May 14, 1999
Jack Hott, Acquisition Manager
Fluor Daniel Fernald
P.O. Box 538704
Cincinnati, OH, 45253-8704.
RE: Draft Request for Proposal (RFP) for Intermodal Low-Level Radioactive Waste Transportation Services from Fernald, Ohio to the Nevada Test Site.
Dear Mr. Hott:
Nevada officials have reviewed the above referenced “Draft” RFP for Intermodal shipments of Low Level Waste (LLW) from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fernald site in Ohio, to the Nevada Test Site (NTS), in Nevada. Our comments focus on National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance issues as they relate to the Draft RFP. Specifically, Nevada officials are concerned about the relationship -- or lack thereof -- between the scope and intent of the Draft RFP and DOE’s September 1998 Preapproved Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) titled “ Intermodal Transportation of Low-level Radioactive Waste to the Nevada Test Site.” (The referenced EA is dated 9/98 and was released by DOE’s Nevada Operations Office. As of this writing, the EA had not been finalized).
In comments on the referenced EA, the State of Nevada concluded that the document failed to properly assess the feasibility of siting an intermodal LLW transfer facility in Nevada.1 In fact, the proposed action in the EA only addressed the need to “encourage DOE/NV-approved LLW generators and their transportation contractors to use transportation alternatives that would minimize radiological risk, enhance safety, and reduce costs.” While the EA did assess various transportation modes, such as alternative intermodal waste transfer sites (i.e., rail to truck), the document was not intended and is insufficient to support a DOE decision, per the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), to site or otherwise promote, through a financial assistance award, the development of an Intermodal LLW transfer facility in Nevada.
State officials contend that any action by DOE to establish an Intermodal LLW transfer facility through procurement or some other competitive solicitation, such as execution of the referenced RFP, would violate the intent and spirt of the NEPA. It is also the State’s position that such an action cannot be considered categorically excluded under DOE’s NEPA implementing regulations 10 CFR Part 1021. Although certain DOE officials in Nevada have taken the position that allowing the development of an intermodal LLW transfer facility would not constitute a major federal action, the State of Nevada emphatically disagrees with this assumption.
It is the State’s view that any action by DOE that either directly or indirectly leads to the development of an intermodal LLW facility on lands not owned or controlled by the federal government would constitute a major federal action under NEPA (per CEQ regulations 1508.18(4)). At a minimum, we contend that a NEPA analysis must address the potential environmental, public health and safety, and economic impacts that may be caused by siting an intermodal LLW transfer facility in Nevada. Siting “nuclear facilities” can, under certain conditions, have significant negative effects by suppressing business activities, lowering property values, and causing potential new residents, tourists, and businesses to avoid areas associated with things nuclear.
Because of the unique hazards associated with handling radioactive waste, State officials believe that a regulatory analysis, conducted as part of the required NEPA analysis, must be undertaken to address DOE oversight and/or licensing under NRC regulations of an Intermodal LLW transfer facility. The State of Nevada contends that any facility that handles and stores low-level radioactive waste (as an intermodal facility would necessarily do) and that is not exempt from licensing by virtue of its location on federal lands or ownership by the federal government must be licensed pursuant to NRC’s regulations for LLW facilities.
In a related matter, if DOE proposes an action that is connected, closely related, or would automatically trigger other actions associated with an intermodal waste transfer facility, then all these actions must be analyzed together in a single NEPA document (see 40 CFR 1508.25). This is significant when considering that NTS hosts at least 15 offsite waste generators, any one of which might take advantage of a intermodal LLW transfer facility to ship waste there for disposal. Hence, allowing development of such a facility would likely trigger other actions (i.e., expanded use of an intermodal facility with associated transportation and added risks) which would cause cumulative impacts to the human and natural environment. DOE’s NEPA implementing regulations require that such actions be assessed together to address cumulative effects. Moreover, DOE is prohibited from categorically excluding actions in cases where a given proposal is “connected” to other actions or would otherwise result in cumulative effects to the environment (see 1021.410(2)).
Once again, if DOE intends to promote, facilitate, or participate in the development of an intermodal LLW transfer facility for LLW, either directly or as a result of activities envisioned under the above-referenced RFP, then DOE must follow established procedures under NEPA/CEQ implementing regulations 40 CFR Part 1500-1508 and DOE regulations 10 CFR Part 1021 and 1021.216. Such regulations require, at a minimum, the completion of an Environmental Impact Statement.
Please feel free to contact me with questions about these comments.
Robert R. Loux
Victoria Soberinsky, Governor’s Office
Nevada Congressional Delegation
Frankie Sue Del Papa, Attorney General
Thomas Steven, Director, NDOT
Allen Biaggi, Administrator, NDEP
Paul Liebendorfer, NDEP
Yvonne Sylva, Administrator, Health Division
AULG (Affected Units of Local Governments)
Mark Frie, DOE/HQ
Jay Rhoderick, DOE/HQ
Gerald Johnson, Manager, DOE/Nevada
Carl P. Gertz, Assistant Manager, DOE/Nevada
G.L. Dever, DOE/Ohio
The full text of these comments can be found on the State of Nevada’s Internet web page at: http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/nts/frank2.htm