Authors: Ping Wan, Desmond Chan, Mary Richmond

The National Environmental Policy Act (or NEPA), signed into law on January 1, 1970, requires that all federal agencies funding or permitting projects—including nuclear power plants—make those decisions in full consideration of the impact to the natural and human environment. NEPA further requires that the agencies disclose these environmental impacts to the public.

To comply with NEPA, an applicant seeking a license for a new nuclear power plant must submit an Environmental Report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This document provides the agency with a comprehensive description of the environmental baseline conditions, the probable impacts of the proposed project along with potential mitigation measures, and monitoring efforts.

If a nuclear renaissance is to be successful, the potential environmental concerns associated with the construction and operation of a new nuclear plant must be identified, carefully evaluated, and dispositioned in the Environmental Report. This paper covers some of the key issues included in an Environmental Report as they relate to a new nuclear power plant—the evaluation of potential land use, water use, ecological and socioeconomic impacts. A comparison discussion paralleling the environmental impacts for the identified key environmental factors associated with a small modular reactor plant to those of a large conventional nuclear power plant is presented.

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