28 September 2011
Megadeath Weapons Tritium Production to Increase
Cryptome Nuclear Power Plants and WMD Series:
[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 188 (Wednesday, September 28, 2011)]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-24947]
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
National Nuclear Security Administration
Notice of Intent To Prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact
Statement (SEIS) for the Production of Tritium in a Commercial Light
AGENCY: National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE).
ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a supplemental environmental impact
statement and conduct public scoping meetings.
SUMMARY: The Council on Environmental Quality's implementing
regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and DOE's
NEPA implementing regulations require the preparation of a supplement
to an environmental impact statement (EIS) when there are substantial
changes to a proposal or when there are significant new circumstances
or information relevant to environmental concerns. DOE may also prepare
a SEIS at any time to further the purposes of NEPA. Pursuant to these
provisions, the NNSA, a semi-autonomous agency within DOE, intends to
prepare a SEIS to update the environmental analyses in DOE's 1999 EIS
for the Production of Tritium in a Commercial Light Water Reactor (CLWR
EIS; DOE/EIS-0288). The CLWR EIS addressed the production of tritium in
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) reactors using tritium-producing
burnable absorber rods (TPBARs). In the Record of Decision (ROD) for
the CLWR EIS, NNSA selected TVA's Watts Bar Unit 1 and Sequoyah Units 1
and 2, located in Spring City and Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, respectively,
for tritium production. TVA has been producing tritium for NNSA at
Watts Bar Unit 1 since 2004.
After several years of tritium production experience at TVA's Watts
Bar Unit 1, NNSA has determined that tritium permeation through TPBAR
cladding into the reactor cooling water occurs at a higher rate than
previously projected. The proposed SEIS will analyze the potential
environmental impacts associated with increased tritium permeation
levels observed since 2004; DOE's revised estimate of the maximum
number of TPBARs required to support the current Nuclear Posture Review
tritium supply requirements; and proposed changes to TVA facilities
that may be used for future tritium production. TVA will be
participating as a cooperating agency in the preparation of the SEIS.
Any other agency that would like to be a cooperating agency in the
preparation of the SEIS is requested to contact the SEIS Document
Manager as noted in this Notice under ADDRESSES.
DATES: NNSA invites comments on the scope of the SEIS. The public
scoping period starts with the publication of this Notice in the
Federal Register and will continue until November 14, 2011. NNSA will
consider all comments received or postmarked by that date in defining
the scope of the SEIS. Comments received or postmarked after that date
will be considered to the extent practicable. A public scoping meeting
is scheduled to be held on October 20, 2011, from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
ADDRESSES: The public scoping meeting will be held at the Southeast
Tennessee Trade and Conference Center, Athens, TN. NNSA will publish
additional notices on the date, time, and location of the scoping
meeting in local newspapers in advance of the scheduled meeting. Any
necessary changes will be announced in the local media. The scoping
meeting will provide the public with an opportunity to present
comments, ask questions, and discuss issues with NNSA officials
regarding the SEIS.
Written comments or suggestions concerning the scope of the SEIS or
requests for more information on the SEIS and public scoping process
should be directed to: Mr. Curtis Chambellan, Document Manager for the
SEIS, U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security
Administration, Box 5400, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185-5400; facsimile
at 505-845-5754; or e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr.
Chambellan may also be reached by telephone at 505-845-5073.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For general information on the NNSA
NEPA process, please contact: Ms. Mary Martin, NNSA NEPA Compliance
Officer, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW,
Washington, DC 20585, or telephone 202-586-9438. For general
information about the DOE NEPA process, please contact: Ms. Carol
Borgstrom, Director, Office of NEPA Policy and Compliance (GC-54), U.S.
Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC
20585, or telephone 202-586-4600, or leave a message at 1-800-472-2756.
Additional information about the DOE NEPA process, an electronic
archive of DOE NEPA documents, and other NEPA resources are provided at
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NNSA is responsible for supplying nuclear
materials for national security needs and ensuring that the nuclear
weapons stockpile remains safe and reliable. Tritium, a radioactive
isotope of hydrogen, is an essential component of every weapon in the
U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. Unlike other nuclear materials used in
nuclear weapons, tritium decays at a rate of 5.5 percent per year.
Accordingly, as long as the Nation relies on a nuclear deterrent, the
tritium in each nuclear weapon must be replenished periodically. The
last reactor used for tritium production during the Cold War was shut
down in 1988. Since then, tritium requirements for the stockpile have
largely been met from the existing original inventory through the
harvest and recycle of tritium gas during the dismantlement of weapon
systems, and the replacement of tritium-containing weapons components
as part of Limited Life Component Exchange programs. In December 1999,
a new tritium production capability was established through an
Interagency Agreement with TVA in which TPBARs are irradiated in the
Watts Bar Unit 1 commercial nuclear power reactor and undergo
extraction at the Tritium Extraction Facility (TEF) located at DOE's
Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina. In order to continue to
provide the required supply, irradiation will increase from today's 544
TPBARs per fuel cycle to a projected steady state rate of approximately
1,700 TPBARs per fuel cycle, i.e., approximately every 18 months.
