SAFSTOR
status. The release of the 2.8-hectare (7-acre) parcel will not impact
the shutdown reactors.
    The licensee notes that the 2.8-hectare (7-acre) parcel has never
been used for licensed activity. The licensee conducted an evaluation
of the parcel based on guidance for doing historical site assessments
in NUREG-1575, ``Multi-Agency Radiation Survey and Site Investigation
Manual (MARSSIM)'' (NUREG-1575, Revision 1) and relied
on visual inspection, historical records, process knowledge, and the
results of sentinel measurements to conclude that the parcel is non-
impacted. None of the reviews indicate that radioactive material was
ever used in VNC property fronting Vallecitos Road or that the area was
contaminated with radioactive material because of NRC licensed
activities. The area is characterized as non-impacted per NUREG-1575.
    A Hazardous Materials Soil Investigation was conducted by Baseline
Environmental Consulting for this area (ADAMS Accession No.
ML19057A466). Baseline Environmental Consulting collected soil samples
from 16 locations along Vallecitos Road at depths between 0 and 15
centimeters (0 and 6 inches) and analyzed them for gross alpha and
gross beta activity. These locations were selected because they are
local low points where contamination might be expected to consolidate.
    Based on the results of this investigation the licensee concluded
that the soils in the parcel do not appear to be affected by
radiological materials associated with operation of the GEH facility
and would not be expected to pose a health risk to construction workers
or the environment and that there is no evidence of any radiological
impact on the 2.8-hectare (7-acre) parcel.
    The NRC verified that the area to be released was not
radiologically impacted by licensed site activities through an
independent confirmatory survey by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science
and Education (ORISE). ORISE performed independent assessment
activities during the period of February 5-6, 2019. The results of the
ORISE independent assessment is in a report to NRC dated August 13,
2019 (ADAMS Accession No. ML19239A118). Confirmatory survey activities
included gamma walkover scanning, gamma direct measurements, and soil
sampling in the applicable land area. Elevated direct gamma radiation
levels above background were identified in the landscaped area near the
road leading into the site. The elevated counts were attributed to
naturally occurring radioactive material in the lava rocks used in the
landscaping. A total of 20 soil samples were collected throughout the
land area: 13 random samples, one judgmental sample, and six additional
confirmatory samples. Comparison of naturally occurring radionuclide
concentrations showed that the Vallecitos Road frontage soils results
were consistent with the non-impacted determination.
    The NRC staff reviewed the request and concluded that the
environmental impacts associated with this request remain bounded by
the environmental impacts evaluated in the previously issued ``Final
Generic Environmental Impact Statement on Decommissioning of Nuclear
Facilities,'' NUREG-0586, Supplement 1, Volume 1 (
[[Page 54190]]
index.html). NUREG-0586 evaluated the environmental impacts of the
decommissioning of entire power reactor sites and facilities that have
been impacted by operations. The release of a part of a power reactor
site that has been demonstrated to not have been impacted by operations
is within the scope of the evaluation performed in NUREG-0586. The NRC
staff concludes that the proposed release of the 2.8-hectare (7-acre)
parcel is bounded by NUREG-0586.
    The NRC has determined that the proposed release of the 2.8-hectare
(7-acre) parcel is wholly procedural and administrative in nature, that
the parcel is radiologically non-impacted, and that the licensee has no
safety, physical security, or emergency preparedness need to retain the
parcel. The environmental impacts associated with the shutdown power
reactors will not change as a result of the proposed release of the
2.8-hectare (7-acre) parcel. The proposed release will not result in
public or environmental exposure to radioactive contamination. There
are no known records of any spills, leaks, or uncontrolled release of
radioactive material on the 2.8-hectare (7-acre parcel). The 2.8-
hectare (7-acre) parcel was not used for any activities that could have
contaminated the property. Therefore, there are no significant
radiological environmental impacts associated with the proposed action.
