The Navy's Draft EIS assesses the management, storage, and transportation of navy spent fuel to a "generic" federal repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The Navy's spent fuel inventory is currently stored at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory in eastern Idaho.
Yucca Mountain is located in southern Nevada about 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The site is currently being studied as a potential repository for disposal of civilian spent fuel and defense high-level waste, a total of about 85,000 metric tons.
For More Information Contact -- State of Nevada, Nuclear Waste Projects Office, Capitol Complex, Carson City NV 89710 (702-687-3744, FAX 702-687-5277):
The State of Nevada's comments on the Department of the Navy's Draft Environmental Impact
Statement for a Container System for the Management of Naval Spent Nuclear Fuel (draft EIS)
reflect 13 principal areas of concern. These include the Navy's public participation process, the
lack of a preferred alternative, the overall level of information in the draft EIS, the analyses of
worse case accidents, the overall transportation analyses, environmental justice, waste
characteristics, waste acceptance, environmental impacts and analyses, and the relationship
between Navy activities contemplated under the draft EIS and other closely related activities
(i.e., the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) civilian high-level radioactive waste program,
Nevada Test Site (NTS) activities, Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL) activities,
The comments which follow were prepared in response to the information and alternatives presented in the draft EIS and address the entire range of issues and actions suggested by the draft document as it was released for comment. It should be pointed out, however, that, while we have made comments with respect to transportation, storage, and disposal issues covered by the draft EIS, the State of Nevada contends that the proposed action to be included in the final EIS must be limited to the selection of a canister system and related support facilities for the interim storage of Naval spent nuclear fuel and Special Case Waste at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. Because no repository or central interim storage location has been identified, and may not be for some time, it is inappropriate for the Navy to use this EIS as the vehicle for the evaluation of transport, storage, or disposal impacts or to support future decisions with regard to such activities. The analysis of transport, interim storage, and/or disposal impacts and alternatives should be done as part of the broader environmental impact statement process DOE is required to carry out under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as amended.
By the same token, DOE, as a cooperating agency in the Navy's EIS process, cannot use this extremely limited Navy document to support any future decisions regarding canister systems for storage or disposal of commercial spent nuclear fuel or defense high-level radioactive waste at an interim storage facility or a repository or for transport of such materials to these facilities.
While Nevada's review of the draft EIS does not contain a detailed analysis of the merits of each of these container systems, it does examine certain technical, programmatic, and regulatory compliance issues that must be considered in the selection of a proposed action (preferred alternative) for the final EIS. Foremost of these are issues related to off-site transportation of Navy SNF and SCW, as well as issues related to waste disposal/waste acceptance. In fact, examination of these fundamental issues in the draft EIS is so deficient that Nevada officials contend that the Navy will be unable to complete a final EIS and Record of Decision that can adequately support any decisions regarding off-site transportation and waste disposal issues.
For example, the implementing regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are very specific concerning limitations on actions during the NEPA process, consideration of actions that are connected, deliberation of actions that flow from a program plan or policy to a lesser scope, and consideration of actions that are "ripe" for discussion. These regulations footnote 1 purposely restrict actions that would impact the environment while an agency is in the process of preparing either a site-specific or a programmatic EIS, if such actions "prejudice pending decisions" or otherwise "determine subsequent developments" or "limit alternatives." This is notable since certain actions contemplated in the Navy's draft EIS are directly connected to a larger programmatic action encompassed by the EIS required for the Yucca Mountain Repository. footnote 2 In preparing the Repository EIS, the Department of Energy must consider, in detail, the total spectrum of transportation and disposal issues as "systematic and connected agency decisions [which] allocate agency resources to implement a specific statutory program . . . "2 Because the existing NEPA requirements contained under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act have not been concluded, preparation of a site-specific EIS such as the Navy's draft EIS is inappropriate and, in fact, violates the referenced NEPA implementing regulations (at least as it relates to transportation and disposal issues).
Consequently, State officials strongly suggest that the proposed action in the final EIS be limited strictly to the selection of a container system(s) and related support facilities that serve the exclusive need for on-site transportation and interim storage of Navy spent nuclear fuel and SCW at INEL.
As already noted, the draft EIS does not specify a proposed action or preferred alternative. Without an articulated proposed action or preferred alternative, it is difficult to evaluate the document and determine if the information presented is adequate. If one of the two Multi-Purpose Canister (MPC) alternatives is selected as the preferred action, for example, much more information would be needed on the relationship between MPC performance, fuel characteristics, and implications for ultimate disposal in a repository (since the MPC, by definition, would be designed to also serve as a disposal canister). The final EIS must include sufficient information so that the appropriateness of the preferred alternative that is identified can be adequately evaluated.
The final EIS must provide sufficient information on the amount of naval spent nuclear fuel to be shipped to a repository or interim storage facility so that reviewers can verify the hardware requirements and number of shipments required under each alternative. Neither the draft EIS nor the DOE Programmatic Spent Nuclear Fuel Management Final EIS (DOE/EIS-0203-F) provide sufficient information to allow independent verification of the hardware requirements stated in Table S.1 and Table 3.1 and the shipment numbers stated in Tables S.7, 7.1, 7.2, B.2, B.3, and B.4. For each of the Naval SNF types referenced on Pp. 2-1 to 2-2, the final EIS must provide the following information: the current and projected amount of SNF (in Metric Tons of Initial Heavy Metal); the current and projected number of cores or assemblies; the physical dimensions and weight of each representative fuel type; and the assumed capacity (in cores or assemblies) of each alternative container system described in Appendix D.
