How the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Carries Out Its Responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969

EMD-78-4: Published: Oct 28, 1977. Publicly Released: Oct 28, 1977.

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is required to prepare environmental impact statements before licensing construction or operations of nuclear powerplants. The Commission uses detailed environmental data provided by nuclear powerplant license applicants as the basis for preparing its environmental impact statements. The Commission's staff prepares its own statements which reflect its findings and conclusions, and these staff statements, as modified by NRC hearing boards in their licensing decisions, become the final Commission statements.

Relying on applicants for detailed environmental data makes it especially important for the Commission to subject the data to rigorous and thorough internal and public scrutiny in preparing environmental impact statements. The NRC staff and the Energy Research and Development Administration-owned, contractor-operated laboratories used in preparing the environmental impact statements conduct an orderly, thorough review of environmental data submitted by the applicants. However, the Commission should highlight those laboratory findings and conclusions on important environmental issues with which it disagrees. Disclosure in the impact statements of such diverse findings and conclusions and the NRC staff's basis for disagreement would permit the hearing boards to explore the issues further in public hearings and would add to the credibility of the entire process. The timing and structure of NRC public hearings do not give the public a timely opportunity to affect the NRC decision on whether and on what conditions construction permits should be issued.

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