    With regard to potential non-radiological impacts, the proposed
release of the 2.8-hectare (7-acre) parcel from NRC jurisdiction does
not involve or authorize any construction activities, renovation of
buildings or structures, ground disturbing activities or other
alteration to land. The proposed release of the 2.8-hectare (7-acre)
parcel will not result in any change to current licensed activities on
that portion of the site that will remain under NRC jurisdiction and
therefore, will not result in any changes to the workforce or vehicular
traffic on the licensed portion of the site. Furthermore, as the NRC
has determined that the proposed release of the 2.8-hectare (7-acre)
parcel is an administrative action, it is not a type of activity that
has the potential to cause effects on historic properties or cultural
resources, including traditional cultural properties and will have no
effect on listed species or critical habitat. In addition, the proposed
release of the 2.8-hectare (7-acre) parcel will not result in any
change to non-radiological plant effluents and thus, will have no
impact on either air or water quality. Therefore, there are no
significant non-radiological environmental impacts associated with the
proposed release of the 2.8-hectare (7-acre) parcel.
    Accordingly, the NRC staff concludes that there are no significant
environmental impacts associated with the proposed action.
Connected Action
    The California Department of Transportation and the ACTC determined
that the California State Route 84 Expressway Widening Project would
have no significant impact on the human environment. The Final
Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment with Finding of No
Significant Impact, dated April 2018, is available at (
Environmental Impacts of the Alternatives to the Proposed Action
    As an alternative to the proposed action, the NRC staff considered
denial of the proposed release of the 2.8-hectare (7-acre) parcel
(i.e., the ``no-action'' alternative). Denial of the request would
result in the 2.8-hectare (7-acre) parcel remaining part of the
licensed site and subject to NRC jurisdiction. As the licensee has no
need for the parcel, its current use as undeveloped grassland and for
site entrance landscaping would most likely continue. As there is no
policy or regulatory reason for the NRC to require a licensee to retain
land that is not radiologically impacted and for which the licensee has
no further operational need, the no-action alternative is not further
    The NRC staff has concluded that the proposed action will not
significantly impact the quality of the human environment, and that the
proposed action is the preferred alternative.
Agencies and Persons Consulted
    A public meeting to obtain comments on the release approval request
was announced on the NRC public meeting website on March 18, 2019
(ADAMS Accession No. ML19077A149). A notice of GEH's request to release
the 2.8-hectare (7-acre) parcel and the public meeting, including a
request for comment, was also published in ``The Independent,''
Livermore, CA on March 21, 2019. The NRC staff published a notice of
the receipt of GEH's request, including a request for comment, in the
Federal Register on March 27, 2019 (84 FR 11578). The NRC staff
conducted the public meeting in Dublin, CA on March 28, 2019. A summary
of the public meeting, which includes copies of the presentations made
and a copy of the transcript of the meeting, is available in ADAMS at
Accession No. ML19239A043. No comments were made on the Federal
Rulemaking website, or were received by mail or email, and all
questions asked at the meeting were answered in the meeting.
    The NRC contacted the California Department of Public Health on
September 4, 2019 (ADAMS Accession No. ML19275D493) concerning this
request. There were no comments, concerns or objections from the State
III. Finding of No Significant Impact
    The NRC staff has prepared this EA as part of its review of the
proposed action. On the basis of this EA, the NRC finds that there are
no significant environmental impacts from the proposed action, and that
preparation of EIS is not warranted. Accordingly, the NRC has
determined that a FONSI is appropriate. In accordance with 10 CFR
51.32(a)(4), this FONSI incorporates the EA set forth in this notice by
    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 3rd day of October, 2019.
    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Bruce A. Watson,
Chief, Reactor Decommissioning Branch, Division of Decommissioning,
Uranium Recovery, and Waste Programs, Office of Nuclear Material Safety
and Safeguards.
[FR Doc. 2019-21982 Filed 10-8-19; 8:45 am]