NRC Completes Environmental Impact Statement for Fermi ESBWR

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week completed the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the DTE Electric Co.’s proposed new Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) at its Enrico Fermi Nuclear Plant.

In letters to stakeholders, the NRC concluded the project would not pose an unreasonable threat to the environment. The EIS is a significant milestone for the project, and NRC staff have recommended final approval for the reactor’s combined license. A notice of availability of the final EIS is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 18.

The NRC in March 2011 gave GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s ESBWR design a positive final safety evaluation report and final design approval. Full certification is expected to be completed this year.

DTE Electric (which changed its name from "Detroit Edison" on Jan. 1 this year) submitted its application for a combined license (COL) for Fermi Unit 3 near Newport City in Monroe County, Mich., in September 2008.

The NRC’s completion of the Fermi 3 EIS was announced as the NRC approved amendments to its environmental protection regulations governing environmental impact reviews of nuclear power plant operating license renewals.

The NRC said it had redefined the number and scope of environmental issues that must be addressed as well as incorporated lessons learned from previous license renewal reviews.

License renewal environmental reviews are governed by regulations implemented in 1996 and the NRC’s Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for License Renewal of Nuclear Plants. The GEIS and the regulations identified 92 environmental issues relevant to license renewals, the NRC said. Of these, 69 were labeled as Category 1 and considered “generic” issues, or applicable to all nuclear power plants and therefore covered by the GEIS. The other 23 issues (Category 2) required plant-specific reviews in a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

Sources: POWERnews, NRC