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
Planning Information Corporation
Utility transportation choice decisions will reflect factors in addition to current near-site infrastructure and pool capabilities—e.g., federal policy, utility choice criteria, changes in near-site infrastructure cask handling capabilities, or site community characteristics.
Federal policies affect utility transportation choices. For example,
Via the nuclear waste fund, DOE has invested in the design of the GA-4/9 cask and the MPC 75 and 125-ton casks, and has set the parameters for these designs. However, as of FY 1996, DOE withdrew its financial support for design, and indicated that it does not intend to support certification or fabrication of these or other transportation or transportation/storage casks.
Via the nuclear waste fund, DOE could fund modifications to spent fuel pools or near-site infrastructure at origin sites—modifications which would enable these sites to choose transportation options considered more desirable from the perspective of the national shipment campaign. However, in its draft scope for acquisition of transportation services,2 DOE states that "OCRWM will not fund any on-site infrastructure modifications or improvements to the purchasers' facilities" (page 1).
In its May 28, 1996 notice,2 DOE proposes to delegate major responsibilities for waste acceptance, transportation and storage to contractors operating under competitive fixed price contracts. The resulting transportation choices negotiated with utilities could be quite different from those reached under another decision framework.
DOE intends to provide the final route links to a permanent repository or centralized storage site in Nevada, and has conducted major studies of alternative heavy-haul and rail routes for this link. In the process, DOE would enable origin sites to choose rail over legal-weight truck transport, without, however, providing an incentive for origin sites to ship by rail.
Utilities will have different sets of transportation choice criteria, based on their financial positions, their nuclear waste and other transportation experiences, their relationships with nearby communities, etc. Given the same origin site circumstances, utility "A" might choose to upgrade for rail shipment while utility "B," approaching the same decision from a different perspective, might choose to avoid upgrades and ship by truck.
Changes at or near origin sites will affect utility transportation choices at the time those choices must be made—generally, five to ten years from now. For example,
The development of dry storage facilities often involves investment to enable pools to handle sealed spent fuel canisters, if not loaded transportation/storage casks. The resulting capabilities, many of which were not anticipated in DOE's 1989 FICA study, will be available for off-site transportation as well.
While mainline railroads are receiving increasing freight traffic, branch lines—some serving nuclear plant sites—are being abandoned. For example,
|—||The branch line of the Central Railroad which extended along US-9 through the Oyster Creek (New Jersey) site when the plant was constructed in the late 1960s has since been abandoned. Rail casks would now be heavy-hauled to Conrail's railhead in Lakehurst, New Jersey, along a 30-mile route which avoids the towns of Forked River, Tom's River, and Pinewold. Or, rail casks might be heavy-hauled across US-9 for barge shipment to an off-site railhead.|
|—||Burlington Northern's rail spur to the Cooper Station plant site on the Missouri River about 60 miles south of Omaha may be abandoned when it is no longer needed for shipments to Morris. Rail shipments might be heavy-hauled 30 miles to a Burlington Northern railhead in Nebraska City, or barged down the Missouri River through St. Joseph and Kansas City to a Union Pacific railhead in Boonville, Missouri.|
|—||The Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern rail spurs to the Morris and Dresden sites about 40 miles southwest of Chicago may be abandoned, as may Conrail's spur to West Valley, about 35 miles south of Buffalo, New York.|
Community conditions (resident population, community character, etc.) in near-site communities may also change, affecting the utility's transportation choice.