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State of Nevada NOI Comments -- Yucca Mountain Repository EIS


Notice of Intent -- (NOI) for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a Geologic Repository at Yucca Mountain


Submitted December 1, 1995


READERS NOTE:

This page contains a summary of the State of Nevada's comments on the Notice of Intent (NOI) for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. 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 of waste. The comments which follow were prepared by the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects on behalf of the State of Nevada in response to the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) NOI for preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a Geologic Repository at Yucca Mountain. Publication of DOE's Repository EIS is scheduled for fiscal year 1999.

The comments presented below identify policy, program, and technical issues that State officials believe must be discussed in DOE's forthcoming EIS. For a review of DOE's Repository NOTICE OF INTENT, see Federal Register, Volume 60, No. 151, August 7, 1995, pp. 40164 - 40170.


For More Information Contact -- State of Nevada, Nuclear Waste Projects Office, Capitol Complex, Carson City NV 89710 (702-687-3744, FAX 702-687-5277):

Index

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1 History and Background for the Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement

1.2 Adequacy of the EIS Scoping Process and Meetings

1.2.1 Relationship Between the Scoping Process Covered by the August 7, 1995 NOI and Any Future DOE EIS Activities

1.3 Overall Scope of the Yucca Mountain EIS

1.3.1 Retrieval Scenario

1.3.2 Native American Issues

1.3.3 The No Action Alternative

2.0 SCOPE ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

2.1. Background

2.2 Purpose of the Comments

2.3 NEPA Process and Review

2.4 Qualified Interdisciplinary Expertise

2.5 Council on Environmental Quality

2.6 Cumulative Impacts, Connected Actions, and Segmentation

2.7 Truly Significant, Reasonably Foreseeable Long-Term Impacts

2.8 Succeeding (Future) Generations

2.9 Supplemental Information

2.10 Environmental Risk Analysis

2.11 Environmental Life Cycle Assessment

2.12 Resource Management

2.13 Post-closure Project Monitoring

2.14 Policy and Guidance for the NEPA Process

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3.0 SCOPE TECHNICAL ISSUES 3.1 Repository Area and Capacity

3.2 Waste Package and Waste Characterization

3.3 Time Period for Consideration

3.4 Repository Seals and Backfill

3.5 Retrievability

3.6 Seismic Hazard

3.7 Volcanic Hazard

3.8 Human Intrusion

3.9 Repository Construction and Operation

3.10 Post-Closure Repository Impacts

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4.0 RADIOLOGICAL AND HEALTH EFFECTS

4.1 Potential Cumulative Risks from the Nevada Test Site

4.2 Community Health Baselines and Health Effects

4.3 Health Impact Risk Assessment

5.0 SOCIOECONOMIC IMPACTS AND ISSUES

5.1.1 Relationship of the Yucca Mountain EIS to Past DOE Impact Assessment Activities

5.2 Requirements for Socioeconomic Impact Assessment

5.2.1 Analysis of the Baseline Case

5.2.2 Description of the Proposed Action

5.2.4 The Level of Socioeconomic Analysis

5.2.5 Cumulative Effects

5.2.6 Waste Management Policy Assumptions

5.3 Overriding Issues to be Addressed by DOE's EIS

5.4 The Project Description

5.5 Public Services

5.6 Fiscal Impact Assessment

5.7 State Agencies, State Government, and Intergovernmental Relations

5.8 Risk Perception and Behavior

5.9 Urban Community Impacts

5.10 Rural Communities

5.11 Native American Communities

5.12 Avoidance of Negative Impacts, Mitigation, and Compensation

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6.0 TRANSPORTATION IMPACTS AND RISKS

6.1 General Comments on Yucca Mountain Transportation Impact Assessment

6.2 Types, Quantities, and Key Characteristics of Wastes to be Shipped to the Proposed Repository

6.3 Maximum Credible Number of Shipments of Each Waste Type Under Each Transportation Scenario

6.4 Transportation System Implications of Co-location of an Interim Storage Facility at or Near the Proposed Repository

6.5 Transportation System Implications of Elimination of the Current 70,000 MTU Limit on First Repository Emplacements

6.6 Modal Mix Issue

6.7 Route Selection Issues

6.8 Highway Routes

6.9 Rail Routes

6.10 Yucca Mountain Rail Access Issues

6.11 Transportation Risk Assessment Issues

6.12 Transportation Accident Liability Issues

6.13 Transportation Impacts on Highly Populated Areas Along Transportation Corridors

6.14 Transportation Impacts on Difficult-to-Evacuate Locations

6.15 Transportation Impacts on Economic Activities Sensitive to Public Perception of Risk

6.16 Transportation Impacts on Native American Lands, Religious Sites, Cultural Resources, and Off-Reservation Interests

6.17 Transportation Impacts on Environmentally Sensitive Areas

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7.0 CUMULATIVE IMPACTS

7.1 Civilian Spent Nuclear Fuel

7.2 DOE Spent Nuclear Fuel

7.3 High-Level Waste

7.4 Greater-Than-Class-C Waste

7.5 Special Case Waste

7.6 Special Nuclear Materials

7.7 Summary of Cumulative Environmental and Radiological Risks and Hazards Assessment

7.8 Relationship to Program Activities at the Nevada Test Site

7.8.1 Groundwater and Surface Soils Contamination at NTS and Surrounding Environs

7.8.2 Waste Disposal Activities at the Nevada Test Site and the Beatty Site

7.8.3 Cumulative Impacts To Surface, Atmospheric and Regional Groundwater Resources

8.0 LEGAL AND REGULATORY ISSUES

8.1 Constitutional Basis

8.2 10 CFR 60 Regulations

8.2.2 10 CFR 60.121 provides in part that:

8.3 Compensation for Diminution of Property Values

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1.0 INTRODUCTION

The State of Nevada has participated extensively in the EIS scoping process, including contributing comments and information for the record at 14 of the 15 scoping meetings. While there are certain portions of the statements that are common, we prepared these formal statements to highlight different issues at each meeting. The formal statements in combination with the other comments made by the Agency and contained in the written transcripts for each scoping meeting should be considered as part of the overall State of Nevada comments on the scope of the Yucca Mountain EIS.

The comments contained below are intended to assist DOE with the development of an EIS Implementation Plan that will result in a final National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) decision document that reflects the unique nature and scope of the Yucca Mountain program, adequately assesses impacts associated with the repository and related activities, and assures compliance with both the letter and spirit of NEPA.

In this regard, the State on Nevada reiterates its contention that a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the high-level radioactive waste (HLW) program should have been prepared prior to initiating the scoping process for the Yucca Mountain EIS. As we have commented in past correspondence on this matter, the State believes that the complexity of the federal HLW program requires the preparation of a PEIS, with EISs for related program elements tiered to the PEIS. By implementing separate and unrelated EISs for individual elements of the program (i.e., the MPC EIS and the Yucca Mountain EIS), in the absence of a PEIS, DOE is circumventing the intent of the National Environmental Policy Act.


1.1 History and Background for the Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement

In the Fall of 1987, the Department of Energy (DOE) put forth a framework for a Comprehensive Socioeconomic Plan. The framework involved integrating various impact assessment activities, including those related to the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a repository, in such a way as to assure a continuum of planning and impact assessment. The workshop where this framework was developed was followed up by an Institutional and Socioeconomic Coordinating Group (ISCG) meeting in December, 1987 where a schematic diagram was presented that graphically integrated DOE's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) planning with other activities. The program that was proposed at the ISCG meeting and subsequently adopted by DOE (at least for a brief time), sought to integrate data collection, data analysis, research, and related activities associated with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, DOE's Siting Guidelines, the National Environmental Policy Act, and site-specific local activities and issues. This approach would have resulted in a program that went beyond a narrowly focused NEPA analysis and would have included an interactive set of activities encompassing socioeconomic and environmental monitoring and mitigation plans, site suitability data collection and analysis, a decommissioning plan, the EIS Implementation Plan, and various "special studies" plans. The underlying concept was to develop a structure for data collection, analysis, and research that was at once comprehensive and mutually informative across a number of closely related areas and/or required activities.

This type of planning approach is what the Yucca Mountain EIS must encompass. The broad and unique scope of the Yucca Mountain program requires that the EIS be directly linked to other activities that have cross-cutting significance or that provide needed depth and context for EIS analyses and decision-making. In comments that the Agency for Nuclear Projects made with respect to the Comprehensive Socioeconomic Plan in 1987, we noted that "it is important not to conceptualize studies in a segmented fashion, but rather as elements of a process which is leading to a broad understanding of the socioeconomic effects of a repository. ... While all of the activities undertaken eventually lead (or should lead) to a comprehensive understanding of repository effects, there is an epigenetic relationship which exists between each individual study at the earliest level, to the more formal and integrated NEPA/EIS process, to the ideal of adequate 'understanding.'" The comments went on to point out that DOE should seek to "broaden the 'regulatory environment' (i.e., DOE's approach to EIS work) to adequately reflect the scope of endeavor required to address [unique] socioeconomic [and other] issues, rather than ... to 'screen' such issues to fit the current regulatory environment." These comments, while made more than eight years ago, remain relevant for the scope of the current EIS for Yucca Mountain.

Despite the apparent commitment to a comprehensive and integrated approach to impact assessment in 1987, DOE later released drafts of the Yucca Mountain Socioeconomic Monitoring and Mitigation Plan (SMMP) and Environmental Monitoring and Mitigation Plan (EMMP) that set forth an overly narrow, restrictive approach to impact identification and mitigation. State of Nevada comments on the draft SMMP noted that "the only way for the Department to know what impacts are occurring at any stage in the [repository] process is to establish a comprehensive baseline for economic, social, environmental, and other conditions within local communities affected by the repository and repository-related activities and within the State as a whole." The revised draft SMMP, released in the Spring of 1988, continued to reflect the original, overly narrow and restrictive approach and failed to demonstrate a commitment to comprehensive impact assessment.

The Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects found similar problems with the scope and adequacy of DOE's early approach to environmental impact assessment. Responding to the DOE draft EMMP in February, 1987, the Agency commented: "Not having a comprehensive understanding of either the existing environment ... or the attributes of the [repository] project that could result in impacts tends to discredit [DOE's] attempts at environmental protection. This plus the lack of an integrated approach to environmental program planning is cause for critics to have little confidence in the capabilities of DOE to conduct a scientifically sound appraisal of the environmental consequences of the Yucca Mountain project."

In 1990, DOE released a Draft Yucca Mountain Socioeconomic Plan which attempted to define the framework for data collection and analysis that would support DOE's work relative to EIS implementation, impact identification, and mitigation. In comments on that document, the State of Nevada pointed out that the Plan "represents a continuation of DOE's avoidance of crucial issues associated with impact assessment, monitoring, and mitigation, and it leaves unresolved almost all of the concerns that the State and local governments have been raising since 1985." In the letter transmitting the State's comments, it was pointed out that "before DOE will be able to approach ... impact identification in a manner even approximating what is adequate, there must be an acknowledgment that impact assessment begins with comprehensive baseline development and proceeds through a comprehensive process of objective analysis."

This brief historical digression demonstrates that there has been a consistent pattern to DOE's approach to socioeconomic and environmental planning and implementation. That pattern is characterized by a disturbing tendency toward minimalizing the impact identification and planning process, partializing studies and activities to obfuscate issues and avoid dealing with difficult issues, and avoiding requirements for comprehensive analyses and integrated planning. This, despite the fact that DOE acknowledged as early as 1987 that a comprehensive, integrated approach is essential for adequate impact assessment as well as for acceptable NEPA implementation.

The Notice of Intent (NOI) states that the Yucca Mountain EIS will be prepared over a five year period "to ensure that appropriate data gathering and tests are performed to adequately assess potential environmental impacts, and to allow the public sufficient time to consider this complex program and to provide input." Given the history of DOE's approach to the Yucca Mountain project and its failure to develop adequate baseline information, conduct impact assessment research, or put in place monitoring mechanisms over the past 12 years, it is unlikely that five years will be a sufficient period of time to develop the data and conduct the analyses necessary to adequately assess the impacts of this unique and highly complex program. The EIS should contain a clearly articulated plan for baseline data collection and impact identification and analyses that is not tied to an arbitrary five year time frame. The EIS should be planned so that its schedule reflects the actual time required for work to be done to assure the adequacy of the final EIS document and the critical decisions it must support.


1.2 Adequacy of the EIS Scoping Process and Meetings

The State of Nevada objects to the manner in which the scoping process has been handled, both in Nevada and elsewhere. The State is very concerned that the notices of the scoping meetings did not adequately describe the proposed action and its implications for people along transportation routes. DOE failed to indicate the true national scope of the high-level waste program and deliberately chose not to make people aware of the potential transportation routes through their communities - and the consequent risks from spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and HLW shipments - as part of the notices for scoping meetings. Failure to adequately inform potentially affected citizens of possible consequences of the proposed action for their communities created a situation where public participation in the EIS scoping process was suppressed, as evidenced by the poor turnout at most of the EIS scoping meetings.

In addition to DOE's failure to adequately notice the meetings and inform people along potential transportation routes of the possibility that they could be affected by transportation of spent fuel and high-level waste, the information contained in the NOI and DOE's information presentations at the beginning of each scoping meeting misrepresented and, in certain instances, distorted the Yucca Mountain program and its possible impacts. For example, no information was provided on the possible unfavorable conditions present at the Yucca Mountain site; the information on thermal load scenarios (i.e., the implementation alternatives contained in the NOI) failed to include any discussion of the relationship between thermal load, the space required for waste emplacement, and the capacity constraints at the Yucca Mountain site; inadequate information was provided on the relationship between regional (i.e., Nevada-specific) and national transportation impacts and analyses; and misleading information was provided regarding transportation regulations, waste volumes required to be transported, and the possible modes and routes for SNF and HLW transportation.

The combination of inadequate notices for the scoping meetings and the incomplete and often erroneous or misleading information presented by DOE in the NOI and at the meetings is serious enough to warrant requiring DOE to extend the scoping period and hold the scoping meetings again, this time giving adequate notice about how the Yucca Mountain project might affect people along transportation routes and providing complete and accurate information about the project and the actions covered by the NOI.


1.2.1 Relationship Between the Scoping Process Covered by the August 7, 1995 NOI and Any Future DOE EIS Activities

Given the budget constraints placed on DOE's Yucca Mountain program by the FY 1996 Energy and Water Development Appropriation Act, it appears likely that DOE will suspend further work on the Yucca Mountain EIS once the scoping comment period has closed on December 5, 1995. Such a suspension reinforces the State of Nevada's contention that the EIS scoping process must be started anew if the EIS is to adequately reflect the project it is intended to cover and to provide for the level of public input and participation anticipated under NEPA.

The need to revisit scoping is obvious in the event Congress redirects the high-level waste program towards interim storage or some other waste management alternative. Should any of the bills to amend or replace the Nuclear Waste Policy Act that are now before Congress become law, the program to be covered by this EIS would be so radically changed that it would no longer reflect the proposed action contained in the NOI. However, as noted above, the current scoping process is already flawed in a number of crucial ways. In addition, the Yucca Mountain program has already been altered as a result of congressional funding decisions and DOE's reallocation of resources in response to those decisions. The State of Nevada contends that a new EIS scoping process should be implemented if and before DOE moves forward with the development of an EIS Implementation Plan for Yucca Mountain.


1.3 Overall Scope of the Yucca Mountain EIS

The impacts associated with the proposed high-level radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, 80 miles from Las Vegas and about 2,500 miles from many eastern U.S. reactors, will affect the State of Nevada as well as at least 42 other states and hundreds of cities and communities located along highways and rail lines that would be used for waste transportation. The program that the Environmental Impact Statement must address is unprecedented for a federal project in its scope, time frame, and the geographical area it encompasses. It is also unique in that the EIS must address not only the more traditional effects of a large and complex project - impacts to the environment, to public health and safety, to area populations, and to state and local economies - but the EIS must also address those impacts that derive from the highly controversial nature of this activity and the fact that the program involves the handling, movement, and storage of nuclear materials. It is the nuclear nature of this project that makes it different from more traditional federal projects and requires the EIS to fully examine the full range of impacts (including those related to risk, risk perception, and stigma) in Nevada and in states and communities through which SNF and HLW must pass enroute to a Yucca Mountain repository. To be adequate, the final EIS must reflect this unique and unprecedented scope of analysis.


1.3.1. Retrieval Scenario

The EIS must also contain an analysis of the impacts of attempting to retrieve SNF and HLW from a Yucca Mountain repository after the repository has been loaded and possibly closed. The scenario should cover at-site impacts to workers and the environment from removing the waste, handling it prior to storage or transport, and moving it off-site. It should also cover the disposition of waste removed from the repository (i.e., where will it go once it is removed) and a "reverse emplacement" transportation analysis that assesses the impacts of shipping waste from Yucca Mountain to either alternative storage/disposal locations or back to reactors/generators. The NOI does not address the potential retrieval phase of repository operations. Because the Yucca Mountain program contains a 50 to 100 year retrieval phase, it is essential that the EIS address the impacts of retrieval-related activities not only in Nevada but nationally. It is suggested that another scenario be added to the EIS analysis to deal with the retrieval issue.


