With a lawsuit pending, federal officials are considering whether a new or supplemental environmental impact statement is needed for the Y-12 National Security Complex after design plans changed for the Uranium Processing Facility, the largest federal construction project in Tennessee since World War II.
As part of the process, the National Nuclear Security Administration is preparing what is known as a supplement analysis, or SA. A draft of the new SA has been issued, and you can read it on the Y-12 website.
Comments on the draft supplement analysis can be submitted through June 20.
The final new supplement analysis and a record of decision could be issued by July 27, although the schedule is subject to change, according to a joint status report filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville on May 11. The record of decision is expected to say whether a new or supplemental environmental impact statement is required for Y-12.
There was a site-wide environmental impact statement, or EIS, prepared for Y-12 in 2011. About five years later, in 2016, there was a supplement analysis prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act. It was connected to the decision by the NNSA and U.S. Department of Energy to not prepare a new or supplemental environmental impact statement after the NNSA decided on a new multi-building design for the UPF, rather than a single-building design, as part of an effort to keep project costs down, among other considerations.
But plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit said the supplement analysis of 2016 failed to consider critical information from other agencies, including updated seismic hazard maps from the U.S. Geological Survey, concerns expressed by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board over structural viability at Y-12 during a possible seismic event, and a DOE Inspector General report that discussed the risks posed by facility degradation at NNSA sites.
Plaintiffs have asked that the NNSA’s 2016 supplement analysis, as well as an amended record of decision that same year, be vacated, or voided. They have asked that the NNSA prepare either a supplemental environmental impact statement or a new site-wide environmental impact statement.
The new supplement analysis announced in the joint status report in U.S. District Court on May 11 will consider whether new information after the site-wide environmental impact statement of 2011—and not addressed by the supplement analysis of 2016—requires the new or supplemental environmental impact statement.
“The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announces the availability of this Draft Supplement Analysis (SA), which compares the information presented in the 2011 Y-12 Site-wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) with continued operations at the Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12), including any changes in programs, operations, and impacts for the 2018-2023 period and other new information that was not available when the 2011 SWEIS was prepared,” according to a public notice posted on Oak Ridge Today on Monday, May 21. “Based on the SA, NNSA will determine whether the existing 2011 SWEIS remains adequate, if a new SWEIS is warranted, or if the existing 2011 SWEIS should be supplemented. NNSA invites the public to review and submit comments on the Draft SA.”
(You can see the public notice posted below and here for more information on the draft supplement analysis and the procedure to comment.)
A trial in the case has been scheduled for Tuesday, November 5, 2019, in U.S. District Court in Knoxville. The date was included in a scheduling order entered by U.S. District Judge Pamela L. Reeves on April 27.
But the plaintiffs and defendants said in their joint status report on May 11 that a trial is not proper in this case. They said the lawsuit should be resolved through what are known as cross-motions for summary judgement, based on the administrative record. They have asked Reeves to vacate, or void, the scheduling order that establishes discovery and pre-trial deadlines and the trial date of November 5, 2019.
Summary judgement can be used when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. That could help resolve this case quicker.
The plaintiffs allege that the NNSA’s decision to use several new buildings for the UPF, rather than just one, and continue to use some old buildings at Y-12 for some nuclear weapons work is risky because the old buildings could collapse during a major earthquake, possibly leading to a nuclear accident that could release radiological materials.
Federal officials denied that allegation and others in a 29-page response filed September 29. They’ve called some allegations vague, ambiguous, or speculative, and they have said that safety and technical analyses are under way at Y-12. Some buildings may require seismic upgrades, depending upon evaluation results, and an Extended Life Program is meant to ensure that two buildings—Building 9215 and Building 9204-2E—will safely support future operations, federal officials said.
The federal lawsuit was filed under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
The plaintiffs did not ask for an injunction in their complaint, and UPF construction work continues at Y-12.
The plaintiffs include three public interest organizations and four Oak Ridge and Knoxville residents: Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance; Nuclear Watch of New Mexico; Natural Resources Defense Council of Washington, D.C.; Ed Sullivan of Oak Ridge; and Ralph Hutchison, Jack Carl Hoefer, and Linda Ewald, all of Knoxville.
The defendants had initially been U.S. Energy Secretary James Richard “Rick” Perry and Frank G. Klotz, former administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. But Klotz, a retired Air Force general who had been in the job since 2014, retired in January, and he was replaced by Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, who was nominated by President Donald Trump in December and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in February. Gordon-Hagerty is now named as a defendant in the lawsuit in place of Klotz.
The NNSA is an agency within the U.S. Department of Energy that manages nuclear weapons programs and facilities, including Y-12, among other activities.
Here is the DOE notice:
NOTICE OF AVAILABILITY
DRAFT SUPPLEMENT ANALYSIS FOR THE SITE-WIDE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT FOR THE Y-12 NATIONAL SECURITY COMPLEX (DOE/EIS-0387-SA-02)
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announces the availability of this Draft Supplement Analysis (SA), which compares the information presented in the 2011 Y-12 Site-wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) with continued operations at the Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12), including any changes in programs, operations, and impacts for the 2018-2023 period and other new information that was not available when the 2011 SWEIS was prepared. Based on the SA, NNSA will determine whether the existing 2011 SWEIS remains adequate, if a new SWEIS is warranted, or if the existing 2011 SWEIS should be supplemented. NNSA invites the public to review and submit comments on the Draft SA.
Copies of the document are available for public review on the NNSA NEPA reading room website at: https://www.energy.gov/nnsa/nnsa-nepa-reading-room and Y-12’s NEPA website at: https://www.y12.doe.gov/about/environment-safety-and-health/national-environmental-policy-act. Comments on the Draft SA should be submitted no later than June 20, 2018 to Mr. Jack Zanger, Attn: Y-12 SWEIS SA, P.O. Box 30030, Amarillo, TX 79120; by fax to: 806-573-7108; or by email: [email protected]. Comments will not be accepted over the telephone.
You can read the final site-wide environmental impact statement for Y-12, published March 4, 2011, here.
You can read the record of decision published in the Federal Register on July 20, 2011, after the final site-wide environmental impact statement, here.
You can read the amended record of decision published in the Federal Register on July 12, 2016, here.
You can read the draft supplement analysis of May 2018 here.
You can see a list of documents available for download here.
You can see the UPF lawsuit scheduling order here.
You can see the UPF lawsuit status report here.
You can see links to more documents in the UPF lawsuit in this earlier story.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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