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Capitol Complex
Carson City, Nevada 89710
Telephone: (702) 687-3744
Fax: (702) 687-5277
Executive Director

October 24, 1997

G. Leah Dever, Assistant Manager
for Environmental Management
DOE Nevada Operations Office
P.O. Box 98518
Las Vegas, Nevada 89193-8518

Dear Ms. Dever:

As you know, staff from the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects have been working with the DOE/Nevada's Transportation Protocol Working Group to address a State equity issue concerning the transportation of low-level radioactive waste in Nevada. In response to discussion at the Group's meeting on October 2nd, 1997, we have prepared the attached comments on the September 30, 1997 draft of the "Nevada Intermodal Transportation Evaluation" report.

It continues to be the State's contention that DOE must prohibit the transportation of radioactive waste through the Las Vegas Valley, and that a commitment to address this issue should be conceptually discussed in the Record of Decision for the Waste Management PEIS. As you know, we have discussed this issue in State comments on DOE's 2006 Discussion Draft Plan and in meetings with Assistant Secretary Alvin Alm.

We are generally encouraged with the progress that is being made on the issue through efforts of the Protocol Working Group. If properly characterized and acted upon this study will be instrumental in addressing the low-level waste transportation issue within Nevada and in furthering our joint goal of eliminating such shipments from the heavily populated Las Vegas metropolitan area and Hoover Dam.

As we have indicated in the enclosed comments, the "Intermodal Evaluation" should be clearly identified as a feasibility study with an end goal of defining a set of alternatives, including a "proposed action," for siting an intermodal waste transfer facility and selecting highway routes for moving low-level waste to the Nevada Test Site. We see the feasibility study as a starting point for developing the alternatives for detailed analysis in a Programmatic Environmental Assessment (EA) that will address not only low-level waste coming from Fernald, but also waste originating at all of the DOE generator sites. The feasibility study would, in essence, generate the "Scoping" document for the Programmatic EA.

A Programmatic EA would give DOE necessary decision authority to require existing and future waste generators to use the intermodal transfer facility (as appropriate) and to abide by the selected intrastate highway route for transporting waste to the Nevada Test Site.

As indicated in the attached comments, a commitment to address the waste transportation issue in Nevada, on the basis of equity, should be stipulated in the Record of Decision for the Waste Management PEIS. Honoring such a commitment could then be accomplished through development of the referenced Programmatic EA.

Please feel free to contact me if you have questions regarding our comments on the feasibility study or if you would like to discuss these matters further.


Robert R. Loux
Executive Director


Alvin L. Alm, Assistant Secretary, DOE-EM
Frank Dl Sanza, DOE - Nevada
Joe Strolin & John Walker, NWPO
Paul Liebendorfer, NDEP



Submitted October 3, 1997

(1) Title of the Report

The title of the report should be change to "Nevada Test Site Intermodal Transportation and Routing Feasibility Study." Also, the term "feasibility study" should be used throughout the document and the schedule when referring to the effort.

(2) Introduction (page 1)

The "Background" section of the report (Background and Purpose) should clearly describe evolution of the effort into a feasibility study, not a demonstration project. In addition, the "Purpose" statement should be re-written to reflect that the purpose of this effort is to evaluate the feasibility of using intermodal (rail-truck) transportation, in combination with designated highway routes from the intermodal facility to the Nevada Test Site (NTS), as a means of reducing transportation risks by avoiding the heavily populated and extremely congested Las Vegas Valley. The study will lay the groundwork for a programmatic environmental assessment (EA) that can serve as a decision document for a "proposed action" to require all low-level radioactive waste destined for NTS to be shipped via the identified highway route and, if applicable, the selected intermodal facility.

There should be no misunderstanding that this effort is a demonstration project for Fernald-generated waste. The study can most productively be framed as the first step in the overall process that will lead to a DOE decision about waste shipments to NTS from all DOE generator sites. The incorporation of a commitment in the Record of Decision for the Waste Management Programmatic EIS (which is due out in December, 1997) to address, on the basis of equity, Nevada concerns about ongoing and increasing shipments of radioactive materials through the Las Vegas Valley is another important step in this process, which should culminate in the issuance of a programmatic EA selection of a preferred alternative.

(3) Transportation Policy (page 2)

The sentences indicating that the truck route associated with the Caliente Transfer Point is an exception to the compliance with USDOT regulations should be eliminated. There are no USDOT regulations that prohibit low-level waste to be transported by the proposed Caliente route. In fact, the Caliente truck route may well be shown to be a lower risk route because it avoids heavily populated areas and thereby lowers the risk of routine and accident-related exposures.

(4) Community Acceptance Section (Pages 23 - 25)

The report should be careful to characterize the "community acceptance" section as a key informant study, not as a scientific study of community attitudes and perceptions. In framing conclusions for this section of the report, care must be taken not to represent findings as percentages that somehow reflect a level of overall acceptance or rejection. Saying that "sixty percent of the participants objected ..." or that "the remaining forty percent expressed either support for or tolerance of ..." is meaningless because the sample sizes and the way they were selected don't allow for such generalizing. It's better to stick simply to what the key informants said.

(5) The Attached Map

Hoover Dam should be specifically identified on the map provided with the report is, as proposed, the existing truck routes are to be added.

(6) Schedule

The schedule should be revised to remove references to an "intermodal demonstration project" and replace them with "feasibility study." The schedule should also be made consistent with the purpose of the study (see above).

The October, 1997 milestone, "Determine DOE-Fernald's level of participation...", should be revised to read, "Determine levels of participation for DOE generator sites in the feasibility study and EA."

The reference to issuing a Finding of No Significant Impact should be replaced by reference to adopting a preferred alternative for an intermodal transfer facility and for a designated highway route from the facility to NTS.

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