1.3.2. Native American Issues

The 1986 Environmental Assessment (EA) for Yucca Mountain stipulated that, "if the Yucca Mountain site is approved for site characterization, [Native American impacts] will receive appropriately detailed treatment in research to be performed during the Environmental Impact Statement process." The EA also made special note of the "potential for impacts on Native American cultures from [SNF and HLW] transportation activities" and stated that "this aspect will receive appropriately detailed treatment ... if Yucca Mountain is approved for site characterization." The EIS must, therefore, specifically address potential impacts to Native American communities in Nevada and in states through which SNF and HLW will be shipped enroute to a Yucca Mountain repository. Such impacts include effects on Native culture, economics, and infrastructures, emergency response/preparedness requirements, state-tribe relationship effects that may be caused by state routing or risk management decisions, implications for tribal sovereignty, Native land claim issues and impacts, and other areas potentially impacting Native peoples and communities. The EIS Implementation Plan should contain a detailed description of the activities to be undertaken, the data to be collected, and the analyses to be done to adequately evaluate potential effects of the Yucca Mountain program, including the transportation of spent fuel and high-level waste, on Native peoples and communities.


1.3.3. The No Action Alternative

As the NOI indicates, the EIS must contain an analysis of the No Action Alternative. Consideration of the No Action Alternative is required to provide a standard for comparing the environmental effects of the Proposed Action. According to the NOI, the Proposed Action includes the construction, operation, and eventual closure of a repository for 70,000 MTHM (Metric Tons Heavy Metals) of commercial and DOE-owned spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste. The Proposed Action also includes a full range of national and regional transportation options.

The analysis of the No Action Alternative must involve the same level of detail and analysis as for the Proposed Action. In this regard, the EIS should evaluate dry storage at reactors as an integral part of the No Action Alternative. The EIS should not assume, as DOE appeared to imply in comments at scoping meetings, that the No Action Alternative would mean that reactors would shut down when they run out of space in the spent fuel pools. This is NOT a viable or realistic scenario. Utilities are already employing dry storage and intra- and inter-utility transfers of spent fuel as storage strategies, and they will continue to do so in the absence of a viable repository or central storage facility. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has found that there is sufficient storage capacity industry-wide for utilities to store, at reactor locations, the entire inventory of spent fuel expected for the operating lives of reactors. The No Action Alternative must evaluate the use of at-reactor dry storage as an alternative to the Yucca Mountain repository.

Because the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain would be considered a new action, the No Action Alternative must be interpreted as DOE not acting at all. This means no repository and no transportation of nuclear wastes. Thus, it would seem that the EIS must compare benefits, costs, and risks of the Proposed Action to the No Action Alternative. While the details of such a discussion in the EIS depend on the circumstances, we would argue that there are certain generic issues that must be considered. For example, the language in the NOI suggests that spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste would continue to be managed for the "foreseeable future" at existing (at-reactor) commercial storage sites. Yet the meaning of "foreseeable future" is not defined in the NOI. Ideally, the foreseeable future should be defined as the time spanning the expected licensing period specified for approved NRC on-site dry cask storage units, (i.e., 40 to 100 years). By providing this analysis in the EIS, DOE would be developing the standard for comparing the environmental effects of the Proposed Action (building the repository) against the No Action Alternative, which for the "foreseeable future" is on-site dry cask storage for up to 100 years.

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2.0 SCOPE ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES


2.1. Background

Choices about what knowledge to base public decisions on and how the knowledge is used influence human society. With respect to protecting the environment, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) focuses on this concept and seeks to improve the use of knowledge in public affairs, such as disposing of nuclear waste. In the context of the DOE Yucca Mountain Project, this aspect of NEPA is of paramount importance because of the many uncertainties associated with isolating nuclear waste for potentially 1 million years. Fortunately, the timing for the Yucca Mountain environmental impact statement (EIS) coincides with a transition in federal environmental policy that is making the resource management process more open to stakeholder participation and collaborative decisionmaking. This ongoing initiative stands to benefit stakeholders in the Yucca Mountain Project by making available knowledge relative to the NEPA process that otherwise might have been denied, but only if DOE adheres to the current environmental policies established by the Secretary of Energy in 1994.

The seeds within DOE for the transition away from autocratic, closed environmental decisionmaking driven by the desire to make proposed projects succeed are the Secretarial Policy on the National Environmental Policy Act of June 13, 1994 and DOE's December 21, 1994, Land and Facility Use Policy. The latter, issued by the Secretary of Energy and explained in the DOE document, Department of Energy - Stewards of a National Resource, is a resource stewardship policy that invokes ecosystem management to integrate DOE's mission, economics, ecologic, social, and cultural factors. The intent is to prepare a comprehensive resource management plan for each DOE site, which should include Yucca Mountain. Other federal agencies took steps to adopt ecosystem management in complying with the White House National Performance Review that called for agencies to adopt "a proactive approach to ensuring a sustainable economy and a sustainable environment through ecosystem management." The action steps for accomplishing this were set forth in The Ecosystem Approach: Healthy Ecosystems and Sustainable Economies, the June 1995 report of the Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force, a report which participating agencies, including DOE, agreed to implement.

In the past, effective policies were lacking within DOE for creating and providing knowledge for the public and for opening the agency's environmental decisionmaking process. This was despite NEPA's mandate for federal agencies (a) to utilize a systematic, interdisciplinary approach to protecting the environment, (b) to ensure the integrated use of environmental information in planning and decisionmaking, and (c) to initiate and use ecological information in the planning and development of resource-oriented projects. This approach was meant by NEPA to be implemented through EISs for projects that might significantly affect the human environment for both present and future generations.

Through the emergence of initiatives such as ecosystem management, it is now federal policy that the public be provided the knowledge envisioned and explicitly mandated by NEPA. This essentially moral framework gives the links between knowledge and action that must be forged under the NEPA Section 102 mandate. This is part of the ethical dimension explicitly written into NEPA that calls for results conditioned by context-specific knowledge including input from affected parties (stakeholders) and by the ethical concerns articulated in NEPA Section 101. Thus, in view of DOE's commitment to comply with the substantive spirit of NEPA and to adopt ecosystem management, it is crucial that these policies be reflected in the EIS Implementation Plan (IP) and achieved by the EIS for the Yucca Mountain Project.

A policy conceptually related to ecosystem management is the November 19, 1993, Common Sense Initiative undertaken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The ecosystem management initiative adopted by DOE and the EPA, and the EPA's Common Sense Initiative share a recognition that ecosystems are an integrated system of air, water, land, and biota requiring holistic environmental management. These initiatives also recognize that human society, ethics, and democratic principles regarding protection of resources are rapidly moving away from the traditional adversarial relationship with federal agencies and toward opening environmental decisionmaking to stakeholders in collaboration with government.

A preview of DOE's response to the ecosystem management initiative illustrated the developing awareness within the federal government of its responsibilities to the public regarding environmental information and decisionmaking. A subsequent description of DOE's current policy regarding the ecosystem management initiative will appear early in 1996 in "The Federal Ecosystem Management Initiative," in The Environmental Professional 18: 1-235, 1996. Both presentations discuss the importance of DOE's ecosystem management policy and note that NEPA "gave the nation an environmental mandate but no definite plan to achieve environmental goals. Now, the ecosystem approach offers a plan to move towards achievement of essentially the same environmental goals." Additionally, DOE views implementation of ecosystem management as part of the agency's pursuit of Environmental Total Quality Management (TQM). Environmental TQM is viewed by DOE headquarters as being equivalent to ecosystem management in that both concepts seek to sustain ecosystems for supporting economic development and communities for future generations (i.e., sustainable development). This is evident in DOE's adoption of the same framework for ecosystem management to achieve sustainable development as that set forth by the White House, which is:

The framework established by DOE's Land and Facility Use Policy should apply to the NEPA process for the Yucca Mountain Project. This much has been acknowledged by the project's management. In this letter, Mr. Barnes, the project manager for the Yucca Mountain Project, asserts that ecosystem management is and always has been practiced by the DOE at Yucca Mountain. Yet Mr. Barnes also asserts that the site-wide resource management plan being prepared by the Nevada Test Site (NTS), in accordance with principles of ecosystem management consistent with the Secretary's resource management policy does not apply to the Yucca Mountain Project. Moreover, Mr. Barnes stated that there is no intention to prepare such a management plan for the project. This contradicts his assertion that the Yucca Mountain Project embodies the ecosystem management concepts.

Over the years that the Yucca Mountain Project's environmental program has been underway, the State of Nevada and the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board have consistently faulted the program because it lacks an ecosystem approach to environmental protection. Instead, the program relies on a piecemeal, compartmentalized approach based on population biology and community ecology totally without benefit of interdisciplinary integration. This is the result of (a) environmental management that is unqualified in EIA and ecosystem management regarding compliance with the substantive spirit of NEPA, and (b) support contractors who are equally unqualified with respect to the scientific as well as the ethical aspects of environmental practice.

Thus, the Yucca Mountain environmental program lacks scientific integrity and credibility due in part to the absence of environmental professionals capable of interdisciplinary teamwork and bound to codes of environmental ethics and best standards of professional environmental practice. To its credit, the NTS environmental program, on the other hand, benefits from qualified environmental management. This accounts for the NTS's adoption of ecosystem management upon which to base resource management planning in the course of complying with NEPA on a site-wide basis, except for the portion of the site occupied by the Yucca Mountain Project. Unfortunately, the Yucca Mountain Project environmental documentation process fails to require attention to scientific, ethical, and professional precepts in complying with the NEPA process. This situation exists in part because of the September 1, 1994, Memorandum of Agreement between the DOE Nevada Operations Office and the Yucca Mountain Project Office that sets the two apart with respect to environmental protection, compliance decisionmaking, and the NEPA process.

As noted, the Yucca Mountain NEPA compliance program is driven by the desire to implement the project, i.e., build a repository at Yucca Mountain. As a consequence of the pre-determined decision that the site is suitable, little importance is likely to be given to the EIA planning process regarding cognitive reform measures implicit in DOE's Secretarial Policy on the National Environmental Policy Act and in the Land and Facility Management Policy, the latter of which explicitly embraces ecosystem management and collaborative environmental decisionmaking between DOE and its stakeholders. However, the preparation of the Yucca Mountain EIS IP will provide DOE the opportunity to redress this and other shortcomings of its environmental program.

The manner in which EIA and the EIS planning processes are undertaken for the Yucca Mountain Project represents a major determinant of the outcome of the NEPA process because planning for the EIS IP plays a central role in structuring and applying knowledge to carry out EIA to support environmental decision making. Adequate implementation planning must assure that all practical alternatives within the project will be pursued in light of sufficient, credible scientific information for EIA and long-term environmental protection. This requires an effective interdisciplinary approach to EIA for (a) acquiring empirical baseline information, (b) acquiring empirical information about potential adverse impacts of the proposed action, (c) reducing EIA uncertainties through environmental risk analysis, and (d) developing adequate plans for monitoring, managing, and mitigating potential negative impacts for up to 1 million years. The only manner by which the last requirement can be achieved over such a great time span is by strict adherence to impact avoidance.

In the past, DOE has relied heavily on subjective "expert" judgement for its EIA process instead of pursuing empirical and quantitative approaches. Consequently, views regarding impacts failed to rely on systematic, empirically based findings and instead were derived from personal opinion. This problem has been further compounded by the absence of any formal methodology for treating subjective judgement for EIA and for maintaining a sound, defendable basis for inference and decisionmaking. Without a consistent means of guiding the application of personal opinion through the Yucca Mountain EIA process, a critical source of uncertainty and imprecision is left to degrade the predictive credibility of the process and procedures that created the project's EIS, and ultimately the EIS itself. This flawed scenario continues to be pursued by the Yucca Mountain Project.

If the DOE continues to assert, as Mr. Barnes did, that its environmental program at Yucca Mountain is based on ecosystem management without first restructuring the environmental program, in the end, the EIA process will rely on subjective opinion that is neither visible nor formal to the extent that current practice and the ecosystem approach to environmental management dictate. In this case, environmental impact analysts will have failed to separate objective fact from personal opinion and instead, will switch between the two conditions as the need arises to falsely justify a predetermined decision to develop the project. This situation would thus repeat the mistakes evident throughout the DOE's 1986 statutory EA for the Yucca Mountain site. Such a strategy, which the Yucca Mountain environmental program currently is repeating, will fail to convince stakeholders of DOE's good faith in carrying out EIA as well as call into question the credibility of the EIS on grounds of not conforming to the norms of sufficiency. If this scenario prevails, DOE ultimately will compound and perpetuate its lack of integrity regarding the NEPA process because the Yucca Mountain EIS will not be scientifically supportable. Thus, in the end, the EIS will lack credibility and fail to achieve "full compliance with the letter and spirit of" NEPA as stipulated by the Secretarial Policy on the National Environmental Policy Act.

The complimentary policy frameworks of NEPA and of ecosystem management offer DOE an opportunity to furnish stakeholders with the knowledge needed for responsible environmental decisionmaking for the Yucca Mountain Project. Ecosystem management principles are consistent with NEPA's policy, and their implementation in the Yucca Mountain Project would provide stakeholders the basis for obtaining information necessary for social choice that more readily allows ethically based, rational decisionmaking. Thus, knowledge provided by DOE through the NEPA process should create links between the affected public and federal resource management policy. As noted later, this is being achieved by other federal agencies in the Yucca Mountain region (i.e., the Department of Defense, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and the USDA Forest Service) and by DOE itself for the NTS. The Yucca Mountain Project stands as an exception to how public land and resources are being managed by the federal government throughout southern Nevada, as illustrated in Figure 2-1.

Achieving NEPA's ethical policy goals for the Yucca Mountain Project will require a new environmental rationality and ethic that historically has been missing from DOE's NEPA process. Fostering greater environmental sensitivity in planning and decisionmaking is essential for the Yucca Mountain Project if DOE headquarters and the Secretary wish to be taken seriously with respect to its new ecosystem-based Land and Facility Management Policy.


2.2 Purpose of the Comments

Environmental documentation within the DOE has been routinely prepared to justify decisions already made, and the Yucca Mountain Project appears to be following that tradition. The following comments recognize that fact and discuss how this must be avoided in the course of pursuing legitimate environmental impact assessment for the Yucca Mountain Project EIS. The intent of the State of Nevada is that the issues raised here be explicitly dealt with by DOE in its EIS implementation plan for the project. If DOE fails to do so, its NEPA process will be seen by the State of Nevada and others as another token, insufficient compliance effort that is fundamentally flawed, lacks credibility, and ignores the stakeholders in the process.


2.3 NEPA Process and Review

The national policy set forth by NEPA encourages (a) harmony between man and the environment, (b) minimizing harm to the environment, (c) fostering man's well being, and (d) enhancing knowledge about ecosystems. Included among the goals protecting the environment for the benefit of future generations. These are important substantive objectives that an EIS IP for a repository at Yucca Mountain must address. To assure that is done, the DOE should upgrade its NEPA process by incorporating valid independent peer review of the EIS IP and the draft and final EISs for the Yucca Mountain Project. The issue of independent peer review of EIA and the EIS and how it will be handled must appear in the EIS IP.


2.4 Qualified Interdisciplinary Expertise

Another important aspect of NEPA that must be evident in the EIS IP is that an EIS must be prepared by an interdisciplinary team (40 CFR 1502.6), not simply by a group of people with different disciplinary backgrounds. To date, the DOE has not established such a team, and instead, is pursuing a rigidly compartmentalized approach. The EIS IP must demonstrate how the necessary methodology, scientific accuracy, and professional integrity (40 CFR 1502.24) will be achieved for the Yucca Mountain Project EIS and what expertise will be involved (40 CFR 1502.17).

This issue is especially important with respect to DOE's excessive reliance on contractors to fulfill its NEPA responsibilities. In the case of the Yucca Mountain Project, the DOE has minimal environmental expertise among its staff, a critical matter in terms of achieving appropriate oversight of the work performed by environmental contractors. It is interesting to note that, with respect to high priority projects that "present unusually controversial or sensitive issues," such as the Yucca Mountain Project, heavy reliance on support contractors is counter to the Secretarial Policy on the National Environmental Policy Act. The policy states in Section IV.A that DOE "personnel rather than contractors will be used, to the maximum extent practicable."


2.5 Council on Environmental Quality

Another means of achieving credibility and public trust is for DOE to request assistance from the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which becomes involved when there is a threat of the NEPA process or its outcome being fundamentally at odds with NEPA's mandate.13 Such a threat clearly exists due to the unique time frame that the Yucca Mountain EIS must address and NEPA's mandate regarding responsibilities to future generations. A particularly relevant part of this concern is DOE's persistent refusal to adopt an ecosystem approach to understanding the long-term consequences of a heat-disturbed ecosystem above the repository.

A related reason for the CEQ to become involved in the NEPA process is the inability of DOE to responsibly address cumulative impacts in the time frame of 1,000 to 1,000,000 years regarding anticipated releases of radionuclides into the groundwater under Yucca Mountain and releases of carbon-14 into the atmosphere. For DOE as an institution, cumulative impact assessment (40 CFR 1508.7) has always been a difficult and neglected aspect of the EIA process. In this respect, the CEQ is committed to working with federal agencies to find ways to deal with the issues. How DOE will take advantage of this opportunity should be reflected in the Yucca Mountain EIS IP.


2.6 Cumulative Impacts, Connected Actions, and Segmentation

In DOE's NEPA process, cumulative impacts (40 CFR 1508.7) typically are ignored or brushed aside with cursory personal opinion that such effects will not occur. In the case of potential long-term radiation health impacts from the proposed Yucca Mountain repository, the EIS IP must address cumulative effects that are supported by credible scientific data and analysis. Adequate peer review of the Yucca Mountain NEPA process should focus on the assessment of cumulative impacts.

Additionally, 40 CFR 1508.25 states that an agency should analyze "connected actions" in one EIS. The CEQ regulations are directed at avoiding improper segmentation, where 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 EIS IP for the Yucca Mountain Project must address this matter with respect to the disconnected EIA between the regional environmental resource management plan underway for the NTS site-wide EIS and the Yucca Mountain Project. This is especially important with respect to (a) groundwater issues, (b) past testing of nuclear weapons at NTS, and (c) the ongoing environmental restoration program at NTS.


