The Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste

A Systematic Basis for Planning and Management at the National, Regional, and Community Levels

Prepared By
Planning Information Corporation
Denver, Colorado
September, 1996


Summary

To describe a national shipment campaign in a fashion which provides the inputs needed for risk and impact analysis as well as the information needed for coordinated planning and management requires an integrated assessment process for systematic consideration of at least the following factors:

Consideration of these factors enables one to provide useful information in response to basic questions regarding the shipment campaign in prospect under legislation proposed in the 104th Congress: e.g., How many cask shipments are expected? In which acceptance/pickup years? On which rail and highway routes? Through which states and communities? Sections 1 through 15 of this report discuss the factors in an integrated assessment process for a national shipment campaign, the assumptions used in this analysis, and the sources and bases for these assumptions. Sections 16 through 20 discuss the results of alternative scenarios involving three sets of transportation mode and cask choices, and two regional routing options. Section 21 illustrates a process for assembly of additional information on route features needed in risk analysis and management of transportation operations.

The current capabilities scenario results in 79,300 legal-weight truck casks shipped 62.3 million miles on 13,700 miles of the nation's public highways, plus 12,600 rail casks shipped 14.0 million miles on 18,800 miles of the nation's railroads. The high-capacity legal-weight truck cask, if available and used consistently, could reduce highway transport to 31,400 casks shipped 14.7 million miles. Implementation of the MPC base case scenario with high-capacity truck casks could further reduce highway transport to 6,300 casks shipped 5.7 million miles over 10,200 miles of the nation's public highways. These reductions, however, would require investments to improve loading and/or near-site transportation capabilities at 29 sites, and would also involve increases in rail cask shipments (10 percent), rail cask shipment miles (9 percent), and rail route miles affected (13 percent). Implementation of the maximum rail scenario would further reduce highway transport to 1,150 high-capacity casks shipped 1.0 million miles over 4,200 miles of the nation's public highways. These reductions would require further investment in loading and/or near-site transportation capabilities at 14 sites, and it would also involve further increases in rail cask shipments (9 percent), rail cask shipment miles (10 percent) and rail route miles affected (11 percent).

Different phases of the 30-year shipment campaign affect different portions of the nation's rail and highway networks to different extents. For example, truck shipment comprises 35 percent of the 86,600 metric tons shipped under the current capabilities scenario of transportation choices, but 66 percent of the 4,400 metric tons shipped in the first three years of the 30-year shipment campaign. Truck shipment comprises 11 percent of the MTU shipped under the MPC base case scenario, but 27 percent in the first three years. These differences reflect the loading and near-site transportation capabilities of sites storing fuel with high-priority for acceptance and pickup.

Perspectives on a national shipment campaign tend to correlate with one's position as an origin, corridor or destination community for shipments of highly-toxic and long-lived radioactive materials. Under the MPC base case scenario (default routing), seven states comprising two percent of the nation's population are neither origins, corridors nor the destination for shipments of SNF or HLW. Another seven states comprising 18 percent of the nation's population are origins for such shipments but not corridors for shipments from other states. Still another seven states plus the District of Columbia are corridors but not origins for such shipments; these comprise seven percent of the nation's population. Twenty-eight states comprising 71 percent of the nation's population are both origins for SNF or HLW shipments and corridors for shipments originating elsewhere. The major corridor states under the MPC base case scenario (default routing) are Utah (65 sites), Nebraska (60 sites), Wyoming (58 sites), Illinois (47 sites), Iowa (32 sites), Kansas (28 sites), Missouri (27 sites) and Indiana (25 sites).

All shipments converge in Nevada, the destination state and intended permanent storage location for the nation's SNF and HLW. Nevada has about 0.5 percent of the nation's population. Under default routing, truck shipments enter the state on I-15, either from California moving north alongside the Las Vegas Strip, or from Arizona moving southwest through the Moapa Indian Reservation. Accessing US-95 at the interchange locally known as the "Spaghetti Bowl," truck shipments move northwest through rapidly developing Las Vegas suburbs, entering the Nevada Test Site at the Lathrop Wells, in the Nye County community of Amargosa Valley. Rail shipments enter the state on the Union Pacific railroad, either from California moving north alongside the Strip and through Las Vegas and the Moapa Indian Reservation, or from Utah south to the Lincoln County community of Caliente. At Caliente, rail casks would be transferred to heavy-haul trucks for shipment along U.S. highways and state roads, accessing the Nevada Test Site via a newly constructed road across the Nellis Air Force Range (a 162-mile journey), or continuing on public highways along a circuitous route north and west of the Nellis Air Force Range.

Many departures from default routing could occur as states consider designated alternative routes for "highway route-controlled quantities" of SNF and HLW, and as utilities consider alternative railheads for rail shipments and carriers consider implications for rail freight traffic. These departures have implications, some major, others minor, for the national routing system for SNF and HLW shipments—which route segments are affected, when and to what degree. One major option is a "consolidated southern" routing in which truck shipments from the East and Midwest are oriented to I-40 through St. Louis, Oklahoma City, and Albuquerque rather than to I-80 and I-70, and rail shipments are oriented to the Santa Fe lines through Kansas City, Amarillo and Barstow rather than to the Union Pacific through Nebraska and Wyoming or the Southern Pacific through Kansas and Colorado.

The assessment compares cask shipments under default and consolidated southern routing for five rail and five highway route segments in four states (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada). Consolidated southern routing could eliminate or substantially reduce rail and highway cask shipments on the selected Wyoming and Colorado route segments and on the Nevada route segments for shipments from the north. At the same time, however, consolidated southern routing would increase rail and highway shipments on route segments through New Mexico, Arizona and California (east of Barstow), and on the Nevada route segments for shipments from the south and alongside the Las Vegas Strip.

The national shipment campaign in prospect under legislation proposed in the 104th Congress involves 80 sites shipping on different schedules, by different modes, using large portions of the nation's major rail and highway systems, over a 30+ year period, through many states and communities which may have widely varying perspectives on the potential risks and impacts, and widely varying resources for planning and coordination with other affected states and with the relevant federal agencies. Policy considerations to limit, divert or manage impacts need to be combined with an integrated assessment process which provides all parties with systematically-developed information on the implications of the shipment campaign at national, regional, and community levels.

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