The final EIS must provide sufficient information on the radiological characteristics of Naval spent nuclear fuel to be shipped to a repository or interim storage facility so that reviewers can verify the purported public health impacts, worker health impacts, environmental impacts, and socioeconomic impacts under each alternative. Neither the draft EIS nor the DOE Programmatic Spent Nuclear Fuel Management Final EIS provide sufficient information to allow independent verification of the radiological risks stated in Tables S.2 through S.8, Tables 3.2 through 3.4, Tables 3.7 through 3.9, Tables 7.3 through 7.6, and Appendix B. The final EIS must provide radiological characteristics for each of the Naval SNF types referenced on Pp. 2-1 to 2-2, including radionuclide composition, total radioactivity, surface dose rate, thermal output, and projected change over time for each of these characteristics.
5.2 Heavy Haul Truck Transportation
The final EIS must address a broad range of impacts associated with potential heavy haul truck (HHT) transportation of Naval spent nuclear fuel containers to the repository or interim storage facility. There is no direct rail access to Yucca Mountain or the Nevada Test Site at the present time. The nearest main railroad is almost 100 miles distant. DOE is currently studying four corridors (ranging in length from 98 to 363 miles) for possible construction of a new rail spur to the repository site. The potential for direct rail access is uncertain because of high costs (estimated as high as $1 - 1.5 billion), anticipated difficulties in obtaining environmental approvals and acquiring rights-of-way, and pending congressional legislation that would require DOE to ship rail casks by HHT from an intermodal transfer facility at Caliente. The final EIS cannot assume that direct rail access will be available for delivery of Naval spent nuclear fuel containers to the repository or interim storage facility.
The final EIS must extend the route-specific transportation risk and impact analyses contained in Appendix B and presented in Chapter 7.0 and the Executive Summary, to incorporate the three potential HHT routes identified by DOE in the Nevada Potential Repository Preliminary Transportation Strategy Study 2 (February 1996). These potential routes are listed below:
The route-specific transportation risk and impact analyses contained in Appendix B must also consider the so-called "Chalk Mountain Heavy Haul Route" from the Caliente intermodal transfer facility specified in Senate Bills S.1271 and S.1936. This route covers U.S. Route 93 - State Route 93 - Local roads from Rachel to Nevada Test Site Guard Station 700 - Mercury Highway - Cane Spring Road (approximately 160 miles).
In light of the potential requirement for long-distance HHT transportation from a Nevada rail siding to the repository or interim storage facility (100 to 320 miles), the final EIS must reevaluate the feasibility of the various container system alternatives described in Chapter 3.0 and Appendix D. In particular, use of the M-140 transportation cask may be incompatible with HHT transport because of its loaded weight, height (16 ft.), and vertical shipping configuration. The M-140 transportation cask is usually transported in a specially designed well-type railcar. The draft EIS provides no evidence that M-140 transportation casks have ever been, or can potentially be, shipped by HHT for distances of 100 to 320 miles. Indeed, there in no evidence in the draft EIS that the other proposed container systems can be safely and economically shipped by HHT for distances of 100 to 320 miles.
The final EIS must demonstrate that each of the proposed container system alternatives is compatible with long distance HHT transport. The final EIS must specifically consider: (1) the need to obtain special HHT shipping permits from the Nevada Department of Transportation, (2) existing seasonal prohibitions on HHT use of certain route segments, and (3) potential additional state or local regulations such as time-of-day restrictions or escort requirements. Furthermore, the transportation cost analysis must specifically include the backhaul (return shipment) of empty transport-only casks and MPC transportation overpacks. Based on our analysis of the specific HHT routes likely to be used for shipments to Yucca Mountain or the Nevada Test Site, we believe that the small MPC is the only container system identified in the draft EIS that could possibly be feasible if there is no rail access. However, there will be so many difficulties involved in HHT transport of the small MPC that, absent rail access, legal-weight truck casks may the preferred or only feasible method of shipping Naval spent nuclear fuel from INEL to Yucca Mountain or the Nevada Test Site.
The final EIS must include revised transportation risk and impact analyses which specifically consider HHT transportation of Naval spent nuclear fuel on likely Nevada highway routes. For example, the analysis of routine radiological emissions from large MPCs on HHTs must consider the relatively slow HHT operating speeds (averaging 15 - 40 miles per hour) and limited passing opportunities for other vehicles traveling behind or alongside HHTs on long uphill grades or on heavily congested route segments. Given existing Nevada highway route characteristics, passengers of other vehicles (particularly elevated vehicles such as school buses, passenger vans, recreational vehicles, or pickup trucks) could regularly travel within 2 - 4 meters of the MPC surface for periods of an hour or more.
Similarly, the definition of the maximally exposed individual (MEI) must consider the exposures resulting from incidents involving large MPCs or other shipping containers on HHTs. The discussion on page B-6 of maximum possible radiological doses for MEIs during incident-free transportation is seriously deficient in this regard. The draft EIS assumes an MEI in the general population as "a person stopped next to a loaded transportation cask on a railcar at a distance of 19.8ft. (6 m) for one hour." In a credible gridlock incident, as described by DOE in response to questions by the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, one or more occupants of an elevated vehicle could be trapped within 2 meters of the surface of a spent fuel cask shipped by truck for a period of 3 - 4 hours, resulting in a dose of 30 - 40 millirems to each MEI. Moreover, if a multiple-occupant vehicle such as a school bus or passenger van is involved in such an incident, or if many single-occupant vehicles are involved in a gridlock incident at a congested urban intersection during evening rush hour, as many as ten or more individuals could receive the maximum radiological dose (30 - 40 millirems) and many other individuals could receive lesser but measurable doses.