2.7 Truly Significant, Reasonably Foreseeable Long-Term Impacts

With respect to NEPA's focus on cognitive reform regarding understanding ecosystems, the Yucca Mountain EIS IP must provide for the improved utilization of knowledge of ecosystems and their resources. This is because potentially adverse environmental and human health consequences are associated with the "truly significant" issue (40 CFR 1500.1) of "reasonably foreseeable", long-term impacts (40 CFR 1502.22) of a repository on the ecosystem above the facility and the secondary impacts of an altered ecosystem on repository performance. At sufficiently high thermal loads of nuclear waste, the ecosystem is likely to experience impacts from the heat of radioactive decay. Coupled with anticipated increases in ambient temperature resulting from global climate change (warming), higher temperatures will induce ecosystem responses that are not understood for the Yucca Mountain ecosystem. The EIS IP therefore must contain provisions for understanding how increased temperatures both above and beneath the ground surface at Yucca Mountain will affect the environment (40 CFR 1502.15 and 1508.8) and how the environmental consequences (40 CFR 1508.16) will influence protection or impact mitigation (40 CFR 1508.20) with respect to resources such as groundwater for future generations.

Thus, in keeping with NEPA's mandate for creating knowledge about ecosystems, the DOE is challenged to understand how the ecosystem at Yucca Mountain will respond to dual sources of heat stress and how in turn altered ecosystem conditions might influence 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) must be empirical, quantitative, and should be made available within the period being allocated by DOE for preparing the EIS. The challenge cannot be met with DOE's traditional application of subjective expert judgement to EIA in cases of unavailable information (40 CFR 1508.22). Plans for resolving this issue in a manner that withstands independent expert peer review must be presented in the EIS IP.


2.8 Succeeding (Future) Generations

Many EISs prepared by DOE do little to substantively protect the environment, particularly with regard to future generations where, aside from operational accidents, most of the threat posed by geologic disposal of nuclear wastes lies. In the case of the Yucca Mountain Project, consideration of long-term cumulative impacts to the environment and therefore to humans is a "truly significant" issue that the NEPA process must address (40 CFR 1500.1 and the Secretarial Policy on the National Environmental Policy Act). The undeniable knowledge that such consequences eventually will materialize poses a fundamental conflict with NEPA's mandate that each generation be a trustee of the environment for succeeding generations. This is an issue that the EIS IP must confront and set forth the means for resolving via EIA and the NEPA process.


2.9 Supplemental Information

As noted above, the Yucca Mountain environmental program has been faulted over the years by oversight bodies for not initiating ecosystem-based studies necessary for understanding the long-term consequences that a repository might have on future generations. The need for such studies is critical. If it is too late to gain quantitative empirical insight on that issue in accordance with DOE's current NEPA schedule, then the EIS IP should present plans for obtaining the information and presenting it later in a supplemental statement (40 CFR 1502.9(c)(1)). Ongoing research of a related nature regarding global warming demonstrates that such studies are feasible, that significant adverse impacts are reasonably foreseeable, and that the costs of acquiring such information are not exorbitant.


2.10 Environmental Risk Analysis

Central to NEPA is the ability to make predictions about environmental outcomes resulting from alternative courses of action such as thermal loading scenarios for a repository at Yucca Mountain. The soundness of decisionmaking is dependent on this predictive capability. In turn, the soundness of the very long-term predictions that the Yucca Mountain Project faces, depends on the inclusiveness, representativeness, and explanatory power of simulation models derived from sound, empirical information. Gaps in knowledge should be eliminated wherever possible. Decisionmaking, 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 EIA for the Yucca Mountain Project and that is unlikely to be resolved by risk assessment must be made clear in the EIS by a methodology presented in the EIS IP.

Functional characteristics of ecosystems are important components of ecosystem health and are closely related to resource management goals. For this reason, it is important to assure the long-term protection of ecosystem function as well as ecosystem structure. The best way to assess the protection of ecosystem function is to develop models to predict effects of stress on function, to make decisions among alternatives, and to determine preventative action based on the model's predictions. The importance of establishing methods for determining ecosystem function and resilience transcends scientific interest because methods are important to environmental risk managers as tools needed to predict impacts and protect sustained societal use of ecosystems and long-term productivity. Increased awareness of information on ecosystem function and new ways of viewing ecosystem protection will improve the decisions made under NEPA.

Ecological risk assessment is a scientific process for estimating with a known degree of certainty, human effects on the integrity of ecosystems, i.e., ecological function and resilience. At this stage of the Yucca Mountain Project, there is extensive scientific uncertainty with respect to the potential threat that excessive heat associated with thermal loading would pose to the ecosystem and in turn to the performance of a repository at Yucca Mountain. Ecological risk analysis should be used by DOE to reduce that uncertainty and the approach to its use should be part of a long-term ecosystem study plan presented in the EIS IP. Otherwise, the DOE must pursue the worse-case scenario for a repository at Yucca Mountain that could result from a combination of global climate change and a high thermal load.

The steps in this risk-approach are for the DOE to (a) define the end point conditions that must be protected, (b) characterize the environment that will exist under global warming, and (c) assess the hazard to the Yucca Mountain ecosystem that will result from thermal loading and threaten repository performance and the long-term health of the groundwater and future generations. The extensive uncertainty that presently exists in all three steps can be reduced only by empirical scientific data. Any effort to resolve the uncertainties by subjective opinion alone will be unsatisfactory. Thus, it is essential that DOE present plans in the EIS IP for an ecosystem-based approach in the context of ecosystem management. This will provide the capability for reducing EIA uncertainty with respect to the thermal loading issue through the use of predictive models of long-term ecosystem outcome.


2.11 Environmental Life Cycle Assessment

In 1993, the U.S. EPA took steps to encourage the application of environmental life cycle assessment to waste management activities. Life cycle assessment is a holistic approach that analyzes the entire system around waste disposal. Applied to the Yucca Mountain Project, it would encompass resources used for manufacturing nuclear waste canisters and transporting the waste to a repository, as well as repository construction, operation, and closure. All the downstream and upstream effects of the operation of waste disposal would be factored into EIA to provide a holistic view of the environmental consequences associated with the Yucca Mountain Project.

This would be a departure from DOE's current piecemeal, compartmentalized approach to the NEPA process. Such a procedure could be initiated by integrating EIA into DOE's systems engineering program. This would permit the systems engineering analyses to address alternatives within the project that would allow the best environmental decisions to be made to the benefit of the holistic repository program. To this end, the EIS IP should present a framework for environmental life-cycle assessment that would assure environmental decisionmaking in both the full and long-term context of the repository program.


2.12 Resource Management

As noted earlier, the White House has instructed federal agencies to adopt ecosystem management as the basis for protecting public land and resources. The DOE, while tardy in adopting the ecosystem approach, has now joined the other federal agencies in doing so. The first DOE site to take steps in this respect was the NTS where a site-wide EIS, now in preparation, will encompass a resource management plan based on ecosystem management. It is unfortunate the Yucca Mountain Project has excluded itself from this activity and vows not to initiate resource management activities. This is particularly unfortunate, given that all public lands adjacent to and surrounding Yucca Mountain are being managed in accordance with ecosystem management.

The letter from Mr. Barnes asserted that the project already has incorporated the principles and concepts of ecosystem management into its program. As evidence of this, Mr. Barnes refers to the Yucca Mountain Project Environmental Management Plan, YMP/93-04, and the Yucca Mountain Project Annual Site Environmental Report procedure as reflecting the principles of ecosystem management and sufficing for the project's compliance with such DOE policies as the Secretarial Policy on the National Environmental Policy Act and the agency's Land and Facility Use Policy. Neither of the documents cited by Barnes has been revised to reflect an ecosystem approach consistent with either of the Secretary of Energy's policies regarding such matters.

Because the Yucca Mountain Project has ignored independent expert advice about adopting an ecosystem approach to its environmental program20, the EIS IP for the project should explain its rationale for "complying" with the Land and Facility Use Policy that states, "Our (land) stewardship will be based on the principles of ecosystem management and sustainable development."


2.13 Post-closure Project Monitoring

The DOE's Yucca Mountain environmental program has conducted environmental monitoring meant to detect significant adverse impacts of site characterization activities. Because monitoring did not commence sufficiently before environmental disturbance activities began, there is not adequate environmental baseline information reflecting natural temporal variability against which to compare the results of the site characterization effects monitoring. Moreover, the limited monitoring that has occurred is too thinly spread over the diverse transitional desert ecotone at Yucca Mountain to credibly characterize environmental conditions. Additionally, with such limited monitoring, it is not possible to separate human perturbations from natural temporal environmental variability characteristic of ecosystems. Thus, observed conditions cannot be attributed to either human intervention or to wide-ranging natural differences in temporal patterns, in which case for the Yucca Mountain Project, the monitoring data are not credible for EIA predictions.

The DOE sought to correct this situation by altering the monitoring design while at the same time curtailing environmental monitoring activities, all to no avail. Despite these shortcomings, the Yucca Mountain Project plans to base EIA for the repository EIS on a restricted amount of environmental information.

It is, therefore, essential that the EIS IP explain the rationale behind this impact assessment scheme and how the DOE perceives the information can be made statistically credible in the face of its present limitations. This will provide the DOE with an opportunity to address the assertions by Mr. Barnes that the field program is consistent with an ecosystem approach. The description in the EIS IP of the environmental monitoring and the EIA activities currently underway, and defended by the DOE as being adequate, will provide DOE the opportunity to address issues of long-term thermal impacts on the ecosystem at Yucca Mountain and the potential threat to repository performance. The EIS IP also should explain how the environmental program will compensate for the lack of process-based ecosystem simulation modeling necessary for predicting long-term impacts to the Yucca Mountain ecosystem.


2.14 Policy and Guidance for the NEPA Process

The EIS IP must list and discuss the policies and guidance (e.g., from the DOE Office of NEPA Oversight) to be followed regarding NEPA compliance for the Yucca Mountain EIS. Because of the statutory directive to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to adopt DOE's EIS to the extent practicable, the EIS IP must also include how the NRC's NEPA policy and guidance will be addressed.

Ongoing site characterization activities heavily rely on numerous requirements documents that guide the Yucca Mountain Project. The role that these and similar requirements will play in describing all phases of the proposed action (construction, operation, closure, post-closure monitoring) and carrying out EIA for NEPA compliance also must be identified and discussed in the EIS IP. The EIS IP should be clear about the role and use of this information in guiding EIA for the repository project.

With respect to compliance with other environmental regulatory requirements, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, a statement in the EIS IP and ultimately in the EIS itself that the proposed action will be in compliance with applicable regulations, DOE Orders, and NRC licensing will not substitute for a presentation of impacts. The adage that "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" is true with respect to ecosystem-based EIA. Thus, credible and responsible NEPA compliance requires a holistic, ecosystem approach to EIA, whereas media-based environmental regulations address only restricted components of the integrated environment. The EIS IP must demonstrate DOE's recognition that NEPA is the only environmental law requiring holistic, integrated environmental impact assessment. The DOE's Land and Facility Use Policy and the Secretarial Policy on the National Environmental Policy Act states: "Full compliance with the letter and spirit of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), our national charter for protection of the environment, is an essential priority for the Department of Energy, consistent with our core values."

Back to INDEX


3.0 SCOPE TECHNICAL ISSUES


3.1 Repository Area and Capacity

The Notice of Intent states that the proposed action is "to construct, operate and eventually close a repository at Yucca Mountain for the geologic disposal of up to 70,000 MTHM of commercial and DOE-owned spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste."

Information obtained from Wendy Dixon, EIS Project Manager, in the September 15, 1995, scoping meeting at Las Vegas, Nevada, indicates that the proposed action includes a repository with a fixed capacity of 70,000 MTHM, rather than "up to 70,000 MTHM." This difference has great significance in the EIS's description of the proposed action and alternatives, because, if the repository capacity is fixed at 70,000 MTHM, then the underground area of the repository must be variable to accommodate the different thermal load alternatives. It is also the case that if the area of the repository is held constant within a fixed boundary, as has been the general working assumption throughout site characterization to date, then the capacity of the Yucca Mountain repository would be variable over a wide range, mostly below 70,000 MTHM.

This matter of capacity versus repository area must be resolved in the EIS Implementation Plan because it is fundamental to evaluating the potential impacts of the three stated repository alternatives, the packaging options, and decisions regarding selection of the No Action Alternative. But, the thermal loading decision is not a management decision alone. It can only be made through site studies that lead to determinations of acceptable waste isolation performance at the various alternative thermal loading levels.

A repository capacity fixed at 70,000 MTHM would maximize the potential impacts of waste handling, packaging, and transportation for evaluation in the EIS. But, depending on the results of site study and testing, the fixed-capacity plan could greatly complicate the repository evaluation and may not represent the maximum potential impact, depending on the thermal load selected. This is because it is not known whether a hotter repository at Yucca Mountain provides better or worse waste isolation performance than a cooler repository. If a cooler repository is found to be the option that provides the performance required, then a great deal more site study and assessment will be required than is currently planned, since the repository area will have to be expanded, probably across potentially limiting structural boundaries, to meet the required capacity.

In regard to repository capacity, an additional repository alternative should be considered in the Yucca Mountain EIS. This additional alternative is for a repository that would contain the approximately 85,000 MTHM of spent nuclear fuel expected to be produced by commercial power reactors by the year 2035, as well as the spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste now in DOE's possession and that which is expected to be in its possession by 2035. This is said to amount to a total of about 110,000 MTHM spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste.

This alternative to accommodate the complete known inventory of high-level nuclear waste should be considered, despite the Nuclear Waste Policy Act limitation on licensing the first repository for no more than 70,000 MTHM until a second repository is developed. This is a foreseeable alternative, since waste in excess of 70,000 MTHM will exist and, under current policy, will require deep geologic disposal. Regardless of whether DOE has current jurisdiction to develop a repository for greater than 70,000 MTHM at Yucca Mountain, the alternative is legitimate for consideration because the NEPA regulations (40 CFR Part 1502.14) state that the EIS section on alternatives "shall (c) include reasonable alternatives not within the jurisdiction of the lead agency."

The 1995 Site Atlas for the Yucca Mountain Site Characterization Project contains a map of Potentially Useable Areas beyond the approximate current repository boundary (Vol. I, page 10.9). However, this map is from a 1984 Sandia report. Therefore, it is not based on current site information and will be of little or no use in evaluating the potential performance or impacts of an expanded repository area.

Results of underground thermal testing, testing which has yet to begin, could help resolve the thermal load issue; however, these results likely will not be available for at least a decade. To select among the three thermal loading alternatives stated in the Notice of Intent prior to having a technical basis for the selection would be arbitrary and could irreversibly jeopardize the safety of a Yucca Mountain repository.

The cost and limited utility of a significantly lower capacity repository than now planned, or the additional cost of characterizing and developing a repository significantly larger than planned ultimately may affect the comparison of the Proposed Action and the No Action Alternative.


3.2 Waste Package and Waste Characterization

The Notice of Intent describes two packaging options and states that under both options, spent fuel assemblies and canisters with intact seals would be placed in disposal containers at the repository. The multi-purpose canister (MPC) option, as currently described by DOE, is a 75 or 125 ton sealed metal canister that would be placed in a disposal overpack for in-drift emplacement in the repository. The smaller MPC would contain 12 PWR (Pressurized Water Reactor) assemblies or 24 BWR (Boiling Water Reactor) assemblies, and the large MPC would contain 21 PWR assemblies and 44 BWR assemblies. Pursuit of NRC certification and an EIS for use of the MPC have recently been abandoned by DOE, but may be continued by the U.S. Navy for use with naval reactor spent fuel. The capacity of the MPC for naval reactor fuel is unknown and probably quite variable because of the many different assembly designs employed in naval reactors.

The second option involves transporting spent fuel assemblies to the repository and sealing them in a canister for repository emplacement. There is no description of the capacity of these canisters in the Notice of Intent. Glassified high-level radioactive waste will be contained in sealed canisters that are placed in disposal containers at the repository. The Notice of Intent says: "DOE recognizes that it is likely that a mix of spent nuclear fuel assemblies and canisters (and canister systems) of spent nuclear fuel and vitrified high-level radioactive waste would arrive at the repository during disposal operations." It then states that the mix is "speculative." This important element of repository impact evaluation cannot remain "speculative" in the EIS.

In the EIS, the waste packages and mix of waste packages must be described sufficiently to permit a project description which includes the waste package emplacement mode, distribution in the repository, transport and handling mode, internal and external structural strength, emergency handling procedures, retrieval mode and procedure, interaction with the expected near-field repository environment and package degradation rate, and interaction with the radiation and neutron flux from the spent fuel.

It is equally important that the characteristics of the spent fuel assemblies in the disposal packages be known. This includes the original fuel enrichment, the burn-up, the age out-of-reactor, the fuel weight (MTHM), the cladding and assembly materials and condition, and the spent fuel composition. These characteristics must be known sufficiently to permit a project description that includes the thermal characteristics of the waste packages (and ultimately the repository thermal load), the potential for criticality at all pre- and post-closure repository stages and conditions, the rate of assembly and cladding degradation, the solubility and dissolution rate of the spent fuel components, the decay characteristics of the spent fuel, and ultimately, the repository source term.

Information about the waste packages for, and the characteristics of vitrified high-level radioactive waste must also be known at the equivalent level of detail as that for spent fuel. The description should also take into account the issue of borosilicate glass hydration in the Yucca Mountain repository environment.

In addition to the evaluation of packaging options described in the Notice of Intent, the EIS should independently evaluate alternative waste package designs, sizes, and modes of emplacement relative to repository waste isolation performance. The selection of a convenient package for waste transport and storage should not be the driving factor in repository design, because the waste package has significant implications for repository safety and performance that must be maximized in order to mitigate impacts of the repository. The independent evaluation of waste package and emplacement alternatives called for here is nothing less than that required by NRC in 10 CFR Part 60 regarding evaluation of repository design alternatives.

