The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for Westinghouse Electric Company’s application to renew the operating license of its Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) in South Carolina, the agency announced in a June 5 press release. The plant produces fuel assemblies for use in commercial nuclear power reactors.
The NRC on October 28, 2019, published for public comment a draft environmental assessment (EA) related to the company’s request to renew the CFFF’s license for an additional 40 years. An EA can result in a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) or a determination to prepare an EIS—a much more comprehensive document.
In March of this year, the agency received new data collected by Westinghouse during ongoing site investigations, according to the press release. Based on its independent evaluation of that data as part of the EA process, the NRC decided it could no longer conclude that the renewal of the CFFF’s license would result in a FONSI. Instead, the NRC will proceed with an EIS, a process that will be initiated with a notice of intent in the Federal Register.
Background: The NRC received Westinghouse’s license renewal application in December 2014, and in June 2018 the NRC published an EA and FONSI regarding the application. In July of that year, however, a leak from equipment at the CFFF that resulted in uranium entering the subsurface under the facility building was discovered. In addition, Westinghouse initiated an investigation, under the purview of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, into a leak in 2011 from a buried pipe that also allowed uranium to enter the facility’s subsurface.
As a result of that new information and public concerns about the leaks, the NRC reopened its environmental review, leading to the withdrawal of the June 2018 EA and FONSI and the issuing of the October 2019 draft EA.