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Mr. RAMEY. Well, we have not formally selected a site.
Mr. RAMEY. No, sir, but we have been looking at our Hanford site and at our Nevada installation. We have not been looking at our Savannah River installation.
Senator HOLLINGS. Right. But it seems to me, and you know the AEC ought to get on with its prime responsibility and stay the dickens out of the field that even the oceanographers do not know. Good lord. You ought to welcome this hearing and walk up and say, Whoopie, we're glad to have ourselves divorced of that responsibility. Let anybody else have it because we have no oceanographers yet to tell us all we need to know. You go out and put a permanent power plant out there with the Weather Bureau telling you about it and you are in a dangerous situation.
Mr. RAMEY. Senator, I do not want to seem facetious or disrespectful, but we, the approach you are suggesting in some ways was the approach that the Commission had up until the National Environmental Policy Act was passed. We did consider that our prime responsibility was the radiological safety of the plant and the radiological safety of the effluents and that we were primarily looking at them. We had what we thought were very good site criteria that we issued more than 10 years ago.
We tried to assist on environmental aspects even though we did not have responsibility for environmental matters; we tried for years by going to the Department of Interior when the water group was in Interior and before that when they were in HEW. Although we did not have authority in this area, we got all the assistance we could. We passed it on to the States who had responsibility and to the utilities.
The States at that time had the responsibility we thought. Shortly before NEPA was passed and when the environmental groups were arising, and subsequently, we have been criticized up and down the pike for saying just what you are saying we should be doing. That is to say that certain other agencies ought to be worrying about this and don't you, AEC, do it.
We have been severely criticized—I have been criticized personally--that the commission was abdicating its role. The commission ought to be looking at all aspects of the plant, was what our critics were saying
So, this is what the court in the Calvert Cliffs case said and it said it in some rather colorful language and so we thought that we were responding to what the Congress wanted, what the courts wanted, and set ourselves up to be the lead agency in these environmental areas, but getting assistance from all agencies including NOAA.
So, for us to say and for us to abdicate our responsibility now would be entirely going against what has been the current trend in the kind of integrated responsibilities that agencies have under NEPA.
Senator Hollings. The trend was one where none of these agencies were really answering up to environmental considerations. The Environmental Protection Agency and NOAA and all the rest have been instituted to oversee the legislation, of course.
We appreciate your appearances. Is there is anything you wish to add ?
Mr. RAMEY. Perhaps if we could have the opportunity for supplemental statements, supplementing gaps in what we presented, fine.
Senator HOLLINGS. Fine. Anything you wish to add, you may do so.
[The following information was subsequently received for the record :]
U.S. ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION,
Washington, D.O., April 11, 1973.
DEAR SENATOR HOLLINGS : During my testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce on March 12, 1973, you raised several questions regarding the Atomic Energy Commission's program to manage the high-level radioactive wastes to be generated by the commercial nuclear power industry.
I should like to avail myself of your kind offer to supplement the record with regard to the concept of the management of high-level wastes and siting for the Federal repository.
The Commission's R&D interests in this subject go back many years, and its planning for a facility antedates the current concerns on permanent storage of high-level wastes. In 1968 with indications of substantial industrial interest in the construction of fuel reprocessing plants, the Commission undertook a study of the question as to whether public health and safety considerations require commercial fuel reprocessing plants and related waste management facilities to be located on land owned and controlled by the Federal Government. The results of this study principally, as they relate to the management and long-term disposition of high-level liquid wastes, are reflected in the statement of policy which was published for comment in June of 1969 and are summarized as follows:
1. “A commercial fuel reprocessing plant's inventory of high-level liquid radioactive wastes will be limited in volume to the quantity produced in the prior five years. High-level liquid radioactive wastes in excess of this authorized inventory must be converted to an AEC-approved solid form.
2. “All high-level radioactive wastes must be transferred in the approved solid form to a Federal repository as soon as practicable, but in no event later than ten years following separation of fission products from the irradiated fuel. Federal repositories, which will be limited in number, will be designated later by the AEC.
3. “Upon receipt of the solidified wastes, the Federal Government will assume physical responsibility for these radioactive waste materials, although industry will pay the Federal Government a single fee designed to cover all costs of disposal and perpetual surveillance. Before retirement of the commercial reprocessing plant from operational status and before termination of licensing, transfer of all such waste to a Federal repository must be completed.
4. “Ultimate disposal of high-level radioactive fission product waste material
Following public review and comment the Commission's siting policy was
National Radioactive Waste Repository at a suitable site at which all commercially produced high-level waste must be sent for permanent disposal. In June of 1970 the AEC announced the tentative selection of a site at Lyons, Kansas, for the establishment of a Demonstration Facility which could lead to a National Radioactive Waste Repository. The selection was termed tentative in recognition of the fact that in-depth site evaluation studies would be required to demonstrate that the salt in the location would adequately provide for the long-term isolation of the wastes from the environment. (The use of salt formations has long been recommended by the National Academy of Sciences, which has served as advisers to AEC since 1955).
In the course of investigation at the Lyons site, we found that we could not, in a timely manner, determine what effect the proposed solution mining activi
ties of an adjacent operating salt mine would have on the integrity, and, therefore, safety of the Lyons, Kansas, site.
For this reason, in May of 1972, the Commission announced that it had selected monitored, retrievable near-surface storage ("engineered” storage) as a method to be used to meet its responsibility to accept and safely manage the commercial high-level waste to be delivered during the three decades starting in 1980. (At the same time, we pointed out that the specific problems which we had encountered at the site at Lyons, Kansas, in no way negated the basic advantages of bedded salt disposal.)