The waste package and fuel characterization evaluation is a daunting, yet necessary task - daunting because of the many different nuclear fuel designs involved with different enrichments, burn-ups, and in- and out-of-reactor histories - necessary because these elements of the project description are integral to any total system repository performance assessment, and ultimately the evaluation of potential impacts of a repository.


3.3 Time Period for Consideration

The Notice of Intent does not provide information on the time period over which impacts of the repository will be considered. This determination is necessary for both a complete project description and a full evaluation of the potential impacts. Different time periods could be selected in response to different bases for selection.

If the primary basis is the duration of the hazard from radiation, the time period might be as little as 1,000 years based on the decay of the most highly radioactive fission products. It might be on the order of 10,000 years, based on the time at which the spent fuel will have decayed to a level of radioactivity similar to the natural uranium ore deposit from which the fuel was made, although the radionuclide composition will be different. It might also be on the order of over 100,000 years, based on the peak potential individual dose from repository releases. Or, it might be on the order of a million or more years, based on the decay of the very long-lived radionuclides in spent fuel. Criteria for the acceptable level of hazard would have to be established to make a time period determination.

If, on the other hand, the primary basis for determining the period of consideration is the period during which the integrity of the geologic barrier can be expected to be predictable, it might be on the order of 10,000 to over one million years, depending on the level of uncertainty that is determined to be acceptable.

In the EIS Implementation Plan, DOE should develop a set of alternatives for different periods of impact evaluation based on differing criteria, and then analyze and compare the alternatives. A time period can then be selected and presented in the Draft EIS with an explicit rationale for why the alternative was selected. Reviewers of the Draft EIS can then comment on the selection and rationale.


3.4 Repository Seals and Backfill

The project description must include a description of repository and exploratory borehole seals and an evaluation of the design alternatives considered. Technologies for sealing boreholes and ramps and drifts exist, but for repository use some new technology may need to be developed. According to a 1994 Sandia report "Deficiencies currently do exist in technologies that demonstrate the long-term durability and performance of seal components. Case histories do not currently exist that demonstrate the placement of seal components in greatly elevated thermal and high-radiation environments and in areas where ground support (rock bolts and concrete liners) has been removed."

The decision on whether to retain or remove ground support prior to repository closure has performance implications relative to the near-field environment and its interaction with the waste packages and the waste form. The alternatives associated with this issue must be evaluated in the EIS and the result included in the project description.

There is ongoing discussion about the need for backfill of the repository and, if backfill is employed, what the material should be and whether it would have merit in improving waste isolation performance, thus mitigating repository impacts. Backfill also causes problems in thermal management for a repository with large waste packages emplaced in drifts. Some backfill designs could cause the spent fuel temperature to rise above the temperature which results in cladding failure. This result would be adverse to repository performance.

The EIS must include a description of the backfill to be used, if it is planned, and an evaluation of alternative backfill designs, including no backfill. And if no backfill is planned, this decision must also be supported by performance comparison with alternative backfill designs.

There has been some discussion by DOE managers that the specific plans for repository backfill and seals could be deferred until repository closure plans are made, since closure would be many decades in the future. For purposes of the EIS and performance assessment, it is not acceptable to assume some level of performance contribution from these components without a specific description of what is intended to be done and the alternatives that were considered.


3.5 Retrievability

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act and NRC's 10 CFR Part 60 require that the waste in a repository be retrievable for 50 years after initial waste emplacement. DOE's current plans are for a retrievability period of up to 100 years. With drift emplacement of large waste packages, drift temperatures during the retrieval period, whether 50 or 100 years, will be high enough to require either massive cooling for manual retrieval or advanced robotic retrieval. Retrieval could also be complicated by the high radiation flux from the emplaced waste and the possibility of unstable ground due to thermal fracturing of the rock. The project description should provide an evaluation of alternative retrieval strategies and plans. This must also include an evaluation of the alternatives for disposition of the retrieved waste.


3.6 Seismic Hazard

Since the Yucca Mountain site is known to be in an area of high seismic activity, the seismic design of both the surface and underground facilities is an important safety issue, especially during the pre-closure operations period. The EIS should describe, in detail, the seismic design and its basis. To this end, the EIS should include a deterministic evaluation of maximum credible seismic events and their consequences for the surface and subsurface repository facilities during both the pre- and post-closure period. The evaluation should include the effects of ground motion as well as secondary effects such as transient or long term changes in the level of the water table and how these changes may affect repository performance.


3.7 Volcanic Hazard

There is evidence of recent volcanism in the Yucca Mountain area that, if it recurs, could affect repository performance. The EIS should include a deterministic evaluation of both the direct and indirect effects on the repository of volcanic activity in the area, and what, if any, design measures might be taken to mitigate the potential effects.


3.8 Human Intrusion

For purposes of the EIS, it should be assumed that the repository will be inadvertently breached by future human activities. The EIS should evaluate alternative intrusion scenarios and their potential effect on repository performance. The EIS should also evaluate alternative mitigation measures, such as markers, that could reduce the possibility of intrusion, and design measures that could reduce the potential adverse performance consequences of intrusion.


3.9 Repository Construction and Operation

It is expected that the standard suite of environmental impacts of developing and operating a large underground mine will be evaluated in the EIS. However, because of the nature of the project, there are many additional considerations that must be taken into account in a Yucca Mountain repository EIS. The following additional topics are among those that should be considered in evaluating the impacts of the repository during the construction and operation phase, and strategies for their mitigation discussed:

Under normal mine construction and operation plans, expected radon emissions would be evaluated, but in the case of the repository, this evaluation will need to be an extensive one because of the thermal loading alternatives being considered, all of which will result in thermally enhanced radon emissions.

Two source terms for enhanced radon emission have been identified: 1) over a period of a few thousand years following shutdown of the repository, the decay heat of the spent fuel elements and of the high-level waste could cause enhanced radon-222 emission from the soil; and 2) over a period of time beginning at few tens of thousand years to several hundred thousand years, the disposal of large amount of spent fuel enriched in U-234 and containing large amounts of Pu-238 will result in a very large inventory of radium-226 and radon-222 gas. Because of erosion, a large amount of radon-222 gas could leak out of the mountain. The resulting effective dose could be significantly larger than background radiation over large areas surrounding the site.

Both source terms have been identified by Pescatore and Sullivan who have also estimated the enhanced release of radon per unit area., Spiegler, using the results of Pescatore and Sullivan, has shown that the annual effective radiation dose from this source term over large areas outside of the exclusion area can be comparable to that of background radiation. This could also be considered a perturbation of the background radiation, an issue that has regulatory implications.

Neither of the two NRC regulations, 10 CFR Part 20, "Standard for Protection Against Radiation", nor 10 CFR Part 60, "Disposal of High-Level Waste in Geologic Repository. Technical Criteria", provide guidance for addressing the issue of the emission of radon-222 potentially causing a background radiation level perturbation.

Spiegler has done a simple, preliminary performance analysis for this source term and shown that Yucca Mountain could become an area with very high radioactive background radiation for a period of time beginning a few tens of thousand of years from the time of emplacement and lasting several hundred thousand years. The issue is complex since it requires a sound understanding of erosional processes over time, as well as flow of air through the unsaturated zone.

A precedent for the need to address the issue of enhanced radon-222 emission in an EIS for a repository is contained in the NRC licensing of nuclear power plants. Table S-3 of 10 CFR Part 51, "Environmental Protection Regulations for Domestic Licensing and related Regulatory Functions", which must be included in the construction application of a nuclear power plant, is the basis for a generic EIS for the mining of the uranium to be used by the nuclear power plant during its operational life. Table S-3 states that the issue of enhanced radon-222 emission is currently under reconsideration by the Commission.

A second precedent is that the issue of enhanced radon-222 emission played an important role in the promulgation of the Uranium Mill Tailing Remedial Control Act (UMTRCA) of 1978 and the resulting respective EPA and NRC regulations, 40 CFR PR 192, "Health and Environmental Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings", and 10 CFR Part 40 Appendix A, "Criteria Relating to the Operation of Uranium Mills and the Disposition of Tailings or Wastes Produced by the Extraction or Concentration of Source Material From Ores Processed Primarily for the Source Content."

The issue is unique to a repository in the unsaturated zone. It was not addressed in 10 CFR 960, 10 CFR 60, or 40 CFR 190, which were written primarily for a repository in the saturated zone. The DOE EIS for Yucca Mountain should contain an analysis of the potential impacts from radon emissions from the repository.


3.10 Post-Closure Repository Impacts

The ultimate post-closure impact of the repository is the release of waste from the repository to the surrounding environment and the radiological and toxic effects it will have on life forms. The process models and total system performance assessment developed to support a repository license application and demonstrate compliance with EPA repository standards are expected to define the credible release scenarios for the repository and pathways the radionuclides will follow. The EIS should describe and evaluate the expected distribution and impacts of radionuclides in the environment both from expected releases through time and from credible, yet low probability events and combinations of events. Alternative worst-case scenarios and their impacts, including the loss of use of local water resources through contamination, also need to be described and evaluated.

The EIS also should consider the postclosure impacts of the different thermal loading alternatives, including thermal expansion and later subsidence at the site, gaseous flux, groundwater heating, thermally induced fracturing affecting fluid flux, increased erosion due to ground surface denudation, and local meteorological effects.

With the long intended isolation period of the repository and the large amounts of long-lived fissile material intended to be isolated, the matter of criticality should be thoroughly evaluated for the repository. Regardless of any conclusions about the probability of various kinds of criticality events taking place, the consequences of the different kinds of criticality events need to be evaluated, and multiple events in close succession and over an extended time period should be considered.

All projections of post-closure repository impacts and performance are subject to uncertainty. Because of the geologic and hydrologic complexity of the Yucca Mountain site and setting, and the long isolation period intended, uncertainties will remain high in nearly all elements of the evaluation. This matter should be made explicit in the EIS, and all impact evaluations should include a discussion of the factors contributing to the uncertainty as well as a quantitative expression of the range of uncertainty involved in each evaluation.

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4.0 RADIOLOGICAL AND HEALTH EFFECTS


Of particular importance in identifying impacts of the proposed Yucca Mountain repository and related activities (including the transportation of SNF and HLW) is the establishment of adequate baseline information that will permit the assessment of both radiological and non-radiological health effects associated with the project. To do this, it will be necessary to understand not only how the Yucca Mountain project will affect individual and community health, but also the cumulative health effects and cumulative drivers of potential health impacts associated with both Yucca Mountain and Nevada Test Site activities.

The EIS must contain an analysis of cumulative radiological impacts for all current and proposed activities at both Yucca Mountain and the Nevada Test Site. To accomplish this, the EIS must consider all radioactive wastes (and special nuclear materials) that currently exist, or are being considered for transport, treatment, storage, and/or disposal at the proposed repository or the Nevada Test Site, and all the potential shipping routes that could be used for moving these materials to or from NTS or Yucca Mountain.


4.1 Potential Cumulative Risks from the Nevada Test Site

The Nevada Test Site is being used for the permanent disposal of more than 18 million cubic feet of low-level waste, an undetermined amount of low-level mixed waste, and storage of transuranic waste. About half of the low-level waste has been transported to the site from other DOE facilities outside of Nevada. The Test Site also contains numerous aboveground contamination areas, mostly contaminated with radionuclides and hazardous waste, and more than 800 underground contaminated sites caused by underground nuclear testing.

In the near term, DOE's Environmental Management program is also planning to use NTS for the disposal of massive amounts of low-level and mixed low-level waste. According to a recent DOE publication, over the next 100 years, the Nevada Test Site may be used for the disposal of up to 100 million cubic feet of low-level waste.

While the NOI for the Yucca Mountain EIS notes that a cumulative impact analysis will be completed, it does not identify specific issues that would be addressed in this analysis. However, because of the timing of the Yucca Mountain EIS, it is likely that many other DOE NEPA documents and subsequent decisions covering future land and resource uses near the site will have been made. Presumably, this will also include final decisions concerning the disposition of certain types of nuclear waste and other special nuclear materials.

Since these other DOE EIS documents will apparently not include a cumulative radiological assessment for radioactive waste storage and disposal at either Yucca Mountain or the Nevada Test Site, such as assessment must be done in the Yucca Mountain EIS. Given the timing of DOE's department-wide NEPA decision documents and the DOE's intent to use the Nevada Test Site for other waste storage and disposal activities, a cumulative radiological analysis must be presented in the Yucca Mountain EIS. Such an assessment must evaluate impacts on a variety of resources and issues. At a minimum it should include:


4.2 Community Health Baselines and Health Effects

The only way to understand if and how Yucca Mountain activities are affecting public health is to establish baseline health information for potentially vulnerable communities and use this baseline data as the foundation for impact assessment and ongoing monitoring. The EIS must identify communities that are potentially vulnerable to negative health impacts (both radiological and non-radiological) associated with Yucca Mountain activities, including the transportation of radiological materials. The EIS must also contain an assessment of those impacts in a community-specific fashion. Since it is possible and even likely that there will be time lags between the causation of any adverse health effects and their manifestation in individuals and communities, the EIS must include detailed plans for monitoring health indicators and updating health baselines over the life of the Yucca Mountain project.


4.3 Health Impact Risk Assessment

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) frequently does not sufficiently address human health impacts. Often the EIA process includes only partial health assessments using qualitative or cursory quantitative techniques. For the Yucca Mountain Project, radiological health impacts are of concern from the release of carbon-14 into the atmosphere and from long-term leaching of other radionuclides into the regional groundwater system. This, coupled with the basic purpose of NEPA being to "stimulate human health," is adequate reason for the Yucca Mountain EIS to comprehensively assess potential health impacts using a scientifically-based risk assessment technique.

A health impact prediction and assessment methodology should be founded on specific means for estimating the predicted impacts and for integrating the components of risk assessment with the routine activities conducted in an environmental impact study. Reasons basic to the need for applying health impact prediction and assessment methodology are: (a) describing the proposed project and the need for it; (b) reviewing and analyzing pertinent health-related information; (c) identifying potential impacts on human health from alternatives within the project, from construction and operation, and from closure of the repository; (d) preparing a description of the affected environment that focuses on health-related characteristics such as radiological pathway analysis; (e) predicting impacts; (f) interpreting the predicted impacts based on standards and risk quantification; (g) identifying and evaluating mitigation measures to minimize undesirable health impacts; (h) selecting proposed alternatives, such as thermal loading scenarios, based on health impacts as a decision factor; (i) documenting the EIA process focused on considering human health; and (j) monitoring environmental indicators indicative of health during construction and operation, and after closure of the repository. The conceptual framework for this approach to health impact risk assessment is documented in The Environmental Professional 14: 204-219, 1992 and The Environmental Professional 15: 125-138, 1993.

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5.0 SOCIOECONOMIC IMPACTS AND ISSUES


The State of Nevada formally initiated a study of the socioeconomic impacts of a proposed high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in 1986 after the Nevada site had been chosen as a potential waste disposal site. Between 1987 and 1995, the State's study has produced over 250 reports and work products, plus numerous publications in the scientific and academic literature.

The State s research has demonstrated that the Yucca Mountain repository program will result in significant socioeconomic impacts at all levels within the state from the local communities to the state government. One major potential threat stems from the stigma effects associated with the repository program. These effects originate in intense negative perceptions and avoidance behaviors by the public in response to a high-level radioactive waste repository, which combined with the vulnerability of the Nevada economy to changes in its public image could produce large negative impacts. The great public and media interest in the radioactive waste program makes it almost certain that any association with these negative perceptions will adversely affect Nevada s attempts to attract tourists, conventions, migrants, and new business investments. This would be especially troublesome in the event of a nuclear waste accident that was in or near Las Vegas, which is one of the world s major tourist destinations and a dominant contributor to Nevada s economy and tax revenues. While there is considerable uncertainty about the federal government s ability to manage HLW and in the future public responses to accidents and events, it is clear that over the last half century the public has developed a very strong negative perception of such wastes and the facilities associated with them. The conclusion of the Nevada researchers and the State's Technical Review Committee is that 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 DOE should be able to provide a detailed assessment of these types of impacts on Nevada s economy, public revenues, public services, and community quality of life. These assessments should take into account the increasingly competitive gaming and tourist marketplaces and the important role that any negative perceptions could have. It is very possible that through the social amplification of risk process even relatively minor events or accidents could have serious economic consequences. Such impacts could dwarf the expected benefits to be derived from project employment and spending. While Nevada may be especially vulnerable to stigma impacts given its economic base, the EIS should also address stigma effects for program facilities and transportation routes wherever they might be located in the nationwide system that DOE will develop for the HLW program.

Looking to the more conventional economic dimensions of the project, the proposed facility has the potential to cause negative impacts in a variety of "standard" economic areas. While most types of economic growth and diversification are viewed positively in Nevada, one result of the State's rapid growth is that public services and facilities are already under considerable stress. Nevada's tax structure is such that any growth that does not increase the contribution of revenues from visitors (i.e., sales and gaming taxes) will not pay its own way. In recent years, the phenomenal growth of gaming and tourism has kept pace with other forms of development and population growth. However, it cannot be assumed that this will remain the into the next century.

These "standard effects" associated with additional repository-related population growth could, therefore, generate negative fiscal impacts for state and local jurisdictions. Although such negative fiscal impacts would result for any non-gaming industry economic development, there is a distinction between the State's willingness to subsidize desired economic diversification and its willingness to subsidize the fiscal effects of a repository.

