Citation: "85 FR 1827"
Document Number: "Docket No. 50-293; NRC-2019-0245"
Page Number: "1827"
DATES: The exemption was issued on
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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The text of the exemption is attached.
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
Docket No. 50-293
By letter dated
By letter dated
By letter dated
By Order dated
HDI will assume responsibility for all ongoing NRC regulatory actions and reviews currently underway for
The regulation at 10 CFR 140.11(a)(4) requires each licensee to have and maintain primary financial protection in an amount of
Many of the accident scenarios postulated in the updated safety analysis reports for operating power reactors involve failures or malfunctions of systems, which could affect the fuel in the reactor core and, in the most severe postulated accidents, would involve the release of large quantities of fission products. With the permanent cessation of power operations at Pilgrim and the permanent removal of the fuel from the reactor vessel, many accidents are no longer possible. Similarly, the associated risk of offsite liability damages that would require insurance or indemnification is commensurately lower for permanently shut down and defueled plants. Therefore, the licensee requested an exemption from 10 CFR 140.11(a)(4) to permit a reduction in primary offsite liability insurance and to withdraw from participation in the industry retrospective rating plan.
Pursuant to 10 CFR 140.8, "Specific exemptions," the Commission may, upon application of any interested person or upon its own initiative, grant such exemptions from the requirements of the regulations in 10 CFR part 140 when the exemptions are authorized by law and are otherwise in the public interest. The NRC staff has reviewed the licensee's request for an exemption from 10 CFR 140.11(a)(4) and has concluded that the requested exemption is authorized by law and is otherwise in the public interest.
The Price Anderson Act of 1957 (PAA) requires that nuclear power reactor licensees have insurance to compensate the public for damages arising from a nuclear incident. Specifically, the PAA requires licensees of facilities with a "rated capacity of 100,000 electrical kilowatts or more" to maintain the maximum amount of primary offsite liability insurance commercially available (currently
As noted above, the PAA requirements with respect to primary and secondary insurance and the implementing regulations at 10 CFR 140.11(a)(4) apply to licensees of facilities with a "rated capacity of 100,000 electrical kilowatts or more." In accordance with 10 CFR 50.82(a)(2), the license for a power reactor no longer authorizes operation of the reactor or emplacement or retention of fuel into the reactor vessel upon the docketing of the certifications for permanent cessation of operations and permanent removal of fuel from the reactor vessel. Therefore, the reactor cannot be used to generate power.
Accordingly, a reactor that is undergoing decommissioning has no "rated capacity." Thus, the NRC may take the reactor licensee out of the category of reactor licensees that are required to maintain the maximum available insurance and to participate in the secondary retrospective insurance pool.
The financial protection limits of 10 CFR 140.11(a)(4) were established to require a licensee to maintain sufficient insurance, as specified under the PAA, to satisfy liability claims by members of the public for personal injury, property damage, and the legal cost associated with lawsuits as the result of a nuclear accident at an operating reactor with a rated capacity of 100,000 kilowatts electric or greater. Thus, the insurance levels established by this regulation, as required by the PAA, were associated with the risks and potential consequences of an accident at an operating reactor with a rated capacity of 100,000 kilowatts electric or greater.
The legal and associated technical basis for granting exemptions from 10 CFR part 140 is set forth in SECY-93-127, "Financial Protection Required of Licensees of Large Nuclear Power Plants During Decommissioning," dated
As a technical matter, the fact that a reactor has permanently ceased power operations is not itself determinative as to whether a licensee may cease providing the offsite liability coverage required by the PAA and 10 CFR 140.11(a)(4). In light of the presence of freshly discharged irradiated fuel in the SFP at a recently shut down reactor, the potential for an offsite radiological release from a zirconium fire with consequences comparable in some respects to an operating reactor accident remains. That risk is very low at the time of reactor shutdown because of design provisions that prevent a significant reduction in coolant inventory in the SFP under normal and accident conditions and becomes no longer credible once the continual reduction in decay heat provides ample time to restore coolant inventory and permits air cooling in a drained SFP. After that time, the probability of a large offsite radiological release from a zirconium fire is negligible for permanently shutdown reactors, but the SFP is still operational and an inventory of radioactive materials still exists onsite. Therefore, an evaluation of the potential for offsite damage is necessary to determine the appropriate level of offsite insurance post shutdown, in accordance with the Commission's discretionary authority under the PAA to establish an appropriate level of required financial protection for such permanently shutdown facilities.