For the past year we have been carrying out a program of design evaluation, selecting reference designs, cost estimates, safety studies, sites studies, and general environmental assessments on the concept of monitored, retrievable near-surface storage as the method to be used for the management of the commercial high-level waste. Such storage is based on fully proven technology and requires only engineering adaptation to the size, heat and radiation requirements for the specific application involved. The near-surface storage facility is being designed for a one-hundred year life and will assure isolation of the waste and the safety of the public and the environment for as long as human surveillance and maintenance is provided. The size of the site required for the facility itself would require only a few acres and the total acreage would be no more than a few hundred acres.
The program on retrievable near-surface storage is proceeding on a schedule which will allow us to request Congressional authorization and initial funding in time to assure maximum efficiency for facility construction and start-up prior to initial receipt of commercial waste in 1983.
You also expressed concern regarding the current consideration of a proposed site for the Federal waste repository. The fact that we have not yet selected a site for retrievable surface storage has been interpreted by some as indicating that the AEC has no satisfactory site. On the contrary, our problem is not to find a good site, but rather to select among several, each of which is safe and acceptable and each having certain advantages and disadvantages. Because of the availability of technical and management manpower and knowhow, and of land facilities, we are giving primary consideration to large isolated AEC sites such as Nevada, Hanford and Idaho. Our Savannah River installation is not considered as a contender for this national facility for commercial wastes. The final selection is expected to be made within the next nine to eighteen months.
In conclusion, the AEC plan to manage commercial high-level waste in safe and straightforward, and requires no technical or engineering breakthroughs for its accomplishment. It recognizes the value of removing the burden of surveillance and maintenance from future generations. Moreover, it assures the flexibility and retrievability necessary for safe management pending the development of future technology.
I appreciate the opportunity to provide this material for the record and if you desire additional information I would be pleased to provide it. Sincerely,
JAMES T. RAMEY,
Commissioner. Mr. RAMEY. We always appreciate an opportunity to testify before yoll,
Senator, before your committee. There is one area that I did not comment on, that does relate to this and that is to the overall powerplant siting bills that Congress is considering.
There is an administration siting bill, as you know, that looks at the siting of all types of powerplants as a generic matter. This type of bill would require long-range planning, 10 years in advance and so on, the 5-year notice and finally a 2-vear requirement on licenses-these siting bills would affect the kind of legislation being considered today here and also would affect the siting of offshore plants as well as AFC licensing of land-based plants.
I think the pattern that siting legislation which the Commission has supported—is a factor that probably should be taken into acsunt in whatever you do with this proposed legislation.
Senator HOLLINGS. And of course the overall energy policy.
Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES T. RAMEY, COMMISSIONER, U.S. ATOMIC
ENERGY COMMISSION Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I am pleased to appear before you today to present the Atomic Energy Commission'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."
The bill would require that a "certification” be obtained from the Secretary of the Department in which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is operating before construction or operation of any artificial structure located in defined portions of the waters offshore from the United States. Artificial structures are defined in the bill as including fixed or floating structures such as power plants and ports, but would apparently not include propelled vessels. Reasonably detailed plans would be required to be submitted to the Secretary at least two years prior to the expected date for the beginning of construction, and applications would be evaluated pursuant to criteria to be established by the Secretary and embracing a wide variety of factors including effects on the marine environment and navigation.
The Secretary would consult with other Federal agencies both in establishing criteria and in reviewing applications, and applications could only be granted after notice and public hearing. The Secretary of the Department in which the Coast Guard is operating would be accorded a special consultant status with respect to effects on navigation and would, in addition, have authority to promulgate and envorce regulations applicable to artificial structures dealing with such matters as lights and warning devices and to take action regarding markings to protect navigation. All other requirements with respect to artificial structures imposed by other Federal, State, or local laws (including the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) would remain unaffected by the bill.
Although the AEC shares in the environmental concerns of this proposed legislation, we are opposed to 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 must be carefully considered, but among the related far reaching problems of the total national environment, natural resources, energy supply, economic development, security, and social well being. Because S. 80 emphasizes marine environment protection as potentially the single criterion sufficient for project disapproval, it does not insure an appropriate balanced considera. tion.
Of particular interest to the Commission is that the bill would embrace offshore electric power plants, including nuclear power plants. Any proposed legislation dealing with offshore nuclear power plants 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.
GEYFRAI VESCHUTION OF AEC POWER REACTOR LICENSING PROCESS
Sipas the of honore plants, I would like to briefly summarize our current
muld lies worthwhile here because, with a few changes, these same
**** puluting the construction and operation of nuclear power reacin the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and the National Environmental
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* 100 of a nuclear power plant, and with its provisions for trialpratitis Apatings and judicial review at both licensing stages. NEPA is the
ma lap the Commission's authority with regard to environmental matnell in the basis for several procedural requirements regarding licensi munduar plants, including the requirement that a detailed statement be Brigit Tintain for a construction permit for a nuclear power reactor must Badania luate information on reactor safety matters, and undergoes four hindi movi (i) the detailed technical review by the Commission's regu
lui culminating in the issuance by the staff of a safety evaluation re
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is nime and a formal "trial type" public hearing with opportunity for pubpinigainon, and fiv) a concluding review by the Commission's Licensing Argila Brand nr the commission itself, based on the hearing record. windet ihant applicant be grante a construction permit. the applicant must
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