The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is developing a generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) for small-scale advanced reactor designs. Just how small a reactor must be to fit the parameters of the GEIS is one topic open for public comment, but the NRC staff anticipates including reactors generating up to 30 MWt. The public comment period is open until June 30
By any other name: The term "microreactor" does not appear in the NRC’s announcements of the public comment period or in a May 28 public webinar on the GEIS scoping process. A notice published in the April 30 Federal Registerstates that, for the purposes of the GEIS, a “small-scale” advanced reactor has “the potential to generate up to approximately 30 megawatts thermal per reactor with a correspondingly small environmental footprint.” Any reactor generating up to 30 MWt would easily fit the loosely defined term “microreactor.”
Plant parameters: According to a policy issue information statement released in February (SECY-20-0020), the NRC staff plans to use a technology-neutral plant parameter envelope (PPE) approach to developing the GEIS. The PPE would consist of a table of bounding values or parameters for different reactor designs and would be accompanied by a separate table representing the site parameter envelope and describing the affected environment. The GEIS will be used to evaluate the impacts of a reactor that fits within the bounds of the PPE and on a site that fits within the bounds of the site parameter envelope.
Environmental review: The GEIS would specify which environmental impacts would be essentially the same for designs that fit within parameters set in the GEIS, and which environmental impacts require plant-specific analysis during an environmental review. The NRC plans to issue a draft GEIS for comment on May 1, 2021, and a final GEIS on May 1, 2022.
While the NRC anticipates that the environmental review process for an advanced reactor with a small environmental footprint could take 24 months or less to complete without a GEIS, using a GEIS could shorten that time frame by 25 percent, resulting in an environmental review process of less than 18 months for reactors that fit the PPE.
Need to know: The NRC is seeking input from the public and stakeholders regarding the reactor and site parameters that should be included in the GEIS. Details about the public comment opportunity and about joining the May 28 public webinar are included in the April 30 Federal Register. Submitted comments may be provided using Docket ID NRC-2020-0101.