High-Level Nuclear Waste Transportation:
(See information about high-level radioactive waste corridors)
(using Google to view transportation routes)The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has prepared three analyses under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) associated with the proposed disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in a geologic repository at the Yucca Mountain Site in Nye County, Nevada. The first analysis:
- Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada - Nevada Rail Transportation Corridor and Final Environmental Impact Statement for a Rail Alignment for the Construction and Operation of a Railroad in Nevada to a Geologic Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada(DOE/EIS-0250F-S2 andDOE/EIS-0369) (PDF)
- Volume I
- Volume II part 1
- Volume II part 2
- Volume II part 3
- Volume III
- Volume IV
- Volume V part 1
- Volume V part 2
- Volume V part 3
- Volume VI
History of Waste Transportation:
Since 1964, the U.S. nuclear energy industry has safely transported more than 10,000 used nuclear fuel assemblies over 1.7 million miles. During this period, nine accidents involving used nuclear fuel containers have occurred four on highways, five during rail transport and none involving barges. Half of these accidents involved empty containers, and none of these accidents resulted in a breach of the container or any release of its radioactive cargo.
In 1971, for example, a tractor-trailer carrying a 25-ton shipping container holding used nuclear fuel swerved on a Tennessee road to avoid a head-on collision and overturned. The trailer, with the container still attached, separated from the tractor and skidded into a rain-filled ditch. The container suffered minor external damage but as designed prevented the release of radioactive material. This accident was the most severe of the nine involving used fuel containers.
Additionally, the US Navy has made 738 shipments involving some 1.0 million shipment miles since 1957. France and Britain average 650 shipments annually with no significant accident consequences.
The nuclear energy industry has completed more than 3,000 shipments of used nuclear fuel over the past 40 years with no injuries, fatalities or environmental damage as a result of the radioactive nature of the cargo, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
Shippers transport used nuclear fuel as a solid, ceramic material that is unable to leak or explode. Constructed of many layers of steel and lead, containers used to carry the fuel, are extremely robust. The NRC requires thorough tests and analyses prior to certifying used fuel containers. Facilities such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Sandia National Laboratories have tested containers under extreme circumstances to ensure they would protect the public in the unlikely event of an accident during transport. Tests have proven that containers can withstand high-speed crashes, extremely hot and long-lasting fires, and submersion in water.
The NRC’s responsible for licensing nuclear facilities including transportation canisters and requires the following tests:
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A 30-foot free fall onto an unyielding surface, which would be equivalent to a head-on crash at 120 mph into a concrete bridge abutment
A puncture test allowing the container to fall 40 inches onto a steel rod 6 inches in diameter.
Submerging the same container under 50 feet of water. (Containers also are subject to separate testing beneath 650 feet (200 meters) of water for eight hours.)
A 30-minute exposure to fire at 1,475 degrees Fahrenheit that engulfs the entire container.
Facilities such as Sandia National Laboratories have tested containers under extreme circumstances to ensure they would protect the public in the unlikely event of an accident during transport. Tests have proven that containers can withstand high-speed crashes, extremely hot and long-lasting fires, and submersion in water.
In addition to the tests required for NRC certification, engineers and scientists at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico conducted a wide range of tests on used nuclear fuel transportation containers in the 1970s and 1980s. These tests included:
Running a flatbed tractor-trailer carrying a container into a concrete wall at 84 mph Placing a container on a rail car and driving it into a concrete wall at 81 mph Placing a container on a tractor-trailer and broad-siding it by a train traveling at 80 mph.
In all cases, post-crash assessments showed that the containers, although slightly dented and charred, would not have released their contents.
Nevada Potential Corridors:
The Nevada Rail Corridor SEIS analyzes the potential impacts of constructing and operating a railroad to connect the Yucca Mountain repository site to an existing rail line near Wabuska, Nevada (in the Mina rail corridor). The Nevada Rail Corridor SEIS analyzes the Mina rail corridor at a level of detail commensurate with that of the rail corridors analyzed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada (DOE/EIS-0250F). The Nevada Rail Corridor SEIS also updates relevant information regarding other rail corridors previously analyzed in the Yucca Mountain FEIS (Carlin, Jean, and Valley Modified) to identify any significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns.
