NRC Updates Internal Guidance on Environmental Reviews

Morgan Lewis - Up & Atom
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Morgan Lewis - Up & Atom

The NRC Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) recently issued Revision 4 to Office Instruction LIC-203, “Procedural Guidance for Categorical Exclusions, Environmental Assessments, and Considering Environmental Issues.” The update reflects recent NRC organizational changes and internal procedures related to the agency’s environmental review activities. These changes do not impose any new obligations on NRC applicants. However, a proper understanding of the agency’s internal processes can be helpful in developing successful licensing strategies. The key changes are summarized below.

  • Environmental Center of Expertise (EnvCOE): LIC-203 now recognizes the role of the recently formed EnvCOE in meeting the NRC’s NEPA responsibilities in 10 CFR Part 51. In October 2019, the NRC underwent a significant reorganization in which the environmental review facets of NRR merged with their counterparts in the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) to create the EnvCOE. This component now handles most NEPA-related activities at the agency.
  • Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA): Section 5.2.3 now includes a procedure for NRR licensing actions that require a CZMA consistency certification from the cognizant state agency. The guidance makes clear that applicants must obtain state certification before the NRC will approve certain licensing actions.
  • Endangered Species Act (ESA): Section 5.2.4 clarifies that the NRC is responsible for initiating formal ESA consultation and describes the various consultation processes.
  • Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA): Section 5.2.5 now recognizes that in applicable cases, the NRC must submit an essential fish habitat assessment to the National Marine Fisheries Service. This section also describes the processes for abbreviated and expanded consultation, as well as programmatic consultation.
  • National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA): Section 5.2.6 clarifies the NHPA Section 106 consultation process and provides a flow chart mapping the various steps and decision points. It also outlines how the NRR Staff can coordinate and integrate these activities with the agency’s NEPA process to better streamline the review.

Morgan Lewis will continue to monitor the NRC’s environmental guidance and report on future changes and updates.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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