Army Corps, NRC Sign Interagency Agreement

Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) John P. Woodley, Jr., and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Executive Director for Operations Bill Borchardt have signed a revised interagency agreement to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the regulatory processes related to the development of new nuclear power plants and the expansion of existing plants, according to a Sept. 23 press release.

The two agencies agree to coordinate early in a project's life to ensure that the purpose and need, the suite of alternatives, and evaluation presented in the environmental documentation are suitable for carrying out their respective regulatory responsibilities. The Department of the Army, through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Civil Works mission, and NRC acknowledge in the revised agreement the separate roles and respective statutes of the two agencies. The agreement provides that the NRC license and the Corps of Engineers' permit processes will begin at the outset of a nuclear power plant project.

The revised agreement replaces an October 1975 memorandum of understanding between the Corps of Engineers and NRC. The revised agreement clarifies that the NRC is the lead agency for nuclear power plant projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and is responsible for the preparation of the environmental analysis. In this role, NRC will strive to coordinate early with the Corps to address Clean Water Act permitting requirements. The corps will complete an independent permit decision in carrying out its regulatory responsibilities. The agreement also spells out a streamlined dispute resolution process for those instances in which the two agencies cannot agree that a project proposal fully complies with the agencies' respective rules.

"I'm pleased that this interagency agreement will improve the energy regulatory process and carry out the President's directives to facilitate America's energy independence while assuring the highest standards for environmental quality," said Woodley. "We're now in a better position to work efficiently with the Corps as we come to our decisions on more than a dozen new reactor applications," said Borchardt. "The technical expertise both agencies bring to bear on these reviews means the public can be confident we'll reach accurate conclusions regarding these projects' potential environmental impacts."

NRC is responsible for licensing nuclear power facilities in accordance with the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 and the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, and is the lead agency under NEPA for activities related to these facilities. The Corps is responsible for the protecting the waters of the United States, including wetlands, in accordance with Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and administers permits for such purposes.

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