Section B.3.2, "Technical Approach for Transportation Accidents", Section B.3.4, "Analysis of Uncertainties", Section B.4, "Routing Analysis", and Section B.5.2, "Accident Risk", must all be revised to address the probabilities and consequences of accidents involving large MPCs and other alternative shipping containers on HHTs while traveling likely highway routes in Nevada. In particular, the final EIS must specifically address the consequences of a maximum credible severe accident involving a release of radioactive materials from a large MPC or other large shipping container during HHT transport. In order to accurately assess the maximum credible accident impacts, the final EIS should evaluate the consequences of such an accident at worst case locations along likely Nevada shipment routes. For the urban HHT routes currently under consideration, the final EIS should evaluate a maximum severe accident at the intersection of I-15 and U.S. 95 in Las Vegas on a weekday during evening rush hour. For the rural HHT routes currently under consideration, the final EIS should consider a maximum severe accident at the intersection of State Routes 375 and 318 at Crystal Spring.
5.4 Reliance Upon the Modal Study
The transportation radiological risk estimates presented in Chapter 7.0 and Appendix B of the draft EIS rely excessively, and uncritically, upon one reference - the so-called Modal Study (U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 1987, Shipping Container Response to Severe Highway and Railway Accident Conditions, NUREG/CR-4829, prepared by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research, Washington, D.C.). The final EIS must correct this deficiency by responding to the detailed technical critiques of the Modal Study prepared by the Western Interstate Energy Board and the State of Nevada.
The State of Nevada submits for the record of this EIS the following report: Lindsay Audin, Nuclear Waste Shipping Container Response to Severe Accident Conditions: A Brief Critique of the Modal Study, NWPO-TN-005-90 (December, 1990). This report documents five major deficiencies in the Modal Study: limited peer review and inadequate response to technical criticism by the peer reviewers; excessive reliance on an analysis of data created solely for the purpose of the study and inappropriate surrogate data; accident scenarios which do not capture the full range of real world conditions; inappropriate cask design assumptions and cask accident response assumptions; and non-representative spent fuel characteristics and undocumented spent fuel accident response assumptions. As a result of these deficiencies, the Modal Study is of limited value for assessing the risks and impacts of spent nuclear fuel shipments to a repository or interim storage facility. Moreover, specific aspects of the proposed shipments of Naval spent nuclear fuel are inconsistent with assumptions used in the Modal Study. The draft EIS assumes shipments in large rail casks using depleted uranium for gamma shielding, which limits the applicability of the Modal Study's focus on cask outer shell strain as a primary failure mode. The draft EIS assumes the use of casks with much greater capacities, which is inconsistent with the cask-payload weight ratios assumed in the Modal Study, and the physical and radiological characteristics of Naval spent fuel (and the resulting isotope concentrations) are so different from those assumed in the Modal Study that the Study's conclusions regarding the percentage of severe accidents involving releases may be inapplicable to the shipping campaign addressed in the draft EIS.
5.5 Consequences of Severe Transportation Accidents
The transportation radiological risk estimates presented in Chapter 7.0 and Appendix B of the draft EIS refer to a maximum severe transportation accident resulting in a release of radioactive materials. The information provided in the draft EIS is insufficient for the independent verification of the results presented in Tables 7.4, 7.5, 7.6, B.7, B.8, B.11, B.12, and B.13. The final EIS must provide a detailed scenario description of the maximum hypothetical transportation accident, a detailed list of major input values (for example, specific values for wind speed at the time of the accident) used in the RISKIND analysis, and a sensitivity analysis demonstrating the significance of key assumptions based on expert judgement rather than on empirical data (for example, assumptions about cask response to extra-regulatory thermal events when no full-scale fire tests have been conducted on the proposed MPC design or the other alternative container systems).
Moreover, the draft EIS focuses only on the public health effects of a hypothetical severe accident involving a release, and completely ignores other important impacts. The final EIS must correct these deficiencies by evaluating the full range of impacts resulting from a release of radioactive materials from: (a) a rail accident in a representative rural area with a local economy based on agriculture and tourism; and, (b) a rail accident in one of the two major urban areas along the likely rail route between INEL and Yucca Mountain (either Salt Lake City or Las Vegas). At a minimum, the consequence analysis must consider the extent of the area contaminated under worst case weather conditions and the level of cleanup required under several varying regulatory scenarios. In addition to health effects, the consequence analysis must address the economic cost of cleanup including opportunity costs, time and personnel requirements for cleanup, and the full range of social impacts, such as the potential for permanent out-migration.
5.6 Use of Dedicated Trains
The draft EIS repeatedly states that Naval spent nuclear fuel containers may be shipped in general freight trains. Shipment of spent nuclear fuel in general freight trains is unacceptable for the following reasons:
All shipments to a repository or interim storage facility should be made in dedicated trains, and the final EIS should redo the entire risk and impact analyses in Chapter 7 and Appendix B and assume that all shipments will be made by dedicated train.