The goal of economic diversification in Nevada is to reduce the risk of economic losses in the event of a downturn in the State's all-important tourism industry. A repository could increase the risk to this very industry because of its stigmatizing potential. Thus, the repository is generally not considered attractive from an economic development standpoint because it has the potential to bring about precisely the opposite effects on the economy as other forms of development.

Research has also shown that there is widespread opposition to the repository based on health and safety concerns (especially in regard to transportation), the potential threats to the economy, the creation of divisive policy issues, distrust of the Department of Energy, and the fear of diminished quality of life. State studies over the past six years have shown that consistently over two-thirds of Nevada's citizens oppose the project, with opposition levels between 69% and almost 80%. Native American residents consider the repository program a threat to their cultural values and traditional beliefs.

It is not possible, in practice, to clearly separate for analytical purposes the "standard" and "stigma" or risk/perception impacts of a repository. All of the factors discussed above will influence how repository-related impacts are manifested in Nevada and elsewhere, and the "stigma" effects of the project will be reflected in "standard" economic, fiscal, and other impacts that can be characterized in the same units of measurement as standard effects, such as tourist visitations causing employment, tax revenues, social responses. In fact, the standard and stigma impacts can be considered as antithetical forces working on the same social system. It is essential that the Yucca Mountain EIS thoroughly assess "standard" and "stigma" impacts in a comprehensive and integrated manner.


5.1.1 Relationship of the Yucca Mountain EIS to Past DOE Impact Assessment Activities

The Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1987 (Title V of Public Law 100-203) required DOE to report to Congress "on the potential impacts of locating a repository at the Yucca Mountain site... ." The Act specified 14 specific impact areas that must be covered, including education, public health, law enforcement, fire protection, medical care, cultural and recreational impacts, distribution of public lands and public lands impacts, vocational training and employment, social services, transportation, emergency management, energy availability, tourism and economic development, and "other needs of the State and local governments that would not have arisen but for the characterization of the [Yucca Mountain] site and the construction, operation, and eventual closure of the repository facility." The Yucca Mountain EIS, to be adequate and in compliance with the express directions of Congress, must, at a minimum, thoroughly assess impacts within each of these categories. In addition, the EIS must specify mitigation measures for each impact area and demonstrate that such measures will be sufficient to mitigate negative effects on the State of Nevada and its local communities as well as on other states and communities along HLW transportation routes.


5.2 Requirements for Socioeconomic Impact Assessment

These comments reflect a number of basic principles for conducting an adequate socioeconomic impact assessment (SIA), including:


5.2.1 Analysis of the Baseline Case

The SIA must describe the baseline case (without the project and program) at a level which provides a point-by-point comparison against the with-project cases. This analysis should address current conditions, the current baseline, and the projected baseline. The analysis of current conditions describes the socioeconomic context in the base year, in a manner suitable for ongoing monitoring and update. The analysis of the current baseline "backs-out" the direct, indirect, and induced effects of current YMP activity from the analysis of the current conditions. The analysis of the projected baseline is a forecast of projected socioeconomic conditions without the YMP project and program. The dimensions of the baseline case analyses should include:


5.2.2 Description of the Proposed Action

Any alternatives to be analyzed in the YMP EIS should be described in terms useful for analysis of socioeconomic and other impacts in the State of Nevada, southern Nevada counties and key sub-county jurisdictions, communities, and impact areas. This description should include the following:

As mentioned, the description of alternative actions should be in terms useful for socioeconomic and other impacts in the State of Nevada, southern Nevada counties, and key sub-county jurisdictions communities and impact areas. These terms should include:


5.2.3 Scope of Socioeconomic Issues to be Addressed

Investigations conducted by the State of Nevada identify a range of potential socioeconomic impacts that should be analyzed for each proposed action. These impact issues, many of which are addressed in following sub-sections, include:


5.2.4 The Level of Socioeconomic Analysis

Socioeconomic impact analysis should be conducted at a level which reveals rather than obscures potential impacts, and which supports evaluation at the community level. And, the methods by which impacts are estimated should be specified so that they can be reviewed and validated. Key dimensions regarding the level of analysis include:


5.2.5 Cumulative Effects

The YMP in the State of Nevada follows 50 years of DOE activity at the Nevada Test Site, adds to current low-level waste disposal and other activities at NTS, and will continue to operate concurrently with other NTS activities. Also, the YMP EIS follows several DOE EISs which contemplate the use of NTS and/or Yucca Mountain for disposal of high-level, low-level, low-level mixed, and other radioactive wastes. It is necessary, therefore, for the YMP EIS to consider alternatives for the proposed action in combination with interrelated activities at NTS and other sites in the DOE complex. Consideration of cumulative effects should seriously address the following:


5.2.6 Waste Management Policy Assumptions

The alternative proposed actions identified in the NOI reflect both the constraints of current legislative guidelines for the OCRWM program (as defined in the NWPA of 1982 and the NWPAA of 1987), and the areas left to DOE discretion under current legislation. DOE has initiated the YMP EIS at a stage in which new legislative guidance is under consideration in Congress, guidance which could relax constraints in some areas and reduce DOE discretion in others. At minimum, the YMP EIS should specify alternatives not considered due to current legislation and indicate the appropriate response if current legislation changes. For example,

In reference to transportation systems, current legislation allows DOE to transport HLW in any fashion that conforms to U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines. However, future legislation could require DOE to identify its preferred transportation and routing plan. The EIS should compare the impacts of a transportation program left to shippers and carriers under DOT regulations, versus a transportation program defined by DOE as the best approach for the contemplated large-scale shipment campaigns.


5.3 Overriding Issues to be Addressed by DOE's EIS

5.3.1 The EIS should address the multiple conditions of uncertainty that can reasonably be expected to result from this program. The definition and analyses of uncertainties should recognize that the program is a major national effort, unique and unprecedented as an engineering project, with extremely long time horizons to be accounted for, an uncertain political and financial base to work from, and a long list of important project characteristics that are difficult to define and measure.

5.3.2 The EIS should state how the program will provide adequate funding and the effects of different funding scenarios on the socioeconomic impacts for the State of Nevada, the affected local governments, state and local agencies and public services, and the urban, rural, and Native American communities.

5.3.3 The EIS should state how the uncertainty in providing legal and administrative continuity for the program will be resolved and how the various potential changes to DOE and/or the HLW program will affect the socioeconomic impacts of the Yucca Mountain project.

5.3.4 The EIS should address how the program will achieve acceptable equity and fairness standards for the key affected communities, states, and participants. This analysis should consider the acceptance of HLW in terms of a burden placed upon state and local governments and citizens. The analysis should address issues of how benefits and risks are distributed, the implications of cumulative impacts from facilities such as the Nevada Test Site, and the way in which equity and fairness issues are involved in public responses to the Yucca Mountain program. The public responses should be assessed in terms of the impact on trust and confidence in DOE as the management entity for Yucca Mountain and how these considerations impact upon intergovernmental relations.

5.3.5 The EIS should assess how the program will achieve public acceptance for the program plans to handle, transport, and store HLW. This assessment should address issues of public responses to health risks from transportation and the stigma effects of HLW transportation routes including property value impacts.

5.3.6 The EIS should state how the program will improve its technical, scientific, and management performances to meet the issues of scientific legitimacy and increase public trust and confidence.

5.3.7 The EIS should describe how DOE will provide compensation for and mitigation of negative impacts that may result from the repository project. This should include descriptions of the goals and objectives of a Yucca Mountain mitigation program, the design for identifying potential impacts, and the operational procedures to avoid, mitigate, and compensate for negative impacts and to enhance positive impacts.


5.4 The Project Description

A comprehensive project description should be provided for the Yucca Mountain project for all transportation related activities, and for any alternative cases (e.g., an interim storage facility, at-reactor storage, or nuclear weapons waste management facility on-site storage) that affects the nation's HLW program. At a minimum, these data should show:


5.5 Public Services.

Public service impacts should be calculated on a use/revenue basis for: (1) services provided to the project and the HLW program by state, local, and private utilities (subject to market and service regulation, e.g., electric, water, gas, etc.); (2) services provided to employees and their households; (3) services required by the indirect and multiplier effects of the project and project employees; and (4) services by state and local governments that are mandated by federal law or represent official responses by state and local officials and agencies to the activities of the Yucca Mountain project. The public services to be assessed should include:

1. All state and local government services that contribute to the HLW program. This would include services for health and safety; emergency management and response; transportation; regulation (e.g., permitting, licensing, and oversight); legal and judicial actions; and support for the public infrastructure.

2. State and local public services to the direct, indirect, and induced population and households resulting from the HLW program, including the proportional and marginal costs for education; police and public safety, criminal justice; libraries, recreation and parks; local transportation; welfare; and publicly mandated services such as economic development. The estimates of costs should include expenses for all community services, facilities, equipment, infrastructure, and staff.


5.6 Fiscal Impact Assessment

Fiscal assessment should record the direct and indirect revenues to state and local service providers whether as fees, taxes, or any other payments. These revenues should be systematically compared to the costs of public services to understand the net balance of fiscal impacts and cost/benefit distributions for public services.

5.6.1 Revenues should be calculated for (1) the project, (2) its employees and their households, and the (3) indirect employment and business activities resulting from the program.

5.6.2 Revenues should be allocated to the proper jurisdictions and the descriptions of revenues should be consistent with the state and local fiscal structure.

5.6.3 Increases and decreases (e.g., due to reduced tax revenues because of stigma impacts) should be calculated and compared to the "without-project" case.

5.6.4 Costs of public services by jurisdiction and type of service should be estimated and compared with the revenue streams to determine the specific and net fiscal impacts.


5.7 State Agencies, State Government, and Intergovernmental Relations

Impacts on state government can occur either directly, through the exercise of federal and state powers, or indirectly through the relationship of the State agencies and government with local county and municipal governments, school districts and other jurisdictions, or with organizations, institutions, and groups representing various public or private interests. The impacts of the HLW program can occur as a result of activities on behalf of, or in response to, any or all these sources of interaction with the State. The following areas should be specifically addressed in the Yucca Mountain EIS:

5.7.1 Costs of state government responses to the HLW program and program-related issues, problems, service requests, state or federally mandated oversight, regulation, etc. should be calculated.

5.7.2 State agencies and officials who are required to respond to direct and indirect effects of the HLW repository as a function of their public duties should be identified and the potential impacts on their organizations and work loads should be determined.

5.7.3 The EIS should estimate those impacts that are due to intergovernmental conflict, including costs of legal adjudication, political activities, and restrictions on state-local-federal relations.

5.7.4 Both existing and recommended standards for state and local government services should be provided to evaluate the effects of the Yucca Mountain program. Those public services that are restricted or unlikely to be accomplished should be noted.

5.7.5 Changes in state, county, and local revenues due to potential stigma impacts on the visitor and tourist industries should be included in the assessment of fiscal impacts.

5.7.6 Net costs should be calculated as a positive or negative impact based upon a complete accounting of expenditures and revenues.


5.8 Risk Perception and Behavior

The long and difficult history of federal attempts to provide storage for SNF, HLW, transuranic wastes, and low-level radioactive wastes has provided substantial evidence that states, communities, and citizens throughout the country have a very adverse response to such facilities. The evidence to date suggests that HLW facilities are most likely to provoke strong and determined opposition and strong individual and community desires to avoid hosting them. DOE s EIS should account for this long and obvious history and its potential for producing adverse socioeconomic impacts on host communities, counties, and states. The EIS should:


5.9 Urban Community Impacts

Impacts of the repository program will be manifest at the community level and will ultimately affect the quality of life for community residents. The assessment of socioeconomic impacts within major metropolitan areas presents difficulties that must be addressed in order to provide an adequate EIS. The definition of significance for some project-generated effects is important. In many cases, this will depend upon the level of analysis - neighborhoods, jurisdictions, or the metro area as a whole - and upon the ability to identify geographical, social-cultural, political, and economic sector impacts. The EIS should address:


5.10 Rural Communities

Rural communities need to be individually understood and their potential impacts assessed. The histories of rural communities can be expected to strongly influence the impacts of the Yucca Mountain repository program. In addition, the location of these communities relative to the repository site, ancillary sites used for handling HLW, transportation routes, and administrative, inspection, or support activities are likely to impose differential effects and potential impacts. In addition, the economic structure of rural communities, as well as their potential for development in the future, will influence their vulnerability to stigma impacts. Quality of life impacts may be amplified or attenuated by the prevailing attitudes and opinions of the rural communities to the repository program as well as by past experiences with regard to radioactive exposures (e.g., downwinders) and the trust and confidence the communities have in HLW project management. The assessment of socioeconomic impacts for rural communities should address:


5.11 Native American Communities

Assessment of potential Yucca Mountain impacts for Native American communities requires special attention to the unique laws, regulations, history, and culture of these peoples. In order to estimate potential impacts, the EIS should provide an understanding of both the current and past relationship of Native American people to federal, state, and local governments and communities. Particular attention should be paid to Native American connections and claims to the repository site. A similar assessment should be made for ancillary facilities, transportation routes, and other program-related activities. The topics to be addressed should include:

1. A historical description of Native American experiences in the areas affected by the repository program, including the issues of land claims, treaty obligations, federal laws relating to cultural and religious rights of Native American, unsettled political and legal issues, the potential applications of Indian law to repository issues including transportation route selection and use, and the description of current and future socioeconomic conditions for Native Americans.

2. The economic structure of Native American communities and how these conditions might be affected by the HLW program.

3. A specific description of any direct and indirect employment, spending, and public service effects for Native Americans.

4.The location of Native American communities in relation to transportation routes, including the potential for accidents and emergency response to accidents.

5. The potential stigma impacts on Native American communities and businesses, including those economic activities now in development or likely to be developed in the future.

6. The role of the repository program in Native American political activities including how it might influence tribal or community behaviors.

7. The effect of the repository program on Native American relations with other governmental entities, including neighboring rural and urban communities, as well as county, state, and federal government.

8. Assessment of the quality of life impacts of the program, including the conditions of psychological stress and its effects upon Native American community behaviors. The ways in which the repository program might influence or change Native American culture is especially important to a socioeconomic impact assessment.

9. Evaluation of the attitudes and opinions of Native American people toward the repository program, the DOE management of this and other activities important to them, and the effects upon their support or opposition.


5.12 Avoidance of Negative Impacts, Mitigation, and Compensation

Identification of potential impacts presents program managers with the ability to plan for ways to avoid negative impacts, enhance positive impacts, and provide mitigation of or compensation for unavoidable negative impacts. All significant potential impacts should be identified as either positive or negative. Specific program actions to be undertaken by the federal government to enhance positive impacts and avoid, mitigate or compensate for negative impacts should be described. These program actions, in order to be effective, should address both incidents, accidents, and events that the repository program will respond to, and the corrections in the program that have been identified as important to achieving the goals of avoiding, mitigating, and/or compensating negative consequences. These plans should include descriptions of how the HLW program will:

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6.0 TRANSPORTATION IMPACTS AND RISKS


Transportation issues remain very important to the State of Nevada and its local communities and may well be the most visible and dramatic "driver" of potential repository impacts nationwide. Despite the central role transportation plays in the nuclear waste disposal issue, little progress has been made by DOE or the federal government in addressing key transportation matters. State efforts, although hampered by funding limitations, have addressed key aspects of nuclear waste transportation planning, and regional organizations such as the Western Interstate Energy Board, have done extensive and state-of-the-art work in many areas of radioactive materials transportation.

The Yucca Mountain EIS must contain a comprehensive and detailed analysis of Yucca Mountain-related radioactive waste transportation activities and their impacts. Such analysis must be route specific, not a generic analysis using hypothetical routes as proposed in the NOI and in the scoping meetings. The transportation assessment in the EIS must also contain detailed analyses of modes of shipment to be used, including intermodal transport (i.e., barge, rail, legal weight truck, and heavy haul truck). The EIS must be reactor/generator-specific in its analyses, since the capabilities and characteristics of each reactor and each HLW generator/storage site are known and can be examined as part of the EIS transportation assessment.

The EIS must also assess the national transportation system and identify the constraints and potential problems that exist with respect to SNF and HLW shipments. Without a complete and quantified assessment of system constraints, it is not possible to adequately undertake the evaluation of transportation impacts required for the EIS.


6.1 General Comments on Yucca Mountain Transportation Impact Assessment

DOE must take a comprehensive and integrated approach to determining transportation impacts and risks in the EIS. Under the action proposed by DOE, a high-level nuclear waste repository located at Yucca Mountain would receive between 15,000 and 70,000 cask-shipments of spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste from 80 sites around the country. Each year, more spent fuel would be shipped to the repository than was shipped during the past three decades. Shipments to Yucca Mountain would affect 43 states, at least 50 Indian tribes, and many hundreds of local government jurisdictions, for 30 or more years. Tens of millions of people will be affected. Among other matters, the Yucca Mountain EIS must examine, in detail, how the transportation of high-level nuclear waste to Nevada specifically will affect people and the environment nationwide. Moreover, the EIS must address transportation risks and impacts of shipments from Yucca Mountain in the event that the repository fails and the emplaced waste must be retrieved and shipped to another disposal site.

The Yucca Mountain EIS must provide specific information on the highway and rail routes DOE is likely to use for nuclear waste shipments to and within Nevada. Individuals and communities along transportation corridors are entitled to such information early in the scoping process so that they can identify and evaluate potential impacts and meaningfully participate in the EIS process before any final decisions have been made. DOE could have facilitated public participation by distributing maps of the most likely shipping routes at the scoping meetings. At the very least, national route maps should be included in the Draft EIS, particularly in the executive summary of the Draft EIS.