To provide sufficient capacity to ensure the ability to meet
projected future stockpile requirements, NNSA and TVA anticipate
requesting authorization for TPBAR irradiation to be increased in
fiscal year 2016 to a level that is beyond currently licensed rates for
one reactor. Meeting the increased demand will require a license
amendment from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to permit the
irradiation of a greater number of TPBARs per reactor than can
currently be irradiated at either the Watts Bar or Sequoyah site.
License amendments are reactor specific. NNSA and TVA will supplement
the 1999 CLWR EIS with analyses supporting the anticipated license
amendment requests that also evaluate a higher level of tritium
permeation through TPBAR cladding into the reactor cooling water than
was previously analyzed. The tritium releases associated with the
proposed increase in the number of TPBARs that could be irradiated at
Watts Bar, Sequoyah, or both sites (compared to the number currently
authorized by the NRC) would remain below Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) and NRC regulatory limits. Subsequently, TVA plans to
adopt the SEIS for use in obtaining the necessary NRC license
The production of tritium in a CLWR is technically straightforward.
All of the Nation's supply of tritium has been produced in reactors.
Most commercial pressurized water reactors were designed to utilize 12-
foot-long rods containing an isotope of boron (boron-10) in ceramic
form. These rods are sometimes called burnable absorber rods. The rods
are inserted in the reactor fuel assemblies to absorb excess neutrons
produced by the uranium fuel in the fission process for the purpose of
controlling power in the core at the beginning of an operating cycle.
DOE's tritium program developed TPBARs in which neutrons are absorbed
by a lithium aluminate ceramic rather than boron ceramic. While the two
types of rods function in a very similar manner to absorb excess
neutrons in the reactor core, there is one notable difference: When
neutrons strike the lithium aluminate ceramic material in a TPBAR,
tritium is produced inside the TPBAR. These TPBARs are placed in the
same locations in the reactor core as the standard boron burnable
absorber rods. There is no fissile material (uranium or plutonium) in
the TPBARs. Tritium produced in TPBARs is captured almost
instantaneously in a solid zirconium material in the rod, called a
``getter.'' The getter material that captures the tritium is very
effective. During each reactor refueling cycle, the TPBARs are removed
from the reactor and transported to SRS. At SRS, the TPBARs are heated
in a vacuum at the TEF to extract the tritium from the getter material.
DOE's May 1999 Consolidated Record of Decision for Tritium Supply
and Recycling (64 FR 26369) announced the selection of TVA's Watts Bar
Unit 1, Sequoyah Unit 1 and Sequoyah Unit 2 for use in irradiating
TPBARs and stated that a maximum of approximately 3,400 TPBARs would be
irradiated per reactor during each 18-month fuel cycle. Since then, the
projected need for tritium has decreased significantly. NNSA has
determined that tritium demand to supply the Nuclear Weapons Stockpile
could be satisfied using a maximum of approximately 2,500 TPBARs per
fuel cycle, with a projected steady state number of approximately 1,700
TPBARs per fuel cycle.
Purpose and Need
Although NNSA's projected need for tritium to support the nuclear
weapons stockpile today is less than originally planned, a higher than
expected rate of permeation of tritium from TPBARs into reactor coolant
water and subsequent release to the environment has restricted the
number of TPBARs irradiated at TVA's Watts Bar Unit 1. Before TVA
increases tritium production rates to meet expected national security
requirements, the environmental analyses in the CLWR EIS are being
updated to analyze and evaluate the effects of the higher tritium
permeation, as well as any potential effects related to other changes
in the regulatory and operating environment since publication of the
original CLWR EIS.
As a cooperating agency in the preparation of the SEIS, TVA plans
to use the SEIS in pursuing NRC licensing amendments to increase TPBAR
irradiation at TVA's Watts Bar Nuclear Plant (WBN) at Spring City,
Tennessee, and/or the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant at Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee,
beyond levels set in 2002. Four alternatives are expected to be
analyzed in the SEIS: The No Action Alternative and three action
alternatives, one using only the Watts Bar site, one using only the
Sequoyah site, and one using both the Watts Bar and Sequoyah sites. As
a matter of note, in a separate proceeding, DOE and TVA are also
analyzing the potential use of mixed oxide fuel during some fuel cycles
at the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant as part of the U.S. program for surplus
plutonium disposition (75 FR 41850. July 19, 2010).
Proposed Action and Alternatives
The CLWR EIS assessed the potential impacts of irradiating up to
3,400 TPBARs per reactor unit operating on 18 month fuel cycles. It
included TPBAR irradiation scenarios using multiple reactor units to
achieve a maximum level of 6,000 TPBARs every 18 months. Subsequently,
tritium production requirements have been reduced such that irradiation
of approximately 1,700 TPBARs every reactor fuel cycle is expected to
be sufficient to fulfill current requirements, consistent with the 2010
Nuclear Posture Review. To provide flexibility in future tritium supply
decisions, the revised environmental analysis is expected to consider
irradiation of up to a total of 2,500 TPBARs every 18 months. This
approach would provide sufficient reserve capacity to accommodate
potential future changes in requirements and to allow for production
above currently expected annual requirement levels for short durations
(i.e., several years) to recover from potential future shortfalls
should that become necessary.