5.7 Consequences of A Successful Terrorist Attack
The draft EIS ignores the potential consequences of a successful terrorist attack on a shipment of Naval spent nuclear fuel. The final EIS cannot rely upon the inadequate terrorism consequence analyses prepared for DOE and the NRC in the mid-1980s. The final EIS must evaluate a credible range of terrorist attack methods, attack locations/environments, and attack outcomes based on currently proposed shipping container designs and currently available weapons capabilities.
NRC has evaluated and re-evaluated the consequences of terrorist attacks several times during 1970s and 1980s. In 1984, NRC concluded that the consequences of terrorist attack with explosives would not be significant in terms of the amount of release (relative to cask contents) or resulting health effects, and subsequently proposed lessened security requirements. Based on experiments sponsored by DOE and NRC, the NRC summarized its findings regarding the estimated release of radioactive materials following a successful terrorist attack using a shaped explosive against a spent fuel shipping cask: "A shipping cask has been subjected to attack by explosive to evaluate cask and spent fuel response to a device 30 times larger in explosive weight than a typical anti-tank weapon. This device would carve an approximately 3-inch-diameter hole through the cask wall and contained spent fuel and is estimated to cause the release of 2/100,000 of the total fuel weight (~10 grams of fuel) in an inhalable form." (U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Transporting Spent Fuel: Protection Provided Against Severe Highway and Railroad Accidents (March, 1987).
The NRC's consequence analysis focused on the projected human health effects of such a release of respirable particles of spent fuel. In NRC-sponsored studies, assuming an attack on a truck cask carrying a single PWR fuel assembly, "researchers found that the average radiological consequence of a release in a heavily populated urban area such as New York City would be no early fatalities and less than one (0.4) latent cancer fatality." When more unfavorable circumstances were considered, for example assuming the attack occurred at evening rush hour on a business day in the most unfavorable location for a release, the peak consequence was found to be "no early fatalities and less than three (2.9) latent cancer fatalities." For larger casks containing more fuel, the NRC found that "the upper bound of release would likely increase roughly in proportion to the square root of the total number of assemblies contained in a cask." (For example, the release -and the expected peak consequence- from an attack on an MPC containing 21 civilian PWR assemblies would be about 13 latent cancer fatalities). The NRC concluded: "On the basis of energy release from the explosive, it is expected that the number of fatalities from a sabotage explosion would be greater than the number of radiologically induced fatalities."
The DOE sponsored studies, which included one full-scale and several small-scale experiments, produced similar results. The explosive attack on the full-scale cask containing one fuel assembly was calculated to release a maximum of 17 grams of spent fuel. Researchers calculated peak consequences of a 17 gram release to be "no early fatalities and about 7 latent cancer fatalities." (NRC," Modification of Protection Requirements for Spent Fuel Shipments: Proposed Rule," Federal Register, Vol. 49, No. 112 (June 8, 1984), Pp.23868-23869).
Many comments on the NRC's 1984 proposed rule attacked the NRC methodology and conclusions:
The final EIS must consider a range of terrorist attack locations, such as:
The final EIS must consider a range of terrorist attack outcomes, such as:
The final EIS must consider two aspects of cask design important for a vulnerability assessment:
The final EIS must consider the armor penetration capability of currently available weapons that could be used to attack a shipping cask. Military weapons guides are readily available in most big city libraries or book stores and provide detailed information on numerous anti-tank missiles and other munitions that could be used against spent fuel shipping casks. One of the best known anti-tank weapons, the Milan missile, illustrates several general characteristics footnote 3 that should be considered in a terrorism risk assessment, including:
A weapon such as a Milan missile could conceivably penetrate or even perforate a rail cask containing Naval spent nuclear fuel. It therefore represents the type of weapon that should be evaluated in a terrorism risk assessment for Naval spent nuclear fuel transportation to Yucca Mountain.
The draft EIS makes a number of problematic and/or inaccurate assertions with respect to environmental justice, including "The environmental consequences and impacts on health and safety for the actions described in this EIS would be small for all population groups and therefore, it would be expected that there would be no disproportionately high or adverse impacts to any minority or low-income population" (S.7 - Page S-18), and "Shipping accidents could occur at any location along the routes used, so it is not possible to identify the specific impact on the minority or low-income composition of the populations along the routes" (7.3.5 - Page 7-10).
Since the draft EIS notes that, for the most direct representative rail transportation route to Yucca Mountain, 93% of the distance is rural, and 5.8% is suburban, (and equivalent information is provided in Table B.15 for two alternate routes), it is possible to analyze the populations along the routes as to their minority or low-income status. This should be done as it was for potential cask fabrication locations.
Probabilities of accidents at locations in which minorities or low-income populations occur can be calculated from location-specific (rather than national average) experience records to evaluate if there are disproportionate accident risks involved. Several hypothetical accident scenarios (involving a range of meteorological conditions because of the locations of the 3 routes) can be evaluated and compared to other locations along the rail lines as to their potential impact (both radiological and non-radiological), given that traffic safety facilities and emergency preparedness and management capabilities are generally less developed in rural areas, especially those populated by minority or low-income communities. Evaluations such as these, especially focused on Native American lands and sparely populated rural counties and communities, should be carried out in order to support any conclusions in the final EIS regarding whether disproportionate impacts are present or not, and whether mitigation actions would be appropriate.
The conclusions of the draft EIS, as quoted above, are insufficiently supported in the draft EIS to satisfy either the information needs of the EIS or the requirements of an Environmental Justice evaluation.
