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ACT OF 1973

MONDAY, MARCH 12, 1973


Washington, D.C. The committee met pursuant to notice, at 10:30 a.m., in room 5110, New Senate Office Building, Hon. Ernest F. Hollings presiding.


Senator HOLLINGS. Good morning. Today we continue hearings on S. 80 dealing with the environmental considerations of the construction of manmade structures in the waters of our coastal zone. The focus of today's hearings will be on the building of floating nuclear powerplants, a rather novel and recent concept.

Much of what was said at last week's sessions on deepwater port is equally applicable here, but there are a few unique features of floating powerplants which should be noted.

First, these plants will require massive breakwaters to be built to protect the plants from the worst of weather.

Second, superheated water will be discharged into ocean waters as a matter of basic operation.

Third, and most obviously, the product to be carried ashore is electricity and not oil. There are other differences, but these should serve to point out that nuclear powerplants are a sufficiently different type of problem in the ocean environment that they require special attention in these hearings.

As this Nation's industrial needs multiply and as available industrial land diminishes, offshore locations for various facilities become more and more attractive. Public Service Gas & Electric of New Jersey has set a historical precedent by being the first to contract for floating nuclear power plants to be located 3 miles out to

Because of the immense dangers of an atomic catastrophe, the Federal Government must be watchful that such an operation is constructed and operated in the safest manner. Today we look into that question.

Our first witness is James T. Ramey, Commissioner, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

We welcome you to the committee, sir.




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Mr. RAMEY. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I have submitted a complete statement for the record and have before you a summary that I will read from. It is a little shorter.

Senator HOLLINGS. Fine. Your statement in its entirety will be filed in the record and you may summarize it as you wish.

Mr. RAMSEY. I have Mr. Giambusso, our Assistant Director of Licensing, and Mr. Malsch of our Office of General Counsel.

Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, I am pleased to appear before you today to present the AEC's views on S. 80.

This bill, if enacted, would amend the Ports and Waterways Safety act of 1972 by adding a new title III, to be known as the Offshore Marine Environment Protection Act of 1973.

Of particular interest to the AEC is that the bill would embrace offshore electric powerplants, including nuclear powerplants. Any proposed legislation dealing with offshore nuclear powerplants warrants special consideration, both because of the nature of existing statutory authority over such facilities, and by virtue of the fact that such facilities pose special questions regarding such matters as nuclear safety and electric power supply and reliability.

Under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, the AEC has licensing and regulatory authority over the construction and operation of nuclear power reactors, including any that may be located offshore and embraced by the proposed legislation.

Although the AEC shares in the environmental concerns of this proposed legislation, we are not in favor of its enactment. The construction and operation of offshore artificial facilities as defined in the bill pose significant questions regarding such matters as effects on marine resources and navigation.

These questions, along with the related far-reaching problems of the total national environment, natural resources, energy supply, economic development, security, and social well-being, must be carefully considered. Because §. 80 emphasizes marine environment protection as potentially the single criterion sufficient for project disapproval, it does not insure an adequate balanced consideration.

Now to the regulatory framework for offshore floating nuclear plants. During my appearance before this committee last briefly alluded to a new concept that was evolving relating to mounting a powerplant on a barge which would be moored offshore within a permanent breakwater. Considerable efforts have recently been directed by Offshore Power Systems—the Westinghouse and Tenneco enterprise-to advancing the general concept of a floating nuclear powerplant to a definitive plan for the manufacture of such plants at a "shipyard-like” facility on Blount Island in Jacksonville, Fla.

New Jersey Public Service Electric & Gas Co. has contracted with Offshore Power Systems for the purchase of the first two such nu

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clear units and proposes to place them off the Atlantic coast slightly
northeast of Atlantic City. This facility would be known as the At-
lantic Generating Station and would consist of two units, each capa-
ble of generating about 1 million kilowatts of electrical power.

In my prepared statement, I have described the AEC licensing
review process for nuclear power reactors in some detail. The review
process for a proposed plant such as described above would differ
from that for land-based plants in one important respect.