The NRC staff has conducted an evaluation and concluded that, aside from the handling, storage, and transportation of spent fuel and radioactive materials for a permanently shutdown and defueled reactor, no reasonably conceivable potential accident exists that could cause significant offsite damage. During normal power reactor operations, the forced flow of water through the reactor coolant system (RCS) removes heat generated by the reactor. The RCS transfers this heat away from the reactor core by converting reactor feedwater to steam, which then flows to the main turbine generator to produce electricity. Most of the accident scenarios postulated for operating power reactors involve failures or malfunctions of systems that could affect the fuel in the reactor core, which in the most severe postulated accidents would involve the release of large quantities of fission products. With the permanent cessation of reactor operations at Pilgrim and the permanent removal of the fuel from the reactor core, such accidents are no longer possible. The reactor, RCS, and supporting systems no longer operate and have no function related to the storage of the irradiated fuel. Therefore, postulated accidents involving failure or malfunction of the reactor, RCS, or supporting systems are no longer applicable.
During reactor decommissioning, the principal radiological risks are associated with the storage of spent fuel onsite. On a case-by-case basis, licensees undergoing decommissioning have been granted permission to reduce the required amount of primary offsite liability insurance coverage from
The NRC staff performed an evaluation of the design-basis accidents for Pilgrim being permanently defueled as part of SECY-19-0078, "Request by
ENOI has stated, and the NRC staff agrees, that while spent fuel remains in the SFP, the only postulated design-basis accident that would remain applicable to Pilgrim in the permanently defueled condition that could contribute a significant dose is a fuel handling accident (FHA) in the
In the Pilgrim UFSAR, the licensee has determined that within 46 days after shutdown, the FHA doses would decrease to a level that would not warrant protective actions under the
The only beyond design-basis event that has the potential to lead to a significant radiological release at a permanently shutdown and defueled reactor is a zirconium fire. The zirconium fire scenario is a postulated, but highly unlikely, accident scenario that involves the loss of water inventory from the SFP resulting in a significant heatup of the spent fuel and culminating in substantial zirconium cladding oxidation and fuel damage. The probability of a zirconium fire scenario is related to the decay heat of the irradiated fuel stored in the SFP. Therefore, the risks from a zirconium fire scenario continue to decrease as a function of the time that Pilgrim has been permanently shut down.
In the analysis provided in Attachment 2, "Calculation No. PNPS-EC-81416-M1418, Adiabatic Heatup Analysis for
The NRC staff reviewed the calculation to verify that important physical properties of materials were within acceptable ranges and the results were accurate. The NRC staff determined that physical properties were appropriate. Therefore, the NRC staff found that 10 months after permanent cessation of power operations, more than 10 hours would be available before a significant offsite release could begin. The NRC staff concluded that the adiabatic heatup calculation provided an acceptable method for determining the minimum time available for deployment of mitigation equipment and, if necessary, implementing measures under a comprehensive general emergency plan.
In this regard, one technical criterion for relieving decommissioning reactor licensees from the insurance obligations applicable to an operating reactor is a finding that the heat generated by the SFP has decayed to the point where the possibility of a zirconium fire is highly unlikely.
This was addressed in SECY-93-127, where the NRC staff concluded that there was a low likelihood and reduced short-term public health consequences of a zirconium fire once a decommissioning plant's spent fuel has sufficiently decayed. In its Staff Requirements Memorandum, "Financial Protection Required of Licensees of Large Nuclear Power Plants during Decommissioning," dated
The NRC staff has used this technical criterion to grant similar exemptions to other decommissioning reactors (e.g.,
Additional discussions of other decommissioning reactor licensees that have received exemptions to reduce their primary insurance level to
The NRC staff has evaluated the issue of zirconium fires in SFPs and presented an independent evaluation of an SFP subject to a severe earthquake in NUREG-2161, "Consequence Study of a Beyond-Design-Basis Earthquake Affecting the
By letter dated
In SECY-00-0145, "Integrated Rulemaking Plan for Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning," dated
In addition, the licensee performed adiabatic heatup analyses in which a complete drainage of the SFP is combined with rearrangement of spent fuel rack geometry and/or the addition of rubble to the SFP; this type of analysis postulates that decay heat transfer from the spent fuel via conduction, convection, or radiation would be impeded. The licensee's adiabatic heatup analyses demonstrate that 10 months after the permanent cessation of operations, there would be at least 10 hours after the loss of all means of cooling (both air and/or water) before the spent fuel cladding would reach a temperature where the potential for a significant offsite radiological release could occur.