Research conducted by the State of Nevada has demonstrated convincingly that nuclear-related activities (i.e., storage facilities, radioactive materials transportation, etc.) have the potential to result in significant socioeconomic impacts at all levels within the state, from the local communities to the state government. These effects originate in intense negative perceptions and avoidance behaviors by the public in response to nuclear facilities/activities which could produce large negative impacts. While such impacts would likely be most pronounced and more likely to occur in Idaho and Nevada (the "representative or notional" location used for the repository and interim storage site), they could occur within any state or community along potential shipping routes. footnote 4 Such impacts could occur in the course of routine operations if public reaction to the facilities or to the transportation of nuclear materials is such that significant negative attention is brought to such operations. In the event of accidents involving spent nuclear fuel or other nuclear materials, the potential for significant impacts would be much greater. This can be the case even if no radiological materials are released, when the accident draws wide media attention. In the case of an accident involving a release, the occurrence of stigmatizing impacts is almost a certainty - the only question being the extent of the negative effects and their duration.
In Nevada, the potential for stigma-related impacts is magnified by the state's unique vulnerability to any change in its public image. footnote 5 The great public and media interest in things nuclear makes it almost certain that any association with negative "nuclear" perceptions could adversely affect Nevada s attempts to attract tourists, conventions, migrants, and new business investments to some degree. This could be especially troublesome in the event of a nuclear waste accident in or near Las Vegas, one of the world s major tourist destinations and the dominant contributor to Nevada s economy and tax revenues. While there is considerable uncertainty about the federal government s ability to manage radioactive materials safely and about future public responses to accidents and events, it is clear that over the last half century the public has developed a very strong negative aversion to such wastes and the facilities associated with them. The conclusion of the Nevada researchers who have studied the issue is that, under certain circumstances, stigma impacts could be very negative and very large.
The existing research on stigma effects and potential impacts provides a viable theoretical and methodological base so that the Navy should be able to provide an assessment of these types of impacts on the economy, public revenues, public services, and community quality of life for Idaho, Nevada, and states/communities located along likely transportation corridors. footnote 6 It is very possible that, through the social amplification of risk process, even relatively minor events or accidents could have serious economic consequences that, in the case of Idaho and Nevada, could dwarf any expected benefits to be derived from employment and spending associated with Naval spent fuel activities.
The fact that Naval spent fuel and Special Case Waste represent a small percentage of the total volume of spent fuel and high-level radioactive wastes that would be transported to and stored/disposed of at an interim storage facility or repository does not absolve the Navy from the responsibility to adequately assess potential socioeconomic and other impacts. It is inappropriate and unacceptable to state, as the draft EIS does in several places, that impacts will be small because the Navy's contribution to the overall spent fuel/waste stream is so small. There will be instances where Naval spent fuel and SCW will be the principal contributors to impacts (i.e., in Idaho and along the likely shipping route from Idaho to Utah). In addition, the fact that DOE has chosen to piecemeal the EIS process by not preparing a programmatic EIS for the range of activities contemplated under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act means that the Navy must prepare an EIS for its activities that adequately evaluates the potential for impacts resulting from the types of materials and operations contemplated. The analysis of cumulative impacts should then examine the contribution of the Navy's activities to DOE's larger program. It is possible that the Navy's activities could significantly increase the overall risks and impacts in certain geographic areas. footnote 7
It is not clear that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act authorizes the disposal of Naval spent nuclear fuel in the proposed geologic repository. Rather, it appears that the Act does not contemplate the need for disposal of spent nuclear fuel from atomic energy defense activities. The authority for disposal in a repository of spent nuclear fuel from atomic energy defense activities, including Naval spent nuclear fuel, should be provided either in future legislation, or preferably, by rule of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as provided in Sec. 2, Paragraph (12)(B) [42 USC 10101] of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.
Notwithstanding the definition of "spent nuclear fuel" in Section 2 [42 USC 10101] of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, Sec. 8 [42 USC 10107] contemplates that all relevant nuclear waste from atomic energy defense activities will be "high-level radioactive waste" for purposes of a Presidential decision regarding co-mingling of civilian and defense wastes in a repository.
The question of authority regarding disposal of Naval spent nuclear fuel is an important one since, as will be discussed later in these comments, Naval spent nuclear fuel has significantly different characteristics from commercial spent nuclear fuel. And, if the Naval spent fuel is intended to be disposed in a repository along with commercial spent fuel under license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it could be important to safety to have regulatory authorization for this activity that is responsive not only to the differing characteristics of the Naval spent fuel, but also to the likelihood that some details of these characteristics will be classified for national security purposes and not available to all participants in the repository licensing proceeding.
The draft EIS, in its discussion of spent fuel and Special Case Waste characteristics (Section 2.3 on Pages 2-3, 2-4 and Appendix E), should describe the range of waste characteristics that exists in the inventory that will be placed in any of the alternative containers, e.g., physical dimensions, physical condition, radiological characteristics, thermal output, radiological output, burn-up, initial enrichment, age out of reactor, etc. The draft EIS should describe the records kept of these characteristics, and the means and procedures that will be used to validate these records at the time of container loading, for purposes of waste acceptance.
It is not enough for the draft EIS to defer this matter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's container certification process, as suggested on page 2-4. The issue is of much greater dimension, if the Naval nuclear waste is to be accepted into a storage and disposal system regulated by the requirements of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and open to public scrutiny. The final EIS must include this crucial waste acceptance issue and all its requirements as currently understood in its considerations, rather than assume that the wastes will be accepted as presented.