In the CLWR EIS, the permeation of tritium through the TPBAR
cladding into the reactor coolant systems of potential tritium
production reactors was estimated to be less than or equal to one
tritium curie/TPBAR/year. After several years of tritium production
experience at Watts Bar Unit 1, NNSA has determined that tritium
permeation through TPBAR cladding is approximately three to four times
higher than this estimate; nevertheless, tritium releases have been
below regulatory limits. To conservatively bound the potential
environmental impacts, the SEIS will assess the impacts associated with
tritium production in CLWRs based on a permeation rate of approximately
five tritium curies/TPBAR/year.
An assessment of tritium mitigation and management measures will be
included as part of the environmental analyses in the SEIS. Mitigation
and management measures include an assessment of technologies
commercially available to treat tritiated effluents, transportation of
tritiated effluents and/or low level radioactive waste streams, and
other applicable effluent management actions.
The SEIS, which will supplement the 1999 CLWR EIS, will support
agency deliberations regarding potential changes in the tritium
production at NRC licensed TVA facilities in order to meet the
requirements of TVA's agreement with NNSA. These changes also require
TVA to pursue an NRC license amendment request for these facilities.
Accordingly, the SEIS is expected to substantially meet NRC
requirements for an environmental report necessary to support TVA's
license amendment request(s) for tritium production at the Watts Bar
and/or Sequoyah Nuclear Plants.
No Action Alternative: Produce tritium at currently approved TVA
facilities (Watts Bar Unit 1 and Sequoyah Units 1 and 2) at appropriate
levels to keep permeation levels within currently approved NRC license
and regulatory limits.
Alternative 1: Utilize TVA's Watts Bar site only to a maximum level
of 2,500 TPBARs every reactor fuel cycle (18 months).
Alternative 2: Utilize TVA's Sequoyah site only to a maximum level
of 2,500 TPBARs every 18 months.
Alternative 3: Utilize both the Watts Bar and Sequoyah sites to a
maximum total level of 2,500 TPBARS every 18 months. The level of
production per site would be determined by TVA. This alternative would
provide the ability to supply stockpile requirements at either site
independently, or using both sites with each supplying a portion of the
Preliminary Identification of Environmental Issues
NNSA has tentatively identified the issues for analysis in the
SEIS. Additional issues may be identified as a result of the scoping
comment process. The SEIS will analyze the potential impacts on:
1. Air, water, soil, and visual resources.
2. Plants and animals, and their habitats, including state and
Federally-listed threatened or endangered species and their critical
3. Irretrievable and irreversible consumption of natural resources
and energy, including transportation issues.
4. Cultural resources, including historical and pre-historical
resources and traditional cultural properties.
5. Infrastructure and utilities.
6. Socioeconomic conditions.
7. Human health under routine operations and accident conditions,
including potential impacts from seismic events.
8. Minority and low-income populations (Environmental Justice).
9. Intentional Destructive Acts, including terrorist acts.
10. Other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable actions
SEIS Process and Invitation to Comment. The SEIS scoping process
provides an opportunity for the public to assist the NNSA in
determining issues and alternatives to be addressed in the SEIS. One
public scoping meeting will be held as noted under DATES in this
Notice. The purpose of the scoping meeting is to provide attendees with
an opportunity to present comments, ask questions, and discuss issues
regarding the SEIS with NNSA officials. Comments can also be mailed to
Mr. Chambellan as noted in this Notice under ADDRESSES. The SEIS
scoping meeting will include an informal open house from 6:30-7 p.m. to
facilitate dialogue between NNSA and the public. Once the formal
scoping meeting begins at 7:00 pm, NNSA will present a brief overview
of the SEIS process and provide individuals the opportunity to give
written or oral statements. NNSA welcomes specific scoping comments or
suggestions on the SEIS. Copies of written comments and transcripts of
oral comments provided to NNSA during the scoping period will be
available on the Internet at http://nnsa.energy.gov/nepa/clwrseis.
After the close of the public scoping period, NNSA will begin
preparing the Draft SEIS. NNSA expects to issue the Draft SEIS for
public review in 2012. A Federal Register Notice of Availability, along
with notices placed in local newspapers, will provide dates and
locations for public hearings on the Draft SEIS and the deadline for
comments on the draft document. Persons who submit comments with a
mailing address during the scoping process will receive a copy of or
link to the Draft SEIS. Other persons who would like to receive a copy
of or link to the Draft SEIS for review should notify Mr. Chambellan at
the address noted under ADDRESSES. NNSA will include all comments
received on the Draft SEIS, and responses to those comments in the
Issuance of the Final SEIS is currently anticipated to take place
in 2013. NNSA
will issue a ROD no sooner than 30 days after publication of EPA's
Notice of Availability of the Final SEIS.
Issued in Washington, DC, this 23rd day of September 2011.
Thomas P. D'Agostino,
Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration.
[FR Doc. 2011-24947 Filed 9-27-11; 8:45 am]
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