(Draft RFP Number DE-RP01-98RW00320)


Readers' Note: On November 24, 1997, the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) published a revised draft Request for Proposals (RFP) for the acquisition of waste acceptance and transportation services. The Notice relates to the shipment of spent nuclear reactor fuel (SNF) and other high-level radioactive waste (HLW) from commercial power reactors and DOE facilities to the proposed high-level nuclear waste repository site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The draft RFP was the second iteration released by DOE for public comment. Comments on the earlier draft RFP were solicited in December, 1996.

The revised draft RFP represents DOE's current proposal for privatizing the activities required to move spent fuel and HLW from generator location to Yucca Mountain, should that site prove suitable for a repository - something that has not yet been demonstrated. In comments on the previous draft of the RFP, the State on Nevada, the Western Interstate Energy Board, and others strongly criticized DOE for inappropriately and perhaps illegally delegating too much responsibility for the shipments to private contractors. For additional comprehensive comments on the current version of the draft RFP, see the comments prepared by the Western Interstate Energy Board's High-Level Radioactive Waste Committee in February, 1998

Prepared by the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects

Submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy on April 13, 1998


1.0 General Comment

Despite substantial changes and improvements from previous iterations, the State of Nevada remains concerned that the current draft RFP for the acquisition of spent fuel acceptance and transportation services continues to delegate important federal responsibilities that should remain, clearly and unambiguously, within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). While privatization of certain aspects of DOE=s proposed transportation system has merit and could result in cost savings and operational efficiencies, a market driven system such as that envisioned by the RFP inevitably means that safety considerations will routinely come into conflict with cost, schedule, and related factors, potentially adding to risks and making it extremely difficult to manage program uncertainties to the extent necessary to assure public acceptance and public safety.

 What is problematic from the standpoint of state and local governments and the public who will bear the brunt of SNF transportation risks, impacts, and attendant costs is not the fact that certain specific activities would be contracted to private service providers - something that is done routinely by federal agencies - but rather the scope of the activities being contracted for and the operational and geographic complexities of the system that would thereby be created.

 The requirement in the RFP, for example, for several (up to four) distinct Regional Servicing Contractors (RSC) is an unnecessary and complicating factor that does nothing to improve system safety and efficiency, but, may, instead contribute significantly to transportation risks by adding greatly to the uncertainties and complexities to a major, first-of-a-kind nuclear materials shipping campaign. It appears to Nevada officials that the primary motivation behind this concept is the desire to instill some degree of competition into the waste transportation system that is being proposed. However, it is unclear - and certainly has not been demonstrated - how the added complications of such an approach will either lower costs or enhance shipment safety.

Even in its current, modified form, the privatization proposal as articulated in the draft RFP represents a major departure from over 15 years of slow (often frustrating) but, nevertheless, incremental progress DOE has made working with states and tribes in planning for the safe transportation of spent nuclear fuel (SNF). The transportation of SNF and other high-level radioactive waste to a repository or other storage facility will involve tens of thousands of shipments and affect hundreds of cities and thousands of communities in 43 states for a period that spans decades. For DOE to discard a centralized and participatory planning process for one that is unnecessarily complex and will, unavoidably, put such strong emphasis on market-driven decision-making by as many as four different contractors is cause for concern.

 In the past, DOE had made commitments to the states, tribes, and local governments that it would, among other things, engage in a national route selection process; take responsibility for shipment cask, mode, and route decisions; move toward full-scale cask testing of shipping containers; and develop and implement a coordinated program of preparedness and emergency response training and assistance in close cooperation with affected parties. This draft RFP, although improved over earlier versions, still represents a major step backward and threatens to undermine the good work that DOE staff has done in establishing communication with potential corridor states and tribes. Viewed in combination with the devastating reductions in DOE assistance for cooperative agreement groups, such as the Western Interstate Energy Board (WIEB) and other equivalent groups in other regions, the draft RFP signals a continuing and disturbing retrenchment in DOE=s willingness to work with states and tribes in resolving difficult issues like route and mode selection.