If the specifics of the waste characteristics cannot be fully revealed in a public final EIS for national security reasons, this information should be included in a classified appendix for review by appropriately cleared reviewers.
Strict adherence to waste acceptance criteria is important to Nevada, in that it is a fundamental component of repository performance assessment and safety. It describes the source term for the repository. Therefore, it is imperative that the characteristics of the contents of each container be known through validated records, to which the acceptance criteria can be applied. It is not sufficient nor acceptable for the draft EIS to say, and imply, that the Naval nuclear wastes exist in such small amounts that the impacts of waste management and disposal, when compared with the impacts from all spent nuclear fuel in the waste management system, are insignificant. Instead, the extent of their significance must first be determined though the analysis of validated documentation of the waste characteristics.
For example, the final EIS must evaluate specifically the implications of Naval spent fuel characteristics within the context of the explosive autocatalytic criticality theory put forth by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory [Ref. C.D. Bowman and F. Venneri, "Underground Autocatalytic Criticality From Plutonium and Other Fissile Material," (LA-UR-94-4022)]. The Bowman-Venneri theory postulates a situation at a Yucca Mountain repository where subcritical fissile material could reach criticality that is self-enhancing, resulting in a potentially explosive breach of repository integrity. The draft EIS should evaluate the likelihood that the unique characteristics of Naval spent fuel could contribute to the risks of such an occurrence subsequent to disposal in a repository.
Nowhere in the Navy's draft EIS for spent nuclear fuel is there mention of how programmatic impacts for all the nuclear waste in a geologic repository will be addressed. This raises the combined issues of cumulative impacts, connected actions, and segmented, piecemeal analysis where an integrated programmatic analysis and assessment is called for. For example, 40 CFR 1508.25 states that an agency should analyze "connected actions" in one EIS. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)regulations are directed at avoiding improper segmentation, wherein the significance of the environmental impacts of an action as a whole would not be evident if the action were to be broken into component parts and the impacts of those parts analyzed separately.
The Navy's final EIS must address this matter with respect to the disconnected impact assessments between the Navy spent nuclear fuel, a geologic repository, and the disposal of all additional nuclear waste as proposed by the Department of Energy. How the Navy's nuclear waste will be integrated into the whole process is especially important with respect to such issues as groundwater, past testing of nuclear weapons, and other relevant programs such as environmental restoration programs that doubtlessly will apply to any final repository site.
While it is true that a final site for a repository has not been formally designated, the Navy is beholden to NEPA and the public to address the full spectrum of potential environmental and health consequences arising from the Navy's spent nuclear fuel. Because a repository site has not been selected does not mean that the Navy is free of the responsibility for preparing a comprehensive EIS in a programmatic manner [cf. CEQ's 40 CFR 1508(b)(3) and DOE's 10 CFR 1021.330]. Therefore, instead of proceeding with the current draft EIS, the Navy should join with DOE to prepare a programmatic EIS for all the spent nuclear fuel to be disposed of in a geologic repository. From that document, specific actions should be tiered pursuant to the NEPA regulations.
10.2 Environmental Life Cycle Assessment
Environmental life cycle assessment is an approach that analyzes the entire system around waste disposal. Applied to Navy spent nuclear fuel, it would encompass raw materials used for manufacturing nuclear waste canisters and transporting the waste to a repository, as well as repository construction, operation, closure, and future outcome. All the downstream and upstream effects of the operation of waste disposal would be factored into the environmental impact assessment to provide a comprehensive view of the full spectrum of environmental consequences associated with the proposed action.
In Sections S.3 and 3.8, the draft EIS addresses canister manufacturing impacts in partial terms of the life cycle assessment process. However, the words "life cycle assessment" are never used and the concept itself is not articulated. As a consequence, the concept of life cycle assessment appears inadequately understood and applied in the draft EIS. Especially for Tables S.1 and 3.5 and the associated text, the concept of raw material extraction and ultimate disposal of all wastes, including the long-term fate of the canisters, needs to be clearly expressed. Then, the concept should be woven throughout the document.
To achieve this, there are two U.S. Environmental Protection Agency documents that should be used. These were issued to encourage waste management activities to apply life cycle assessment to environmental protection:
The documents should guide the Navy's application of the life cycle assessment process. In so doing, a departure away from the present piecemeal, compartmentalized approach to the NEPA process can be reflected in the final EIS.
Such a procedure should be accomplished by integrating impact assessment into a systems engineering program for the canisters and ultimate waste disposal. This would permit a systems engineering analysis to address alternatives within the project that would allow the best environmental decisions to be made to the benefit of the comprehensive repository program. To this end, the EIS should be based on a framework for environmental life-cycle assessment that would assure environmental decision making in the full long-term context implied by the Navy spent nuclear fuel program.
Environmental life cycle assessment is consistent with the tenants of ecosystem management which the White House has instructed federal agencies to adopt as the basis for protecting public interest regarding natural resources. The Navy has joined the Army, the Air Force, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and other federal agencies in this approach to resource stewardship, and this should be reflected in the final EIS. (See, for example, White House Office of Environmental Policy Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force, The Ecosystem Approach: Healthy Ecosystems and Sustainable Economies, Vols. I-III, June 1995, and Department of Energy, Stewards of a National Resource, DOE/FM-0002, 1995.)