The EIS must identify the Indian reservations potentially affected by spent fuel and high-level nuclear waste shipments to Nevada. Based on University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Transportation Research Center(TRC) routing analyses, Planning Information Corporation (PIC) of Denver has prepared a map showing Indian reservations along the most likely transportation corridors for DOE's MPC base case. The Agency for Nuclear Projects has prepared a preliminary listing of forty Indian reservations which could potentially be affected by shipments to Nevada. Many of the potentially affected Indian reservations have either not previously been involved with nuclear waste transportation planning, or have not been involved in planning for the special risks associated with spent fuel and high-level nuclear waste. DOE must therefore develop a plan for Indian tribe participation in the review of the draft EIS. DOE should be prepared to provide technical and financial assistance upon request by the potentially affected tribes.


6.2 Types, Quantities, and Key Characteristics of Wastes to be Shipped to the Proposed Repository:

The Yucca Mountain EIS must provide detailed information on the types, quantities, and key characteristics of the civilian spent nuclear fuels, civilian high-level radioactive waste, and so-called "miscellaneous wastes requiring geologic disposal" to be shipped to the repository.

The Draft EIS must accurately portray the great variety of civilian spent nuclear fuels that DOE will ship to the repository from Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs), Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs), and the Ft. St. Vrain high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTG). The fuel assemblies destined for the repository include a wide range of designs and sizes, initial enrichments, burnup histories, cooling times, physical conditions, and radiological characteristics. In particular, radiological characteristics are a primary determinant of risks involved in transporting a particular type, design, or batch of spent fuel, or even a single sample. In past program documents, for example, DOE has used as the reference fuel type a 10-year old, moderately high burnup PWR assembly with a surface dose rate sufficient to give a lethal radiation dose (500 REMS) to an unshielded individual one meter away in 2.5 to 3.0 minutes.

The Draft EIS should include a detailed summary of the relevant characteristics of the entire spent fuel inventory to be shipped to the repository. DOE has ready access to this information in the integrated database developed and maintained at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories. DOE has already used this information in developing the shipping priority schedule for each reactor. This information could appropriately be presented in a technical appendix to the Draft EIS.

The Department of Energy should include a detailed description of the most representative PWR, BWR, and HTG fuel assemblies, as well as the representative civilian high-level waste form (West Valley reprocessing wastes), in the body of the Draft EIS. Each reference spent fuel type should be illustrated with photographs and schematic drawings. Illustrations should also be used to explain variations such as failed fuel and consolidated fuel. Summary technical data should be provided for each reference fuel type, including: physical dimensions, weight, initial enrichment, burnup, cooling time, and key radiological characteristics; total radioactivity, radionuclide composition, surface dose rate, thermal output, and changes over time in each of these characteristics. The radionuclide consequences of exposure and contamination associated with each reference fuel type should be presented in terms understandable to the general public, and these consequences should be presented in the Executive Summary as well as in the body of the draft EIS.

The Yucca Mountain EIS must also provide specific information on the types and amounts of defense high-level nuclear waste which DOE intends to ship to the repository. There is currently great uncertainty about DOE's plans for defense nuclear waste management, particularly plans for disposal of reprocessing wastes currently stored at Hanford, Washington, and at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL). Over the past five years, DOE estimates of the amount of reprocessing wastes requiring geologic disposal have ranged from about 10,000 to 40,000 canisters at Hanford, and from about 5,000 to 30,000 canisters at INEL. Uncertainties about disposal volumes are compounded by changing assumptions about waste form characteristics and lack of details about shipping cask designs. It is our understanding that DOE is considering use of the multi-purpose canister (MPC) for shipment of vitrified high-level waste, foreign research reactor fuel, and other DOE-owned spent fuel, as well as the civilian reactor spent fuel for which the MPC was originally proposed. Moreover, at least one DOE facility, the Savannah River Plant (SRP), has recently been proposed as a major storage and/or reprocessing facility for domestic and foreign, civilian and defense spent nuclear fuels.

The Yucca Mountain EIS must provide the following information so that the State of Nevada and other affected parties can evaluate the potential impacts of shipments from DOE facilities to the repository: (1) the maximum quantity of each Hanford, INEL, and SRP waste type requiring geologic disposal; (2) a detailed description of each waste type, including radiological characteristics (radionuclide composition, total radioactivity, surface dose rate, thermal output, and projected change over time in each of these characteristics); (3) repository waste acceptance criteria that will apply to Hanford, INEL, and SRP high-level wastes and spent fuel; (4) DOE's internal priority ranking assignments for Hanford, INEL, and SRP wastes, which will determine how much of and when each sites' waste types are shipped to a repository; (5) a detailed description of the cask or casks which will be used for Hanford, INEL, and SRP shipments to the repository; (6) for each DOE facility and waste type, the maximum number of shipments, the assumed mode (rail, truck, or barge) of shipments, and the most likely shipment routes; and (7) DOE's plans for emergency response technical and financial assistance to states, Indian tribes, and local governments along the routes for shipments of defense HLW, naval reactor fuel, and DOE-owned spent fuel from Hanford, INEL, and SRP to Yucca Mountain. This issue must be addressed separately for these waste types because the nuclear utilities may oppose use of rate-payer funds under Section 180(c) of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, as amended, for emergency response training for defense waste and non-utility spent fuel shipments.


6.3 Maximum Credible Number of Shipments of Each Waste Type Under Each Transportation Scenario:

The Yucca Mountain EIS must specify the maximum credible number of shipments of spent nuclear fuel and high level radioactive waste to the repository under the two national and three Nevada transportation scenarios identified by DOE. State of Nevada staff and consultants have evaluated both DOE's multi-purpose canister (MPC) and truck-only scenarios. Under the MPC scenario, with about 88% of the civilian spent fuel transported by rail, there could be more than 9,400 rail cask-shipments and more than 6,200 truck shipments from commercial nuclear powerplants. (These shipment numbers do not include spent fuel currently stored at the GE Facility at Morris, Illinois.) There could also be 12,500 or more rail cask-shipments of high-level waste from Hanford, the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL), the Savannah River Plant, and West Valley. Since DOE has not committed to use dedicated trains, each rail cask-shipment must be considered a separate shipment hauled in a mixed-freight train. Under the truck-only scenario, there could be more than 48,500 shipments of commercial spent nuclear fuel and more than 25,000 shipments of defense high-level radioactive waste.

The EIS must provide sufficient information, including maximum credible shipment numbers along potential highway and rail routes, to allow corridor states to assess and compare impacts of the two proposed transportation scenarios. Based on UNLV Transportation Research Center (TRC) routing analyses, the Agency for Nuclear Projects' 1995 route map report, and subsequent analyses indicate that some potential corridor states will likely be heavily impacted under both scenarios, while other potential corridor states will be much more heavily affected under one scenario than the other. For example, Illinois, Nebraska, and Utah would likely be heavily impacted under both scenarios. On the other hand, Colorado would be much more heavily affected by the proposed all-truck scenario than by the proposed multi-purpose canister (MPC) base case. Under the all-truck scenario, there could be about 17,712 truck shipments of civilian spent fuel and about 2,750 truck shipments of defense high-level nuclear waste through Colorado to Yucca Mountain. These shipments would travel I-70 the length of the state, traversing the City of Denver and the Eisenhower and Glenwood tunnels. The State of Colorado would likely seek to impose special safety protocols on shipments through the Eisenhower Tunnel. Unless DOE provides such route-specific information in the Draft EIS, Colorado reviewers of that document will have no basis for evaluating the range of potential transportation impacts on unique local conditions.


6.4 Transportation System Implications of Co-location of an Interim Storage Facility at or Near the Proposed Repository

The Yucca Mountain EIS must consider as an additional implementation option the potential co-location of an interim storage facility at or near Yucca Mountain with operations beginning in 1998. Given legislative proposals currently before Congress, such a scenario is a reasonably foreseeable one that must be evaluated in the EIS. If an interim storage facility is developed at the Nevada Test Site as proposed in pending legislation, shipments of spent fuel could begin as early as 1998, and there would likely be heavy reliance on truck transportation for the first ten years of operation. Such a development could significantly increase the number and hasten the timing of waste shipments to Yucca Mountain and significantly increase transportation risks and impacts of the proposed action.


6.5 Transportation System Implications of Elimination of the Current 70,000 MTU Limit on First Repository Emplacements:

The Yucca Mountain EIS must consider as an additional implementation option, the elimination of the current 70,000 MTHM limit on high-level waste emplacement in the first geologic repository. If Congress were to lift the current 70,000 MTHM cap on first repository emplacements, the total amount of spent fuel shipped to the repository would likely increase from DOE's currently proposed 63,000 MTHM to as much as 90,000 MTHM, and shipments of vitrified high-level waste could increase from 7,000 MTHM (14,000 canisters) to 25,000 (50,000 canisters) or more. Such a development could significantly increase the number of waste shipments to Yucca Mountain and increase transportation risks and impacts of the proposed action.


6.6 Modal Mix Issue

The Draft EIS must include a discussion of the general and site-specific issues which will determine the selection of cask types and sizes, shipment modes, and service options. At a minimum, this discussion must address: (1) shipping cask availability and capacity assumptions; (2) storage facility interface capability assumptions; (3) near-site transportation infrastructures and routing assumptions; and, (4) potential intermodal transfers using heavy haul trucks (HHTs) and barges, including potential HHT transport of rail casks to the proposed repository site. Of particular importance, the Draft EIS must address the comparative advantages and disadvantages of using large rail casks (loaded weight 125 tons or greater) as opposed to smaller rail casks (75 to 80 tons loaded weight) and/or legal-weight truck casks (loaded weight 20 to 26 tons). The Draft EIS must also address the comparative advantages and disadvantages of shipping spent fuel casks in dedicated trains and mixed freight trains and the potential use of truck convoys.

The draft EIS must include detailed information on modal mix issues so that states potentially affected by certain assumptions may adequately assess the impacts and risks of the proposed action. State of Nevada studies find that more than 87% of the rail shipments and 99% of the truck shipments of civilian spent fuel to Yucca Mountain would travel through Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska, primarily on the Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern railroads and on I-80 and I-70. Nebraska and Iowa would experience the greatest number of total shipments, more than 11,500 and 8,000, respectively, while Missouri and Kansas would each experience more than 6,100 shipments. Additionally, about 1,100 rail shipments of defense high-level waste from the Savannah River Plant would traverse Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska.

Kansas City would be a major rail interchange point for Norfolk Southern shipments from Springfield and East St. Louis, Illinois; for Union Pacific shipments from Parsons, Kansas, and St. Louis; and for shipments on the Gateway Western, Santa Fe, and Southern Pacific routes. The likely concentration of carrier interchanges at Kansas City area rail facilities, potentially 4,900 rail cask shipments of spent fuel and defense waste, could have serious adverse impacts on rail operations if DOE ships individual casks in mixed freight trains. DOE's official position is that spent fuel and high-level waste can be safely shipped in general freight rail service. The Association of American Railroads and the major rail carriers believe that spent fuel and high-level waste should be shipped in dedicated trains. This issue needs to be addressed in the EIS.


6.7 Route Selection Issues

The Draft EIS must include a discussion of route selection issues. The discussion should provide an overview of federal routing regulations, state/tribe/local government routing authorities, and industry practices. In particular, the Draft EIS should explain DOE policy regarding shipper (DOE) designation of highway and rail routes for civilian and defense high-level waste shipments, and DOE policy regarding designation of shipping routes in shipper-carrier contracts.

It is difficult to see how the EIS can adequately assess the impacts of HLW and SNF transportation system-wide without containing route specific analyses. At a minimum, the EIS must contain at least a "strawman" route selection exercise using available information and models and based on federal routing regulations as they exist today. Such an exercise could be used to assess the adequacy of route selection requirements and procedures for Yucca Mountain shipments and form the basis for suggesting changes in regulations as possible mitigation measures. The Western Interstate Energy Board has done extensive work on route selection, and that information is readily available to DOE.


6.8 Highway Routes

The draft EIS must identify the most likely highway routes for SNF and defense HLW shipments under both the MPC base case and the truck-only scenarios, and address the impacts of alternative route designations on Nevada and on other states. State of Nevada researchers have identified the most likely routes for truck shipments to Yucca Mountain, based on the assumptions that Yucca Mountain is the only repository and that no alternative highway routes are designated in Nevada. This assumes that all shipments enter Nevada on I-15 from Arizona or California, connect with US 95 in downtown Las Vegas, and proceed north to Yucca Mountain. Under the MPC base case, about 6,200 truck shipments would be required. Under the all-truck scenario, about 48,000 truck shipments would be needed to deliver all of the anticipated commercial reactor SNF, while defense HLW could total another 7,000 to 25,000 shipments.

In order to avoid shipments of route-controlled nuclear materials to and from the Nevada Test Site through downtown Las Vegas, the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) has identified several alternative routes which might also be used for shipments to Yucca Mountain. The NDOT A and B routes, which would carry the vast majority of truck shipments from eastern reactors and DOE defense facilities, would enter Nevada at Wendover from I-80. The so-called NDOT E route would enter Nevada through Searchlight from I-40.

If NDOT decides to designate alternative routes, the NDOT B Route (US93A, US93, US6, and US95 through Ely, Tonopah, Goldfield, and Beatty) could carry almost 6,200 spent fuel shipments under the MPC scenario and as many as 39,500 spent fuel shipments under the truck-only scenario. Under the truck-only scenario, all defense waste shipments from Hanford and INEL would also likely use the NDOT B Route. Designation of the NDOT B route would therefore have major implications for Elko, White Pine, Nye, and Esmeralda counties.

NDOT has made no formal decisions regarding designation of alternative routes to Yucca Mountain. If either of the two routes through Wendover or Searchlight were designated, however, Nevada's decisions could significantly alter the selection of routes through the midwestern and north-central states. Designation of the NDOT B Route would likely shift some nuclear waste traffic from I-70 to I-80. Designation of the NDOT E Route would significantly shift nuclear waste traffic from I-80 and I-70 to I-40. The resulting traffic shifts would significantly change the number of shipments through major metropolitan areas such as Des Moines, Omaha, St. Louis, Kansas City, Nashville, and Oklahoma City.

DOE must address the potential impacts of state route designation decisions in the Draft EIS. A related issue is the impact of DOE modal choices on state routing decisions. States may view the matter of alternative highway route designation differently under the truck-only (100% truck) and MPC (88% rail/12% truck) transportation scenarios.


6.9 Rail Routes

The Draft EIS must identify the most likely rail routes to be used for spent fuel and high-level waste shipments to Yucca Mountain. The Draft EIS must also include a discussion of factors which could affect current rail industry routing practices and/or change the assumptions upon which the most likely rail routes presented in the Draft EIS are based. The following factors must be considered: (1) new federal routing regulations; (2) rail industry mergers and acquisitions; (3) rail line abandonments; (4) DOE decision to use large rail casks; (5) DOE refusal to use dedicated trains; (6) DOE refusal to require full-scale testing of casks used for repository shipments (regardless of NRC requirements); (7) national rail route selection impacts, if any, of rail spur route selection in Nevada; and, (8) national rail route selection impacts, if any, of no rail access to Yucca Mountain.


6.10 Yucca Mountain Rail Access Issues

The Draft EIS must include a comprehensive discussion of Yucca Mountain rail access issues, beginning with identification of major options regarding system specification, route selection, ownership, construction, procurement, labor recruitment and hiring preferences, shared uses and restrictions on shared uses, and federal and state regulations. The Draft EIS must address in detail the expected generic and route-specific environmental impacts, broadly defined, of railroad construction and operation.

The Draft EIS must present a technically credible methodology for comparative evaluation of rail spur route options. The State of Nevada believes that DOE should fully evaluate at least three feasible rail spur routes before selecting a preferred route. At a minimum, we believe that DOE should employ the following criteria for comparative route evaluation:

The Yucca Mountain EIS must specifically address the potential impacts and risks of large-scale rail shipments of spent fuel through Las Vegas on the Union Pacific mainline. If a rail spur to Yucca Mountain is constructed along the Modified Valley route, all rail shipments (at least 9,400 MPCs of spent fuel) would traverse Las Vegas. If the Jean route is used, almost 8,200 MPCs would traverse Las Vegas under base case routing assumptions. However, the proposed merger of the Union Pacific (UP) and Southern Pacific (SP) Railroads could shift about 3,000 shipments from 18 southern reactors to the current SP route through El Paso, reducing shipments through Las Vegas to Jean to about 5,200. If the Caliente route is used, there would be more than 1,200 rail shipments through Las Vegas under base case routing assumptions and about 4,200 rail shipments through Las Vegas if the UP-SP merger shifts routes. Construction of a rail spur along the Modified Valley, Jean, or Caliente routes would likely result in at least 1,200 rail shipments through Las Vegas, or an average of at least one shipment per week, every week, for

24 years. The only way to eliminate rail shipments to Yucca Mountain through downtown Las Vegas would be to construct the rail spur along one of the northern routes identified by DOE. The EIS must contain a comparative analysis of the various possible rail access options, including those that avoid waste shipments through the Las Vegas metropolitan area.


6.11 Transportation Risk Assessment Issues

The Draft EIS must include a detailed discussion of DOE's approach to transportation risk assessment, risk management, and risk communication. It is particularly important that the Draft EIS provide a detailed description of DOE's long-promised transportation risk management program plan, together with an objective evaluation of various risk assessment methodologies (and data requirements) that include, but is not necessarily limited to, worst case scenario analysis, probabilistic risk assessment (PRA), and comprehensive risk assessment (CRA). One crucial element of CRA is the use of the EIS as a risk management tool.

The Yucca Mountain EIS must examine the full range of credible transportation risks and impacts, especially low probability/high consequence events such as very severe accidents and successful terrorist attacks which might result in loss of radiation shielding and/or release of radioactive materials to the environment. The State of Nevada notes DOE's commitment in the scoping Notice of Intent to address "potential impacts from reasonably foreseeable accidents, including any accidents with low probability but high potential consequences" in the Yucca Mountain EIS (see Federal Register, Vol. 60, No. 151 (August 7, 1995), p. 40168). The EIS must reflect this commitment in its treatment of credible risks and impacts.