In the NRC staff's evaluation contained in SECY-19-0078, the NRC staff assessed the ENOI accident analyses associated with the radiological risks from a zirconium fire at a permanently shut down and defueled Pilgrim site. For the highly unlikely beyond design-basis accident scenario where the SFP coolant inventory is lost in such a manner that all methods of heat removal from the spent fuel are no longer available, the NRC staff found that there will be a minimum of 10 hours from the initiation of the accident until the cladding reaches a temperature where offsite radiological release might occur. The NRC staff finds that 10 hours is sufficient time to support deployment of mitigation equipment, consistent with plant conditions, to prevent the zirconium cladding from reaching a point of rapid oxidation.
The NRC staff has determined that the licensee's proposed reduction in primary offsite liability coverage to a level of
A. The Exemption Is Authorized by Law
The PAA and its implementing regulations in 10 CFR 140.11(a)(4) require licensees of nuclear reactors that have a rated capacity of 100,000 kilowatts electric or more to have and maintain
Based on its review of the exemption request, the NRC staff concludes that the technical criteria for relieving Holtec Pilgrim and HDI from their existing primary and secondary insurance obligations have been met. As explained above, the NRC staff has concluded that no reasonably conceivable design-basis accident exists that could cause an offsite release greater than the
The NRC staff has determined that granting the licensee's proposed exemption will not result in a violation of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, Section 170, or other laws, as amended, which require licensees to maintain adequate financial protection. Accordingly, consistent with the legal standard presented in SECY-93-127, under which decommissioning reactor licensees may be relieved of the requirements to carry the maximum amount of insurance available and to participate in the secondary retrospective premium pool where there is sufficient technical justification, the NRC staff concludes that the requested exemption is authorized by law.
B. The Exemption Is Otherwise in the Public Interest
The financial protection limits of 10 CFR 140.11 were established to require licensees to maintain sufficient offsite liability insurance to ensure adequate funding for offsite liability claims following an accident at an operating reactor. However, the regulation does not consider the reduced potential for and consequence of nuclear incidents at permanently shutdown and decommissioning reactors.
The basis provided in SECY-93-127, SECY-00-0145, and SECY-01-0100 allows licensees of decommissioning plants to reduce their primary offsite liability insurance and to withdraw from participation in the retrospective rating pool for deferred premium charges. As discussed in these documents, once the zirconium fire concern is determined to be negligible, possible accident scenario risks at permanently shutdown and defueled reactors are greatly reduced when compared to the risks at operating reactors and the associated potential for offsite financial liabilities from an accident are commensurately less. The licensee analyzed and the NRC staff confirmed that the risks of accidents that could result in an offsite radiological risk are minimal, thereby justifying the proposed reductions in offsite primary liability insurance and withdrawal from participation in the secondary retrospective rating pool for deferred premium charges.
Additionally, participation in the secondary retrospective rating pool could potentially have adverse consequences on the safe and timely completion of decommissioning. If a nuclear incident sufficient to trigger the secondary insurance layer occurred at another nuclear power plant, the licensee could incur financial liability of up to
Therefore, the NRC staff has concluded that an exemption from 10 CFR 140.11(a)(4), which would permit Holtec Pilgrim and HDI to lower the Pilgrim primary insurance levels and to withdraw from the secondary retrospective premium pool at the requested effective date of 10 months after permanent cessation of power operations, is in the public interest.
C. Environmental Considerations
The NRC's approval of an exemption from insurance or indemnity requirements belongs to a category of actions that the Commission, by rule or regulation, has declared to be a categorical exclusion after first finding that the category of actions does not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment. Specifically, the exemption is categorically excluded from the requirement to prepare an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement in accordance with 10 CFR 51.22(c)(25).
Under 10 CFR 51.22(c)(25), granting of an exemption from the requirements of any regulation of Chapter I to 10 CFR is a categorical exclusion provided that: (i) There is no significant hazards consideration; (ii) there is no significant change in the types or significant increase in the amounts of any effluents that may be released offsite; (iii) there is no significant increase in individual or cumulative public or occupational radiation exposure; (iv) there is no significant construction impact; (v) there is no significant increase in the potential for or consequences from radiological accidents; and (vi) the requirements from which an exemption is sought involve surety, insurance, or indemnity requirements.
As the Director,
Therefore, pursuant to 10 CFR 51.22(b) and 51.22(c)(25), no environmental impact statement or environmental assessment need be prepared in connection with the approval of this exemption request.
Accordingly, the Commission has determined that, pursuant to 10 CFR 140.8, the exemption is authorized by law and is otherwise in the public interest. Therefore, the Commission hereby grants Holtec Pilgrim and HDI an exemption from the requirements of 10 CFR 140.11(a)(4) for Pilgrim. Pilgrim permanently ceased power operations on
The exemption is effective as of 10 months after permanent cessation of power operations.
[FR Doc. 2020-00285 Filed 1-10-20;
BILLING CODE 7590-01-P