Since a virtually complete plant would be manufactured at a fa-
cility remote from the site of intended operation, a manufacturing
authorization would be obtained from the Commission. The utility
purchasing the plant would be required to obtain a construction per-
mit and an operating license for the plant.

The manufacturing authorization would permit fabrication and
assembly of the barge-mounted plant, while the utility construction
permit would authorize construction of the breakwater and actual
placement of the plant at the intended location for operation.

The safety and environmental review procedures for the manufacturing authorization application would be similar to the construction permit review process for a land-based plant; that is, it would involve detailed reviews by the AEC regulatory staff and the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, preparation by the staff of a draft and final environmental statement, review by a hearing board after formal public hearing, and review by the Appeal Board or the Commission itself.

In addition to requiring that a specific environmental report covering the manufacturing activity of the Jacksonville facility accompany the application for manufacturing authorization, the AEC has also requested Offshore Power Systems to submit a broad generic report which would cover the environmental considerations related to the installation and operation of the floating plants at typical offshore operating sites.

The AEC will conduct an environmental review and evaluation of both the generic report prepared by Offshore Power Systems and specific reports submitted by the purchasing utility in connection with each construction permit and operating license application.

Another key element of the overall licensing function, which I wish to mention at this time, is the inspection and enforcement program. In addition to the basic regulatory function of reviewing license applications, there remains the important job of assuring that licensees are complying with the AEC's regulations and the specific terms of their licenses.

The concept of manufacturing and assembling a number of floating nuclear powerplants at a single location would greatly facilitate carrying out the regulatory inspection and enforcement functions by AEC on-site resident inspectors.

The degree of standardization inherent in the concept of manufacturing plants at a central “shipyard-like” facility can markedly enhance efforts at quality assurance, a factor that the Commission has been emphasizing a great amount of in the last 5 years.

In April 1972, offshore Power Systems transmitted a preliminary design report for a floating nuclear plant to the Commission for a

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preapplication review of the concept. The purpose of the review was to provide comments and suggestions on the proposed design to Offshore Power Systems in connection with the preparation of its application for a manufacturing authorization which would be responsive to AEC requirements.

The scope of the review was limited to a preliminary identification and discussion of those features of the design that were new, unique, or unproven.

It was recommended by the AEC that a design envelope for each site-related parameter be specified in detail in the application since specific sites for operation of the plant would be selected separately by the utility.

However, the utility purchasing the plant would be required to present data and analysis in its application for each specifically proposed site, such as the New Jersey location, to demonstrate that the specific site characteristics are within the manufactured design envelope.

The preapplication report was also reviewed by the ACRS, that is the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, and their comments were included in the overall evaluation. Based on this review, it was concluded that the integration of land-based power reactor technology to the fioating nuclear plant concept did not appear to present major technical problems which would preclude continued develop, ment of a specific application for the manufacture of the plants and applications by the utility industry for use at offshore locations.

In late January of this year, Offshore Power Systems submitted an application for appropriate authorization to manufacture eight floating nuclear power plants over a period of approximately 4 years.

New Jersey Public Service is now directing substantial effort in preparing its application for a construction permit which, if granted, would lead to construction of the offshore generating station previously mentioned. Public Service has stated its plans to submit a complete application to the Commission in mid-1973.

Now, to the safety review. At present, it appears that, from a technical standpoint, the overall safety review to be made in connection with the licensing of the manufacture, construction, and operation of the offshore nuclear plant will be basically the same as that made for a land-based plant.

However, it is recognized that some of the considerations peculiar to a land-based plant will not be present in the offshore environment, and that there are unique considerations of the floating plant which may require even more extensive review and evaluation.

This is particularly true when one looks at design considerations relating to storms and continuous wave actions, ship collisions and other possible accidents peculiar to such a plant, and those conditions which may affect the stability of reactor operations.

The movement of the plant from the manufacturing facility to the operating site will also require special consideration. I would like to emphasize, however, that there would be no nuclear fuel in the plant until it has been permanently moored within the breakwater and is ready for operation.

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