10.3 Impact Assessment
While Sections S.4 through S.8 and Chapters 1 through 7 of the draft EIS discuss various aspects of impact assessment, the document does not identify accepted methods for assessing environmental impacts. An appendix that discusses the impact assessment methods, assumptions, and steps in the process as well as the results of each step should be added to the document. In other words, an accepted environmental assessment methodology and approach should be adopted and documented for the EIS. An example that could be used is:
10.3.1 Environmental Risk Analysis
Central to NEPA is the ability to make predictions about environmental outcomes resulting from alternative courses of action such as those presented in the draft EIS. The soundness of decision making is dependent on this predictive capability. In turn, the fitness of the very long-term predictions, such as the ones posed by nuclear spent fuel, depends on the inclusiveness, representativeness, and explanatory power of simulation models derived from sound empirical information. Gaps in knowledge and uncertainties should be eliminated wherever possible. Decision making, on the other hand, like that under NEPA, should be based on best practicable methodology, i.e., environmental risk analysis. The extent of uncertainty that can be tolerated in risk assessment for disposing of spent nuclear fuel and that is unlikely to be resolved must be made clear in the Navy's final EIS (cf. The Environmental Professional 15: 1-160, 1993 and The Environmental Professional 18: 1-235, 1996).
The steps in such a risk-based approach are for the Navy to (a) define the end point conditions that must be protected, (b) characterize the long-term environment that might exist, and (c) assess the full spectrum of environmental hazards that could result from spent nuclear fuel to the long-term health of future generations and their environment. The extensive uncertainty that presently exists in all three steps can be reduced only by empirical scientific studies. Any effort to resolve the uncertainties by subjective opinion, as is frequently resorted to, will be unsatisfactory.
10.3.2 Cumulative Impact Analysis
References should be included in the final EIS regarding the methods used for analyzing cumulative impacts. Otherwise, the analyses will appear not to be empirically based. It is likely in the Navy's routine NEPA compliance process that cumulative impacts (40 CFR 1508.7) typically are ignored or brushed aside with cursory personal opinion that such effects will not occur. In this case, the potential for long-term radiation health impacts from spent nuclear fuel means that the Navy's final EIS must address cumulative effects supported at least by generic or programmatic scientific data and analysis.
10.3.3 Human Health Risks and Safety Impacts Study
The Navy's final EIS should include a detailed appendix that provides the approach used for estimating human health consequences, both near term and long term. The risk assessment process should follow identified contaminants from the point of origin along various pathways to humans. Transport mechanisms to humans should include air, water, soil, and food. There is no acknowledgment of the fact that transport of nuclear waste contaminants eventually will occur in ecosystems and that understanding the transport mechanisms ultimately must occur. This is a conceptual deficiency that the Navy's final EIS must resolve. The inability of the EIS to address realistic environmental scenarios and contaminant pathways to humans constitutes a significant flaw in the Navy's NEPA compliance process.
Care should be taken in the final EIS to assure that readers comprehend the uncertainty associated with the findings and conclusions that lack logically supported and credible scientific bases. Thus, it is necessary that the final EIS be grounded in sound approaches to environmental health risk assessment and should, for example, be based on methodologies such as:
10.3.4 Succeeding (Future) Generations
The Navy's draft EIS reflects little attention to measures for protecting the environment for future generations where, aside from such concerns as transportation accidents, most of the threat posed by geologic disposal of spent nuclear fuel lies. Long-term cumulative impacts to the environment and therefore to humans pose a serious threat and are a "truly significant" issue that the Navy's NEPA compliance process must address. The undeniable knowledge that such consequences will someday materialize poses a conflict with NEPA's mandate that each generation be a trustee of the environment for succeeding generations. The Navy must confront this issue and set forth the means for resolving it in the final EIS.
10.3.5 Truly Significant, Reasonably Foreseeable Long-Term Impacts
With respect to NEPA, potential adverse environmental and health consequences are associated with the "truly significant" issue (40 CFR 1500.1) of "reasonably foreseeable" long-term (106 years) impacts (40 CFR 1502.22) of nuclear waste canisters and the Navy spent nuclear fuel. This concern arises regarding environmental resources like groundwater for future generations. Thus, in keeping with NEPA's mandate for creating environmental and ecological knowledge, the Navy is challenged to show how environmental analysis and assessment procedures can address such concerns as long-term repository performance. The information needed to meet the challenge of scientific integrity (40 CFR 1502.24) and to assess significance (40 CFR 1508.27) will have to be empirical, quantitative, and available within the period to be allocated for comprehensive, integrated environmental impact assessment for nuclear waste disposal that includes the Navy spent nuclear fuel. The challenge cannot be met with the traditional application of subjective expert judgement to environmental impact assessment in cases of unavailable information (40 CFR 1508.22). Plans for resolving this issue in a manner that withstands independent expert peer review should be presented in the final EIS.
10.4 Post-project Monitoring
The Navy spent nuclear fuel program must demonstrate how environmental monitoring meant to detect significant adverse impacts will be performed. Monitoring must be initiated in sufficient time for a pre-disturbance baseline of data to be established for comparison with post-project monitoring data. Thus, the final EIS should describe how environmental monitoring will provide the opportunity to address long-term issues of nuclear waste repository performance. Additionally, the document should explain how the environmental simulation modeling necessary for predicting long-term impacts will be carried out.
