NRC
CHAIRMAN

UNITED STATES
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20555-0001

April 23, 1999

Mr. Robert R. Loux, Executive Director
Office of the Governor
Agency for Nuclear Projects
1802 N. Carson Street, Suite 252
Carson City, Nevada 89701

Dear Mr. Loux:

In your letter of April 5, 1999, you expressed concern about the proposed rule that would amend the U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) environmental review requirements for the renewal of nuclear power plant operating licenses, which was published in the Federal Register on February 26, 1999 (64 FR 9884) for a 60-day comment period. This rule is intended for the specific purpose of assessing the environmental impacts of the transportation of high-level waste related to applications to renew nuclear power plant operating licenses. For the reasons described herein, we have decided not to grant your request to extend the public comment period, not to reissue the proposed rule with a different title, and not to hold a public hearing in Nevada before the end of the comment period. As stated in the Federal Register notice, however, comments received after the end of the comment period will be considered to the extent practical.

In promulgating the final rule for the environmental aspects of license renewal, the Commission recognized that it may be appropriate to address the impacts of the transportation of high-level waste on a generic basis. The intent of this proposed rule change is to reach a generic conclusion, such that license renewal applicants would not need to address this issue individually. Specifically, the proposed amendment would expand the generic findings that currently are codified in the regulations addressing the environmental impacts of license renewal to cover the transportation of spent fuel to the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain during the renewal term of individual nuclear power plants.

The licensing process for Yucca Mountain requires the Department of Energy (DOE) to submit, for review and approval, an application to receive and possess source, special nuclear, and byproduct material at a geologic repository. Along with the application, DOE must submit an environmental impact statement (EIS). In accordance with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the NRC staff will review the DOE EIS to determine whether it is sufficient to satisfy the NRC National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements. In the EIS, the DOE staff will evaluate the environmental impacts, including transportation associated with the construction and use of a geologic repository. The draft DOE EIS is scheduled to be available for public review and comment by July 1999. You will have the opportunity to comment on it at that time.

Given the discrete issues covered by this proposed rule change, the Commission believes that the 60-day public comment period, which extends from February 26 to April 27, 1999, is reasonable. Furthermore, since the proposed rule change applies to the specific aspects of license renewal, we believe that a change in the title could create ambiguity as to the intended purpose of this rule change. In view of this specific purpose, the Commission does not believe that a public meeting is warranted before the end of the comment period. As previously stated, however, comments received after the end of the comment period will be considered to the extent practical.

Sincerely,

Shirley Ann Jackson