To our knowledge, there have been no transportation incidents involving releases since the early 1960s. There have, however, been three spent fuel transportation accidents, a number of regulatory incidents, and at least one instance of attempted sabotage against a rail shipment of spent fuel, since 1970. For future spent nuclear fuel shipments, between 50 and 310 accidents and between 250 and 1,000 regulatory violations would be expected over the life of the repository. An additional, proportionate number of accidents and incidents would be expected to result from defense nuclear waste shipments.

The probability of an accident severe enough to release radioactive materials is low. If one occurred, however, a release of only a fraction of one percent of a rail cask's contents (about 1400 curies) could, according to one DOE study, contaminate an area of more than 40 square miles, cost more than $600 million to cleanup in a rural area, and cost billions for cleanup in an urban area. State of Nevada staff and consultants have identified a number of accident scenarios which could potentially result in such releases, including a high-speed rail collision followed by a long-duration fire; a truck cask collision involving another truck loaded with commercial or military explosives; a truck or rail cask involved in a massive infrastructure failure or natural disaster; and a rail or truck cask involved in an accident with a military aircraft.

The State will evaluate these severe accident scenarios in preparation for review of the Draft EIS. Nevada is particularly concerned about accidents involving trucks and aircraft carrying military explosives. We will also evaluate the potential consequences of a successful terrorist attack using armor-piercing weapons or a massive truck bomb. In particular, the State will review the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's assessment of tests demonstrating that an explosive device could carve a 3-inch diameter hole in a cask wall and release up to 10 grams of spent fuel in an inhalable form, and the NRC's 1984 proposed rule modifying protection requirements for spent fuel shipments to eliminate requirements for armed escorts except in urban areas. The State will also evaluate indirect attacks on shipping casks, for example, sabotage of bridges and other transportation infrastructure. The EIS must incorporate these factors into its transportation assessment.

The Draft EIS must pay particular attention to risk issues associated with the new General Atomics GA4/9 truck casks. In order to achieve a four-fold increase in cask capacity, the GA4/9 casks utilize a number of new design features and materials. The State of Nevada believes that full-scale testing of the GA4/9 cask to demonstrate its compliance with NRC cask performance standards is especially important because of these innovations and because of the possibility that it will be the primary cask used for repository shipments. The GA4/9 cask's vulnerability to terrorist attack with armor piercing weapons must also be evaluated. Finally, the weight of the loaded GA4/9 cask requires that it be used in conjunction with a specially designed trailer and a lower weight cab-over-engine tractor in order to comply with legal weight requirements. The State of Nevada believes that the GA4/9 cask, trailer, and tractor must be evaluated as a system in order to determine if it is appropriately designed for use in mountainous terrain under winter driving conditions and to determine if its use will increase the probability of human error. Additionally, the constrained fuel capacity of the tractor, requiring refueling every 300 to 400 miles, may cause additional safety and safeguards risks.

The State of Nevada recommends that DOE adopt the following approach for evaluating transportation accidents and incidents in the Draft EIS:

High Probability/Low Consequence Events

Radiological impacts of routine shipments

Regulatory incidents (eg., "weeping")

Equipment failures

Bad weather disruptions

Minor accidents

Traffic "gridlock" incidents (worker exposure, public exposure, and perceived risk)

Low Probability/High Consequence Events

Extremely severe accidents

Catastrophic infrastructure failures

Natural disasters

Successful terrorist attacks or sabotage incidents

Unanticipated human errors (individual, collective, and organizational)


6.12 Transportation Accident Liability Issues

The draft EIS must clarify how the Price-Anderson Act liability system will apply to repository shipments. DOE will presumably be the shipper of record for both SNF and defense HLW, and the shipments will be conducted under contract between DOE and various rail and motor carriers. If a severe accident should occur, it is possible that liability of the shipper and carrier would be governed by the government contractor liability provisions of the Price-Anderson Act, limiting liability to $500 million rather than the approximately $9 billion insurance pool which would apply if a nuclear utility were the shipper of record. This is an important issue of impact assessment and for mitigation planning.


6.13 Transportation Impacts on Highly-Populated Areas Along Transportation Corridors

The draft EIS must address the special risks and impacts associated with SNF and HLW transportation through highly populated areas. Rail shipments will be a major source of concern, since most of the high-quality track nationally connects and traverses major urban areas, and many rail yards and carrier interchanges are located in urban areas (for example, Cleveland, Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, St. Louis, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and San Bernadino). Truck shipments on interstate routes chosen per U.S. Department of Transportation regulation HM 164 to bypass major downtown areas will still traverse highly populated suburban areas (Chicago, Des Moines, Omaha, St. Louis, and Kansas City are prime examples). In other instances, such as I-70 through Denver and I-15 through Las Vegas, alternative interstate routes are not available. The potential risks and impacts of severe accidents and terrorist incidents are exacerbated by proximity to concentrations of people and property. Moreover, congested urban and suburban interstates create numerous situations where truck shipments could result in actual or perceived risks to the public even when a spent fuel shipment itself is not the cause of, or directly involved in, an accident. A truck shipment of SNF caught up in a gridlock incident for three or four hours, for example, could expose drivers and passengers to radiation doses in the range of 30 - 40 millirems. Exposures at this level could cause adverse health effects in certain members of the public, for example, pregnant women and their unborn children. Even if no adverse physiological health effects result, such incidents create obvious potential for harmful psychological impacts to the persons involved, and media coverage of such "signal" events could heighten the public perception of risk generally.


6.14 Transportation Impacts on Difficult-to-Evacuate Locations

The draft EIS must address potential impacts of nuclear waste transportation on difficult-to-evacuate locations, such as schools, hospitals, hotels, prisons, shopping malls, sports stadiums, public parks, and recreational areas along shipping routes. The State of Nevada is particularly concerned about the difficulty of evacuating large numbers of non-resident visitors in the event of a severe transportation accident near a major tourist area like the Las Vegas Strip. Rail and highway routes to Yucca Mountain could bring all of the nuclear waste shipments within one to three miles of the Las Vegas Strip and its massive hotels, casinos, and theme parks. Studies by the UNLV Transportation Research Center have estimated an average year-round population of more than 300,000 non-residents within two miles of the junction of I-15 and US 95 and the Union Pacific mainline in downtown Las Vegas.


6.15 Transportation Impacts on Economic Activities Sensitive to Public Perception of Risk

The Draft EIS must address the potential adverse impacts of large numbers of nuclear waste shipments on tourism-based economies located near transportation corridors to Yucca Mountain. State-of-the-art risk studies sponsored by the State of Nevada and by DOE have documented the public perception of risks associated with nuclear waste transportation. These studies have also documented potential adverse impacts on tourist visits to areas affected by nuclear waste shipments. The EIS should consider potential adverse impacts on year-round tourism (for example, in downtown Las Vegas), seasonal tourism (for example, ski resorts in Nevada, Utah, and Colorado), and special-event tourism (for example, the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics). The Draft EIS must also consider the effects of risk perception on property values along shipping routes, and risk-related impacts on business location and expansion decisions.


6.16 Transportation Impacts on Native American Lands, Religious Sites, Cultural Resources, and Off-Reservation Interests

The Draft EIS must identify the Indian reservations and off-reservation Indian interests within the State of Nevada potentially affected by transportation to Yucca Mountain. Three reservations could be affected by truck shipments. The Moapa Indian Reservation would be traversed by shipments on I-15. The Las Vegas Indian Reservation would be traversed by shipments on US 95. The Ely Colony and the Duckwater Indian Reservation would be affected by shipments on US 93 and US 6. Three reservations and six colonies could be affected by rail shipments. The Moapa Indian Reservation would be traversed by rail shipments on the Union Pacific southern mainline. The Walker River Indian Reservation would be traversed by rail shipments on the Southern Pacific branchline to Mina. The Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation and the Reno-Sparks, Lovelock, Winnemucca, Battle Mountain, Elko, and Wells Indian colonies would be traversed or affected by rail shipments on the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific northern mainlines. All three DOE priority rail access corridors to Yucca Mountain cross lands claimed by the Western Shoshone National Council according to the Ruby Valley Treaty of 1863. The Carlin route (about 360 miles long) is located entirely upon lands claimed by the Western Shoshone. About three-quarters of the Caliente route (360 miles long) and about one-half of the Jean route (120 miles long) are also located on these lands.

To date, there have been no serious studies of the potential impacts of rail construction and nuclear waste transportation on Western Shoshone interest in these lands, nor have there been any studies of the potential implications of the Western Shoshone land claims for rail construction and operation. Preliminary analysis by the State of Nevada has identified several issues for further study: implications of the Western Shoshone land claims for DOE right-of-way acquisition; location of burial sites, ceremonial sites, and other site-specific cultural resources within the rail access corridors, with necessary protection of such sites during and after documentation under arrangements acceptable to the Western Shoshone; "standard" (non-radiological) socioeconomic impact assessment of rail construction and operation; and the potential for "special" (nuclear-related) social, cultural, and economic impacts.

So far, DOE has studied only one route - Caliente - in detail. DOE's consultants, Science Applications International Corporation and De Leuw, Cather and Company, had the following to say about possible Native American concerns: "The Nevada Test Site and Yucca Mountain are located on land claimed to be Western Shoshone aboriginal territory. At this stage of the project, no contacts have been made with Native American groups. Consequently, their specific concerns cannot be identified at this time. It is known however, that Native Americans have cultural and religious interests regarding the project area. It is recommended that direct contacts be made to the individual tribal groups in the project area, should the Caliente Alternative be selected for detailed study under an EIS. These tribal groups could then be consulted as to the cultural, historical, and religious significance of places, crossed by the potential railroad right-of-way." Nevada believes that DOE's consultants' recommendations regarding early contacts with affected Native Americans also apply to the Jean, Carlin, and Modified Valley rail access routes.


6.17 Transportation Impacts on Environmentally Sensitive Areas

The Yucca Mountain EIS must identify and evaluate environmentally sensitive areas along potential SNF and HLW shipping routes as part of its transportation impact assessment. Given the nature of the materials to be transported, the magnitude of the shipping campaign that will be required, the wide geographical area involved, and the 30 year time frame for repository shipments, it is important that weight be given, in the EIS assessment, to environmentally sensitive areas in identifying impacts, informing routing decisions, and developing mitigation plans. The UNLV Transportation Research Center has integrated (albeit in a preliminary fashion) information on environmentally sensitive areas for certain routes within Nevada that were characterized in a study done under contract to the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects. The information required to perform such analyses for all potential highway and rail routes is reasonably available and should be used in the EIS transportation assessment.

Back to INDEX


7.0 CUMULATIVE IMPACTS

(Yucca Mountain and the Nevada Test Site)


To meet the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements to evaluate cumulative effects, the Yucca Mountain EIS must contain an analysis of the cumulative environmental and radiological risks and hazards for all current and proposed radioactive wastes and special nuclear materials proposed for storage and/or disposal at Yucca Mountain, the Nevada Test Site, and surrounding environs. Such an assessment must focus on the cumulative impacts to affected workers, the public, and sensitive ecosystems. To accomplish this, the Yucca Mountain EIS must include consideration of all radioactive wastes and special nuclear materials that currently exist, or are being considered for transport, treatment, storage, and/or disposal at the proposed repository, the Nevada Test Site, and surrounding environs.


7.1 Civilian Spent Nuclear Fuel

As indicated in the NOI, the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act, as amended, prohibits the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from licensing a first repository for more than 70,000 MTHM (Metric Tons Heavy Metal) of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste until a second repository site is under consideration. The NOI also states that "by the year 2035, total spent nuclear fuel from power reactors will amount to about 85,000 MTHM." Although there is a legislative limit on the disposal capacity at a first repository, State officials contend that DOE must nevertheless include an analysis in the EIS of the cumulative environmental and radiological risks and hazards based on both the 70,000 MTHM limit and the 85,000 MTHM projection of civilian fuel, referenced in the NOI. As mentioned above, this analysis must include all current and proposed nuclear fuel management activities at Yucca Mountain and the Nevada Test Site.

This analysis is suggested because, given the uneven legislative history of DOE's repository program, it is possible that the existing legislative limit of 70,000 MTHM of civilian spent nuclear fuel could be altered. Moreover, under the regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR PART 1500), State officials believe that evidence clearly exists to suggest that a legislative change is a "reasonable foreseeable future action" as defined under Part 1508.7 of these regulations.


7.2 DOE Spent Nuclear Fuel

The NOI makes specific reference to DOE spent nuclear fuel generated as part of the agency's "national atomic energy defense and research activities." The NOI provides no indication, however, about the amount of this material that is being considered for disposal in a repository at Yucca Mountain. The only indication of the amount of non-civilian generated material being considered for the repository EIS is 7,000 MTHM "equivalent, of DOE-owned spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste" mentioned on page 9 of the NOI. In spite of this, State officials believe that DOE must assess the cumulative environmental and radiological risks and hazards from all radioactive materials that currently exist, or are being considered for transport, treatment, storage, and/or disposal at the proposed repository. This means that DOE-owned spent nuclear fuel, which is now estimated at 2,742 MTHM , must be considered in a cumulative environmental and radiological risk assessment for Yucca Mountain. Likewise, the estimated 22,700 individual spent fuel elements (i.e., 19.2 MTHM) proposed to be shipped to the United States from foreign research reactors, must also be included in such an assessment.

It is important to recognize that DOE policy now states that "ultimate disposition of this fuel [DOE owned fuel] will be consistent with the Nuclear Waste policy Act of 1982 (42 U.S.C. 10101 ET. SEQ.) and will follow appropriate review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)." In terms of NEPA compliance, State officials are assuming that this "appropriate review" refers directly to the Yucca Mountain repository EIS.


7.3 High-Level Waste

As indicated in the NOI, DOE will include at least 7,000 MTHM "equivalent, of DOE-owned spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste" as part of the total inventory of waste for assessment in the repository EIS. While the NOI fails to provide any substantive details about DOE-managed high-level waste (HLW), the Department is nonetheless obligated to assess the cumulative impacts of "reasonable foreseeable future actions" as mentioned above under Part 1508.7. This means that DOE must include an analysis of cumulative environmental and radiological risks and hazards associated with the transport, storage, and disposal of existing inventories, as well as future inventories of HLW.

DOE is currently proceeding with plans to treat HLW by processing it into a glass-like material (vitrification). According to DOE's Waste Management PEIS, "when the existing inventory (approximately 105 million gallons) of HLW is vitrified, the vitrified material will fill an estimated 28,372 canisters,". This vitrification process and temporary HLW storage program will be conducted at DOE's Hanford Reservation in Washington State, the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, Idaho, and the West Valley Site in New York State. It should be noted however, that the estimated number of HLW canisters to be produced from vitrification at the Hanford Site depends on a site-specific decision concerning pre-treatment of tank waste. The decision will be reached under the Tank Waste Remediation System EIS, which is currently being prepared. In addition, if DOE initiates reprocessing of foreign reactor fuel, the volume increase in HLW proposed for the disposal at Yucca Mountain will also need to be included in the cumulative environmental and radiological risk assessment indicated above.

Thus, in an effort to identify the final number of canisters and/or volume of HLW in equivalent MTHM for disposal in a geologic repository, DOE must address in the Yucca Mountain EIS findings contained in the Hanford Tank Waste Remediation System EIS and/or other appropriate and timely department decision documents. This is important since the Hanford HLW program has been plagued by technical, institutional, and financial uncertainties that have delayed the pre-treatment and storage of HLW at the site.


7.4 Greater-Than-Class-C Waste

Although estimates of the volume of Greater-Than-Class-C Low-Level (GTCC) wastes are difficult to identify, DOE has publicly stated that at least 70,000 cubic feet (2,000m3) of this waste will be produced through the year 2035. GTCC wastes are generally long-lived, containing high concentrations of radionuclides and thus represent a significant threat to human health and the environment. Congress mandated that the federal government manage the storage and disposal of all GTCC wastes. Because roughly two-thirds of this waste is generated by commercial activities, (e.g., nuclear power plants, hospitals, universities, and pharmaceutical manufacturing firms), the NRC is obligated to regulate storage and disposal of GTCC wastes. And, unless other disposal alternatives are identified, the NRC has determined that these wastes will need to be disposed of in a deep geologic repository.

Since the NRC must license a disposal facility for GTCC wastes (60 percent of which is generated by public utilities), and if a repository at Yucca Mountain is selected for permanent isolation of this material, the repository EIS must assess the cumulative environmental and radiological human health risks and hazards of transporting, treating, storing, and disposing of these wastes. Alternatively, the No Action Alternative in the EIS (or some other DOE/NRC NEPA document) must consider the human health and environmental impacts resulting from storing GTCC wastes in place at civilian power reactors and other NRC licensed storage facilities. Such an evaluation should also focus on the advantages and disadvantages of allowing significant radioactive decay of GTCC wastes, while in safe, secure storage for a given time period, pending final disposition. This means the repository EIS must describe the federal government's short-term and long-term plans and programs for treatment, storage, and disposal of utility generated GTCC waste as well as NRC-licensed, sealed sources.

It is worth mentioning that in March of this year, DOE published a Notice of Inquiry for the management and disposal of GTCC waste. The Notice discussed the following alternatives for managing GTCC wastes: (1) co-disposal of GTCC waste with spent nuclear fuel and HLW in a geologic repository (DOE's apparent preferred alternative); (2) co-disposal of GTCC waste with DOE Special Case Waste (SCW); (3) development of onsite storage options for nuclear utility GTCC waste, as well as provision for DOE storage capability for small quantities of non-utility generated GTCC waste; (4) development of policies for cost recovery to support GTCC waste management; and (5) development of waste acceptance criteria for all GTCC waste co-disposal options.