10.5 Policy and Guidance for NEPA and Regulatory Compliance
The final EIS must list and discuss the policies and guidance followed to achieve NEPA compliance. For compliance with routine media-based environmental regulatory requirements, a statement in the EIS that the proposed action would be in compliance with applicable regulations and DOE Orders will not substitute for a presentation of impacts regarding the materials and the environmental media involved. In this respect, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts with respect to how ecosystem-based environmental assessment should be conducted. Thus, credible and responsible NEPA compliance requires a holistic approach whereas media-based environmental regulations address only restricted components of the environment.
Since DOE is a cooperating agency in the development of the Navy EIS, and since the decision made via the Navy EIS process will impact waste disposal or storage at Yucca Mountain (if that program goes forward), the final EIS should discuss how the Navy's EIS can be "tiered" to DOE's Yucca Mountain EIS so that the impacts of Naval reactor spent fuel on Yucca Mountain can be integrated and assessed.
This is significant, since DOE has indicated that it will initiate a programmatic analysis at the weapons complex level that will focus on alternative storage and disposition strategies for DOE-generated SCW as well as commercial waste classified as GTCC. Nevada officials understand that alternatives for storage and disposal of DOE's SCW, along with GTCC waste, will be evaluated in a forthcoming Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement tiered from DOE's Waste Management Programmatic EIS. footnote 8 If this, indeed, is the case, DOE has appropriately committed to a program evaluation for the management and disposition of these wastes, and by doing so, the agency will be in compliance with requisite Council of Environmental Quality and DOE Departmental NEPA implementing regulations (see 10 CFR 1020.330 and 40 CFR 1508.18(b)(3)).
As the Navy is aware, SCW is not currently authorized for disposal in a federal repository. Therefore, conducting an analysis which proposes transporting Navy-generated SCW to Yucca Mountain for either interim storage or disposal is contrary to the spirit and intent of the National Environmental Policy Act, even if such an analysis is "strictly for purposes of evaluation." In fact, there is no need to conduct this analysis in advance of a forthcoming programmatic NEPA evaluation, and by doing so, the Navy could prejudice pending decisions or otherwise predetermine subsequent developments which could limit future alternative considerations for the disposition of this waste (see 40 CFR 1506.1(a); 1506.1(c)).
With regard to storage of Navy-generated SCW, State officials believe the EIS should not only evaluate a long-term dry storage system (e.g., MPC), but also a co-located storage program for both Navy-generated SCW and DOE-managed GTCC waste at INEL. This is important since INEL is now charged with management responsibilities for commercially- generated GTCC waste. footnote 9 Accordingly, the Navy should insist that DOE conduct a supplemental analysis of the Idaho Programmatic EIS (DOE/EIS-0203-F) to address co-location and storage of these waste types at a single facility, pending a final disposition strategy. After all, these wastes types are the federal government's responsibility footnote 10 and, because of their similarities, footnote 11 they should be managed accordingly.
1. 40 CFR 1501.6; 40 CFR 1508.18(b)(3); 40 CFR 1508.28 BACK
2. See U.S. Department of Energy, Notice of Intent for Preparation of an 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. (Federal Register, Volume 60, No.151, August 7, 1995, pp. 40164-40170). BACK
3. Source: Ian V. Hogg, Infantry Support Weapons: Mortars, Missiles and Machine Guns (Greenhill Military Manuals, No. 5), Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1. BACK
4. The Winter Olympics will be held in Salt Lake City in 2002 at a time when, under provisions of legislation now before Congress, spent fuel shipments to an interim storage facility could be occurring. Under such circumstances, Salt Lake City and Utah could be especially vulnerable to the stigmatizing effects of Naval spent fuel transportation accidents. BACK
5. Nevada is unique among all of the states because of its extraordinary reliance on tourism as the source of revenue for all aspects of state and local government operations. As such, Nevada's public image as an attractive tourist destination is crucial to the state's economic well-being. Changes in that image will have direct economic and other consequences. BACK
6. A detailed summary of the State of Nevada research can be found in the publication, "State of Nevada Socioeconomic Studies of Yucca Mountain 1986 - 1992: An Annotated Guide and Research Summary," NWPO-SE-056-93 (June, 1993). See also "State of Nevada Socioeconomic Studies Biannual Report, 1993-1995," by James Flynn, et. al. (July, 1995). BACK
7. In Salt Lake City, for example, Naval spent fuel shipments could add significantly to the volume of total spent fuel shipments and expand the number of shipping routes with which the city and surrounding communities will have to contend. BACK
8. See Notice of Inquiry: Strategy for Management and Disposal of Greater-Than-Class-C Low-Level Radioactive Waste, Federal Register Notice, Vol. 60, No. 48, Monday, March 13, 1995; and DOE Draft Waste Management PEIS [DOE/EIS0200d] Volume I, Page 1-16 and 1-17. BACK
9. See U.S. Department of Energy, Record of Decision. Idaho National Engineering Laboratory Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Programs, May 30, 1995, Section 220.127.116.11.
10. Atomic Energy Act (PL 83-703), and the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985 (PL 99-240) BACK
11. Generally speaking, both GTCC waste and SCW are long-lived and contain significant concentrations of radionuclides. They represent a significant threat to human health and the environment and have been determined to be unsuitable for shallow land burial.. As such, these wastes like the Navy's non-fuel bearing zirconium metal structures (SCW) must be isolated from the biosphere for thousands of years.
12. Nevada Department of Administration, May 3, 1996: State of Nevada Comments on the Department of Energy's Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Nevada Test Site and Off-Site Locations, Comment Summary BACK
Nuclear Waste Project Home Page
State of Nevada
Nuclear Waste Project Office
Carson City, NV 89710