UPDATE ON THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY'S PROPOSED SHIPMENT OF FOREIGN RESEARCH REACTOR SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL THROUGH NORTHERN NEVADA
Background: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing to transport spent nuclear fuel (SNF) from research reactors in Korea and Indonesia through northern Nevada after June, 1998. The fuel is being returned to the United States under agreements made as part of the Atoms for Peace program of the 1950's - 1960's, when the United States provided nuclear research reactors to foreign governments with the understanding the spent fuel would be returned to the U.S. to prevent it from being diverted for weapons purposes. DOE plans to move the SNF by ship to the port of Concord, California, and then via rail to a temporary storage facility at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho. More information can be found in the Fact Sheet on Foreign Spent Fuel Shipments located elsewhere on this web page. For information on the overall DOE Foreign Reactor Spent Fuel Program and the Environmental Impact Statement that serves as the basis for the decision to ship SNF through California, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho, see the DOE Foreign Spent Fuel Web Page.
DOE announced in December that the shipment, which is now expected to involve one dedicated train consisting of four (4) spent fuel shipping containers or casks (one cask per rail car), will not be made until sometime after June 1, 1998. Shipping containers for the spent fuel will not be available in time to ship any earlier. In addition, DOE is concerned about the outcome of a request for an injunction prohibiting the shipment filed by Contra Costa County (CA) and the City of Martinez. A hearing on that case is scheduled for March and, even if DOE receives a favorable decision, the Department does not believe it can be ready to ship before June. The State of Nevada continues to believe that a June shipping date is very optimistic, and, if the shipment takes place, it could well be later in the summer or even fall.
Shipping Route Designation
DOE continues to insist, informally, that it will only use the Union Pacific (UP) Feather River rail route as the primary route for the shipment. The rail line over Donner Pass and through Reno is still the alternative, but would be used only in the case of extraordinary circumstances involving problems along the primary route. DOE indicated that formal route designation cannot be done until DOE has executed a contract with UP, since the railroad must be involved in the routing decision. DOE has delayed executing a contract with UP due to the pending California litigation and because of the negative press UP received last fall over operational and safety problems.
DOE/Idaho Operation Office and the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) have begun to directly train first responders along the rail corridor in Nevada. DOE held meetings in each county along the proposed route and briefed local officials and response entities on the proposed shipment. Training for first and second responders has begun in all of the affected counties and is ongoing at this time (see Training Calendar). The State Health Division, Radiological Health Section is monitoring the training and providing input on State response capabilities and contacts. A copy of DOE’s most current training schedule is attached for your information. Travel expenses for local and state responders participating in the training are being reimbursed directly by DOE.
DOE has scheduled a series of exercises and "validations" in May to assure that responders are ready to deal with the shipment. Information on specifics of the training can be obtained from Mr. Rick Fawcett of INEEL at (208) 526-1284 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
DOE has committed to provide some radiation detection equipment for use by local responders along the route. The procedures by which such equipment is either transferred by DOE to the local jurisdiction or paid for by DOE are being worked out bilaterally between DOE and each affected jurisdiction.
Security and Escorts
DOE committed to provide on-board security and health physics escorts for the entire length of the route. That means armed security personnel as well as escorts trained to deal with radiation and emergency response. In addition, the Nevada Highway Patrol will maintain contact with the train from the time it enters Nevada. NHP will also position special units to be available in the event local law enforcement agencies need assistance. NHP units will also "shadow" the shipment between Winnemucca and the Utah border. A formal security plan is being developed jointly by DOE and the affected states under the auspices of the Western Governors’ Association (WGA).
DOE has committed to provide hardware and software for Nevada to access the TRANSCOM shipment tracking system. TRANSCOM is a real-time, satellite tracking system that provides continuous information on the train’s exact location and condition. The system is being installed at the NHP dispatch center in Carson City and will also be available to the Nevada Division of Emergency Management emergency operations center during the time the shipment is in Nevada.
State Radiological Response
The State Health Division’s Radiological Health Section, collaboration with the Nevada Highway Patrol and the State Division of Forestry, is making plans to position a radiological response team to be available anywhere along the route in the event of an accident of incident.
Next Meeting of Affected States
A meeting of the WGA working group on the foreign spent fuel shipments was originally scheduled for Reno in February but was canceled at DOE’s insistence due to the pending court case in California. The meeting has now been rescheduled for April 27 - 29, 1998 in Reno. Information on the exact location and agenda for the meeting will be posted as it becomes available.