The Mineral County Assessment of current capabilities and resources of Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot's (HWAD) fire and emergency services analyzes and assesses these services particularly as they relate to the proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository and any potential shipments of high-level nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel through Mineral County and provides current (2004) emergency readiness for response to a transportation incident involving radioactive materials.
Caleinte Rail Corridor - Since the 1996 release by DOE of its first environmental assessment of the Yucca Mountain project, the mainline Union Pacific (UP) rail line through Lincoln County and the City of Caliente has been viewed by the federal government as a likely corridor along which shipments of nuclear waste would move through Nevada to the Nevada test site. (see the Record of Decision and the Federal Register notice).
The Department of Energy has set $3.155 billion as the latest price tag to run rail about 319 miles from Caliente in Eastern Nevada to the Yucca site in Nye County. A previous cost estimate, disclosed in December 2005, was $2 billion. Yucca rail estimated at more than $3b
The numbers underscore the growing cost of the proposed Nevada nuclear waste complex, and the likely challenges facing the Energy Department to secure funding from Congress for the undertaking.
What is Section 180c and how might it affect you?
Section 180(c) of the NWPA requires the Secretary to provide technical assistance and funds to States for training of public safety officials of appropriate units of local governments and Native American Tribes through whose jurisdictions the Secretary plans to transport spent nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive waste.
Under Section 180(c) of the NWPA, DOE shall provide technical and financial assistance for training of local public safety officials to States and Indian Tribes through whose jurisdictions the DOE plans to transport spent nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive waste to a facility authorized under Subtitle A or C of the NWPA (NWPA-authorized facility). The training is to cover both safe routine transportation and emergency response procedures. The DOE published a notice of revised proposed policy to set forth its revised plans for implementing Section 180(c) of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (the NWPA) with a deadline for stakeholders to comment ending in October, 2007.
To access the Mineral County Board of County Commissioners comments to Section 180c please click here.
Surface Transportation Board
The STB is an economic regulatory agency that Congress charged with the fundamental missions of resolving railroad rate and service disputes and reviewing proposed railroad mergers. The STB is decisionally independent, although it is administratively affiliated with the U.S. Department of Transportation. It was created in the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 and is the successor agency to the Interstate Commerce Commission.
The agency has jurisdiction over railroad rate and service issues and rail restructuring transactions (mergers, line sales, line construction, and line abandonment's); certain trucking company, moving van, and non-contiguous ocean shipping company rate matters; certain intercity passenger bus company structure, financial, and operational matters; and rates and services of certain pipelines not regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
On March 17, 2008 the U.S. Department of Energy filed an application for authority to build and operate an approximately 300-mile railroad line in Nevada. In connection with this proposed transaction, the STB has developed a fact sheet explaining the STBs procedures for evaluating the proposal, and providing jurisdictional and other background information.
Surface Transportation Boards official filing in denial of State of Nevada's motion to reject DOE's Application to build 300-mile rail line in Nevada
Transportation External Coordination Working Group - This link will take you to The Rail Topic Group section of the TEC web site. They have the responsibility to identify and discuss current issues and concerns regarding rail transportation of radioactive materials by the Department of Energy (DOE). The group’s current task is to examine different aspects of rail transportation including inspections, tracking and radiation monitoring, planning and process, and review of lessons learned. Ultimately, the main goal for members will be to assist in the identification of potential rail routes for shipments to Yucca Mountain, in a manner that will contribute to a safe, dynamic, and flexible transportation system. The identification of potential routes from reactor sites and DOE facilities will serve as an important first step in transportation planning, examining alternative routes, and getting feedback from stakeholders..