Citing serious conflicts with “national security” activities, the Air Force has reiterated its opposition to the shipment of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste through the Nellis Air Force Range for disposal or storage at the Nevada Test Site or Yucca Mountain. The Air Force statement came in response to a letter from Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects Director, Bob Loux, to Major General Marvin R. Esmond, Nellis Air Force Base Commander, seeking clarification on the Air Force’s position regarding access to sensitive Nellis areas for State personnel to conduct safety analyses and inspections along a proposed heavy haul corridor through Air Force withdrawn lands.
Legislation pending in the U.S. Senate (S1271) to revamp the nation’s high-level radioactive waste program and locate an interim spent nuclear fuel storage facility at the Nevada Test Site contains a provision for constructing a “Chalk Mountain heavy haul road” from Rachael, Nevada, on the eastern edge of the Nellis Range to Area 25 on NTS (near Yucca Mountain). While maps of the exact route being proposed have not been provided to the State, Nevada officials are concerned that secrecy considerations on the part of the Air Force could interfere with risk assessments and ongoing monitoring and inspections that would be required during the planning, construction, and operational phases for the proposed nuclear waste road.
In his response to Loux’s letter, Major General Esmond provided a copy of a September, 1995 letter from the Secretary of the Air Force to the Chairman of the House Committee on Resources setting forth the Air Force position on a companion piece of legislation in the House of Representatives. Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall stated that there would be significant impacts [to classified Air Force operations] if nuclear waste shipments were permitted through Nellis lands. The Air Force strongly requests, Widnall went on, that [legislation] be amended to ... designate rail and truck routes which use existing or new routes that avoid Nellis restricted airspace/ranges and Nellis Air Force Base.
If a heavy haul truck route were to be constructed through Nellis, between 10,000 and 30,000 shipments of spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste could be shipped through sensitive Air Force lands over a continuous 25 year period.