In reference to co-disposal of GTCC waste in a federal repository, State officials are concerned that GTCC waste might be considered a lesser risk than spent nuclear fuel or HLW and thus could be treated less seriously in the NRC licensing process for a federal repository. Second, while most GTCC waste is associated with nuclear utility waste (the largest volume being activated metals associated with spent fuel assemblies and reactor core components), precise estimates of the volume of these wastes are not completely known. Questions also remain about whether fuel assemblies and reactor core components should be considered as either spent fuel or HLW, rather than GTCC waste. Because of these uncertainties, waste treatment alternatives and storage options for reactor GTCC waste must be resolved before disposal issues can be fully considered.

In addition, problems associated with meeting the waste acceptance criteria for dissimilar waste types proposed for co-disposal in a repository must be addressed. In 1994, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) evaluated DOE's low-level waste management program throughout DOE's weapons complex. That review resulted in the DNFSB recommendation 94-2. One of the findings in the recommendation covered the content and implementation of DOE standards, orders, and regulations concerning the disposal of low-level defense waste. Specifically, the DNFSB found that in establishing low-level waste sites, DOE guidance for meeting established performance assessment criteria constrained "evaluators to apply reference dose criteria to disposal facilities individually rather than assessing composite effects when contiguous burial facilities exist."

This means that DOE has established several low-level disposal sites in a way that significantly complicates performance assessment approaches for determining radionuclide migration to the biosphere in order to determine compliance with prescribed release standards for either DOE-operated or NRC- regulated disposal facilities.

The DOE must not make this mistake where long-lived, highly radioactive materials are concerned. In proposing to dispose of GTCC waste with spent nuclear fuel and defense HLW in a single repository, DOE must be able to demonstrate that dissimilar waste types can be assessed to meet performance objectives for determining radionuclide migration to the biosphere. Hence, DOE must focus on defining the types and volumes of GTCC waste that will be considered for repository disposal. Detailed characterization of these materials will be necessary to comply with as yet to be defined performance objectives for each of the alternative thermal load strategies discussed in the NOI for the repository EIS.

In a related matter, State officials do recognize that alternatives for storage and disposal of GTCC waste are planned for evaluation in a forthcoming Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement "tiered" to DOE's Waste Management Programmatic EIS, (See referenced GTCC Notice of Inquiry). While specific time lines for initiating the GTCC Supplemental EIS have not been disclosed, State officials must assume this EIS will be prepared sometime during the five-year time period now contemplated for the Yucca Mountain Repository EIS. This means that the repository EIS must be consistent with, and incorporate by reference, the findings of the GTCC supplemental EIS, or otherwise directly address the GTCC waste characterization and performance assessment issues mentioned herein in the repository EIS itself.


7.5 Special Case Waste

The volume of Special Case Waste (SCW) under DOE management is currently estimated at 2.6 million cubic feet (75,000m3). Like GTCC waste, SCW waste poses a considerable hazard to human health and the environment and must be isolated from the biosphere. As mentioned above, DOE is considering a disposal strategy that proposes co-disposal of SCW waste with GTCC waste in a single NRC-licensed disposal facility. And while this strategy may not seem relevant to the repository EIS, it is.

Over the past several years DOE officials at the NTS have conducted a disposal testing program for "high-specific activity low-level waste", classified wastes, transuranic wastes, and mixed wastes. Generically speaking, these wastes are all defined as DOE SCW waste. The test involved disposal of varying amounts of these wastes at the NTS Area 5 Radioactive Waste Management Site (RWMS) in Greater Confinement Disposal (GCD) boreholes. (The Area 5 RWMS is located about 20 miles east of Yucca Mountain.) The GCD boreholes, which are 10 feet in diameter and 120 feet deep, have been used for the disposal of strontium capsules, and approximately 5,600 cubic feet of classified TRU waste. The disposal testing program was also used to assess the facilities' ability to confine the waste to stipulated performance objectives specified by EPA's radiation protection standards promulgated under 40 CFR 191. Using these radiation protection standards, DOE completed a draft Performance Assessment for the GCD facility at the NTS.

It should be mentioned that these release standards (40 CFR 191) were the original environmental radiation protection standards promulgated by EPA for the management and disposal of spent nuclear fuel, high-level waste, and transuranic waste. While these standards no longer apply to a repository at Yucca Mountain, they represent the most stringent protection standards for isolating radioactive waste from the biosphere. Thus, because a draft Performance Assessment has been completed for the GCD facility at the NTS and for other reasons referenced below, State officials believe the NTS will likely be considered a primary candidate site for developing a co-disposal facility for DOE SCW waste and GTCC waste.

If this occurs, DOE must assess the cumulative human health and environmental risks and hazards of transporting, treating, storing, and disposing of these wastes in conjunction with other long-lived waste forms such as spent fuel and HLW proposed for disposal at a repository in Yucca Mountain. Such a cumulative assessment is necessary because Yucca Mountain and the NTS are contiguous sites that share various infrastructure resources (e.g., transportation routes, staging facilities, workers, etc.). These contiguous sites also contain adjoining ecological and groundwater resources.


7.6 Special Nuclear Materials

The DOE is currently preparing a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to assess storage and disposition of weapons-usable fissile materials. The primary goal of the document is to select a storage and disposition option that will render weapons-usable fissile materials inaccessible and unattractive for weapons fabrication, while protecting human health and the environment. The primary focus of the PEIS will be on storage and disposition of surplus plutonium. Six candidate sites will be evaluated in the PEIS for development of a new, consolidated long-term storage facility for these long-lived materials. The new facility will be designed to provide safe, secure long-term storage of both strategic and surplus weapons-usable fissile materials for at least 50 years. The NTS is one of the six candidate sites.

In addition to long-term storage, the PEIS will assess disposition options for these long-lived materials. And at least three of these options could have significant impacts on a repository at Yucca Mountain, the NTS, and surrounding environs. Option 1 calls for converting surplus plutonium into domestic and/or foreign reactor fuel (i.e., MOX fuel). The MOX fuel would then be "burned" in a reactor thus achieving the spent fuel standard. According to DOE, this would "preserve options for final disposition . . . such as the ultimate emplacement in a high-level waste repository." Option 2 calls for immobilizing the material into a chemically stable matrix such as borosilicate glass or a ceramic material. Again, this high-level waste material would be disposed of in a high-level waste repository. Option 3 proposes emplacement of the material (both treated and/or un-treated) directly in deep boreholes drilled several kilometers in "stable" rock formations. What all of this means is that the national end point for both strategic reserves and surplus plutonium could be a repository at Yucca Mountain and/or storage at the NTS.

Thus, it appears that major siting decisions involving co-location of both defense and non-defense storage and disposal facilities could occur in Nevada without ample consideration or assessment of the potential cumulative environmental and radiological risks and hazards. For example, DOE could make a decision based on the Fissile Materials PEIS that sites a new long-term storage facility for plutonium at NTS, and/or supports a "path forward" decision for placement of plutonium as spent fuel or plutonium vitrified waste directly in a repository at Yucca Mountain. And while these decisions are being made, DOE could simultaneously undertake other compounding "connected actions" concerning final disposition for GTCC waste and SCW waste, in addition to a forthcoming decision that selects the NTS for expanded disposal of low-level waste and low-level mixed waste. These are all connected actions which individually and collectively could have significant impacts on human health and the natural environment at both a repository at Yucca Mountain and the NTS. While this "un-coordinated" planning approach may be expedient from a national perspective, making these decisions and implementing these actions separately could significantly amplify environmental impacts associated with the transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of radioactive waste in southern Nevada. Accordingly, under 40 CFR 1508.25, State officials contend these are "connected actions" and must be evaluated in a single NEPA document. And given the long time frame (5 years) for the development of the repository EIS, the State of Nevada believes that this EIS should be the single NEPA document that must contain such an evaluation.


7.7 Summary of Cumulative Environmental and Radiological Risks and Hazards Assessment

Because DOE intends to combine the disposal of commercial and defense waste in a single repository at Yucca Mountain, uncertainties about the characteristics and volume of these dissimilar wastes must be clarified in the Implementation Plan for the EIS. The plan must also outline an Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) process for assessing the cumulative environmental and radiological risks and hazards of shipping, storing, and disposing of these dissimilar waste types in a single repository at Yucca Mountain.

Also, even though "The [repository] EIS will be prepared over a five-year period", DOE can not ignore the amount of nuclear materials discussed above that may not fit within the legislative limit of 70,000 MTHM as called for under the NWPA. We note DOE\OCRWM has arbitrarily chosen a 5-year EIS development period to "ensure that the appropriate data gathering and tests are performed to adequately assess potential environmental impacts." We again must reiterate that this EIS development time period, during which other DOE NEPA decisions covering disposition of GTCC waste, SCW waste, HLW, and weapons-useable fissile materials will be made, is too restrictive to allow DOE to accomplish all the necessary studies needed to fully comply with NEPA. Elsewhere in these comments a reference is made to an estimate of about 110,000 MTHM of spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste as the likely amount of materials proposed for disposal in the repository. Nevada contends that this amount of materials [or some similar projection] must not only be considered in assessing an additional EIS alternative, it must also be used for assessing the cumulative environmental and radiological risks and hazards at Yucca Mountain, the NTS, and surrounding environs.

As DOE is aware, CEQ regulations (Part 1502.14) compel agencies to consider alternatives that are not within their direct jurisdiction. These regulations also require agencies to consider "reasonable foreseeable future actions" (Part 1508.7), for determining cumulative impacts in assessing the significance of long-term effects on the human and natural environment such as impacts on human health, ecological, and groundwater resources. State officials contend that these sections of the CEQ regulations are directly relevant to the Yucca Mountain EIS and thus cannot be ignored in the forthcoming Implementation Plan or draft EIS. And yet, if the DOE fails to consider connected actions through an assessment of cumulative impacts from all of the various waste types mentioned herein, the State of Nevada will see DOE's NEPA process as yet another insufficient compliance effort that is fundamentally flawed, lacking credibility with State and local officials and stakeholders alike.


7.8 Relationship to Program Activities at the Nevada Test Site

As mentioned previously, the EIS must address the cumulative impacts, in the time frame of 1000 to 1,000,000 years, of anticipated releases of radionuclides into the groundwater and the atmosphere at Yucca Mountain, the NTS, and surrounding environs. Such an assessment must include those nuclear materials proposed and\or envisioned for disposal at Yucca Mountain. These materials include nuclear materials remaining in the groundwater and soils caused by historic nuclear testing and associated research and development activities at the NTS; nuclear (waste) materials disposed of or planned for disposal at the NTS; and nuclear (waste) materials that were disposed of at the Beatty, Nevada low-level site.


7.8.1 Groundwater and Surface Soils Contamination at NTS and Surrounding Environs

The NTS has been the location of 100 above ground atmospheric tests and some 930 underground tests. The nuclear testing program was conducted between 1951 and 1992. The underground tests were conducted at Frenchman Flats (ten tests), the Western Pahute Mesa (18 tests), the Yucca Flat (717 tests), Central Pahut Mesa (64 tests), Rainier Mesa/Shoshone Mountain (60 tests), and the Climax Mine (3 tests). The atmospheric tests were conducted at Frenchman Flat, although the majority were actually detonated above Yucca Flat. In addition to the nuclear testing program, there were several nuclear research and development programs conducted throughout the site, the largest being located at NTS Area 25 (Jackass Flats). Jackass Flats lies at the base of Yucca Mountain.

Groundwater contamination caused by nuclear testing has not been fully characterized beneath the NTS, although it is known that at least 30 percent of the underground tests were conducted near or within the groundwater table. Most of the source term from the underground testing program remains in the groundwater today. The DOE Nevada Operations Office's Environmental Restoration Program is currently conducting a long-term groundwater characterization and monitoring program at the NTS.

On the other hand, surface soil contamination has been characterized to some extent at the NTS and, when the atmospheric and near surface test were included, the contaminated acreage in excess of 40pCi/g has been estimated to cover about 27,000 acres. (Surface contamination includes at least 1,000 curies of plutonium, 330 curies of strontium 90, and 310 curies of cesium 137).


7.8.2 Waste Disposal Activities at the Nevada Test Site and the Beatty Site

About 18 million cubic feet of defense low-level waste (LLW) is buried at the NTS. The closed commercial site at Beatty contains some 4 million cubic feet of LLW. The Beatty site and the LLW site on the NTS are each located about 20 miles from Yucca Mountain. Currently, virtually all of the defense LLW being disposed of at NTS is shipped from offsite generators. The NTS is also being considered as a regional and\or national disposal site for LLW and mixed LLW. It is worth mentioning that in a recent DOE publication ( the 1995 Baseline Environmental Management Report), it is suggested that the NTS will continue to receive up to 700,000 cubic feet of LLW each year (based on current annual disposal rates), and that NTS has the disposal capacity to accept one million cubic feet of LLW each year for a period of 100 years.


7.8.3 Cumulative Impacts To Surface, Atmospheric and Regional Groundwater Resources

The groundwater basins between NTS and Yucca Mountain are contiguous. The groundwater generally moves down-gradient from north to south and southwest beneath Amargosa Valley to discharge at Ash Meadows and in Death Valley. Because of this down- gradient flow, it is imperative that the EIS address the potential cumulative impacts of groundwater contamination caused by historic nuclear testing, research and development activities, and waste disposal operations on the NTS. It is generally accepted that a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain also will eventually contaminate the underground aquifers of Amargosa Valley. In addition, the Beatty LLW site is located in the upper end of Amargosa Valley and leakage from this site will also contaminate the Amargosa Valley groundwater. This means that the repository EIS must be consistent with and\or must incorporate by reference the findings of DOE's long-term groundwater and surface monitoring and cleanup programs at the NTS, as well as other off-site groundwater monitoring programs.

The repository EIS must assess ongoing waste disposal, cleanup, and monitoring activities at NTS because these activities may increase the risk of radiation exposure to site workers and the public. The EIS must also assess the potential cumulative impacts of these risks in the time frame of 1000 to 1,000,000 years from anticipated releases of radionuclides into the groundwater and the atmosphere that are associated with both historic and current testing and disposal activities at the NTS and disposal activities at Yucca Mountain.

Thus, because of the proximity of Yucca Mountain to the NTS, the repository EIS must assess the cumulative impacts caused by past, present, and future waste disposal, cleanup, and monitoring activities at the NTS. Such an assessment should focus on potential cumulative impacts from increased risks of radiation exposure to site workers and the public. And as mentioned above, the EIS must also assess long-term risks caused by radionuclide migration in the groundwater, as well as atmosphere releases. To fully bound future risks for human populations and the environment, historic nuclear testing and waste disposal activities conducted at the NTS along with disposal activities envisioned for a repository at Yucca Mountain must be included in this assessment.

Back to INDEX


8.0 LEGAL AND REGULATORY ISSUES


8.1 Constitutional Basis

The EIS should discuss the textual basis in the United States Constitution for a federal power that permits DOE to take title to spent nuclear fuel rods produced by private industry, to commandeer the natural and governmental resources of the State of Nevada, and to jeopardize the State's socioeconomic well being in furtherance of the perpetual disposal of such waste byproducts in a geologic repository in Nevada, given the fact that Nevada expressly has declined to consent to such an intrusion upon its own constitutional rights and powers.


8.2 10 CFR 60 Regulations

8.2.1 Nuclear Energy Commission regulation, 10 CFR 60.121, provides in pertinent part:

(A) Ownership of land. (1) Both the geologic repository operations area and the controlled area shall be located in and on lands that are either acquired lands under the jurisdiction and control of DOE, or lands permanently withdrawn and reserved for its use.

The foregoing regulation raises a number of issues which should be addressed in the EIS. 10 CFR 60.121 provides that the "DOE shall exercise any jurisdiction and control over surface and subsurface estates necessary to prevent adverse human actions that could significantly reduce the geologic repository's ability to achieve isolation." This regulatory requirement, in addition to the fact that the repository will be a federal facility in perpetuity, requires that the United States acquire exclusive jurisdiction over the lands comprising the operations area and the controlled area. The EIS should discuss how the DOE intends to acquire exclusive jurisdiction over these lands with consideration given to the constitutional requirement that exclusive jurisdiction may only be acquired in the manner set forth in Art. I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the United States Constitution. Of particular interest to Nevada in this regard is the requirement that the DOE obtain the consent of the Nevada Legislature in order to acquire exclusive jurisdiction. If the DOE intends to exercise less than exclusive jurisdiction, the EIS should discuss completely the rationale upon which DOE bases its assumption that it can accomplish the isolation of the waste and the prevention of human intrusion in addition to accomplishing the other objectives of the NWPA in the absence of exclusive jurisdiction over the lands comprising the site.


8.2.2 10 CFR 60.121 provides in part that:

(c) Water rights. (1) DOE shall also have obtained such water rights as may be needed to accomplish the purposes of the geologic repository operations area.

It is generally accepted that the geologic repository will eventually contaminate the underground aquifers beneath Yucca Mountain. The EIS should discuss DOE's plans to acquire existing water rights which may be rendered useless because of the contamination in the future, and its plans, if any, to appropriate in advance all other unappropriated waters in order to prevent such water resources from being acquired by unwary private or public appropriators.


8.3 Compensation for Diminution of Property Values

The EIS should discuss all sources of compensation for the diminution of property values caused by property being located in proximity to transportation routes. The EIS should also discuss the sources of all compensation for takings of business opportunities and property interests which may be caused by the notoriety and adverse publicity attending anticipated accidents involving the nuclear materials which will occur over the time period during which the repository will be being loaded.

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