2.0 Specific Comments 

DOE must retain full and complete responsibility for selecting SNF modes and routes

 The Draft RFP places the responsibility for determining modes of transportation and shipping routes on the RSC. DOE=s responsibility appears to be one of approving the RSC=s decisions. As Nevada, other western states, and regional groups such as the Western Interstate Energy Board (WIEB) have commented repeatedly in the past, DOE, as the federal agency responsible for these shipments under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1992, as amended (NWPA), establish a process for (1) identifying the preferred mode of shipment and (2) evaluating potential routes from each reactor or SNF storage/generator facility. That process should involve close consultation with affected states, tribes, and other parties. Once developed, DOE should use the mode/route assessment process to identify and formally select those highway and rail routes that are to be used to transport SNF to the designated repository or storage location. This formal route selection must be accomplished at least 5 years in advance of shipments to provide state, tribes, and local governments adequate time to identify alternative route designations with their jurisdictions (as needed) and to implement emergency preparedness and related activities. Once modes and routes have been designated, DOE must incorporate them into contracts that are executed with shippers who actually transport the SNF from the point of origin to the designated disposal/storage location.

 Such a clearly defined mode/route identification process does not preclude the use of private contractors. On the contrary, it would simplify the contracting process by laying out very clear direction for prospective bidders.

 As written, the draft RFP still provides too much discretion for RSC=s in deciding on which modes and routes to use. The draft RFP is also ambiguous as to the time frames for mode and route decision, indicating in one section that the RSC is to prepare a transportation plan that includes the identification of routes in Phase A (beginning approximately 4 years before shipments would begin) and in another section that the RSC will provide notification according to NRC regulations (which require just seven days notice of the routes to be used). Such ambiguity and contractor discretion is inappropriate in a shipping campaign that will have the wide-ranging and long-term impacts of the one contemplated for SNF transportation.

The draft RFP does not provide needed shipping campaign coordination

The stated objective of the RFP is to award no less than two, and as many as four, servicing contracts for the four service regions to promote cost competition. At several points, the RFP states that RSCs must coordinate their transportation plans and operations with other RSCs, [Pages C-5, C-19] but the RFP offers no specific guidance on the importance of this issue or what constitutes effective coordination. The RFP discussion of shipping campaign coordination is deficient in three aspects.

First, the RFP fails to acknowledge the magnitude of the task of coordinating thousands of civilian spent fuel shipments from more than 80 sites in four regions through more than 40 states and dozens of Indian Nations to a storage/disposal site in Nevada. Studies prepared for the State of Nevada conclude there will be at least 6,200 legal weight truck shipments and at least 9,500 rail cask shipments of civilian spent nuclear fuel. There could be more than 79,000 cross-country legal weight truck shipments, and thousands of heavy haul truck shipments of rail casks from utility sites to intermodal transfer points either within or outside of their originating region.

 Second, the RFP ignores the need to coordinate RSC shipments of civilian spent nuclear fuel with other DOE shipments of high-level radioactive wastes(HLW) and DOE-owned spent nuclear fuels to a storage/disposal facility in Nevada. During the same time as shipments by the RSCs, DOE will additionally be making about 2,700 rail shipments of vitrified HLW from three DOE sites in two regions, and several thousand rail and truck shipments of research reactor fuel, naval reactor fuel, and other spent nuclear fuels from at least three sites in two regions.

 Third, the RFP ignores the need to coordinate RSC shipments of civilian spent nuclear fuel with other DOE shipments of radioactive materials through the same corridor states and Indian Nations that will be affected by shipments to a storage/disposal facility in Nevada. During the same time as shipments by the RSCs, DOE will additionally be making about 37,000 truck shipments of transuranic waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant(WIPP) from DOE sites in three regions, and about 130,000 truck and/or rail shipments of low-level radioactive waste to the Nevada Test Site from DOE facilities in three regions.

The final RFP must provided detailed guidance to RSCs on coordination regarding stakeholder interaction; institutional relations; selection of casks, modes, and routes; timing of shipments; accident prevention; emergency response planning and training; and response to accidents and incidents. The State of Nevada believes that OCRWM has not adequately considered the potential additional costs of coordinating the transportation activities of as many as four separate RSCs. Indeed, OCRWM has presented no evidence that costs will actually be lower if transportation services are provided by four RSCs rather than by one national service provider.

The draft RFP does not ensure minimization of shipments or maximum use of rail

The RFP makes no reference to minimization of the overall number of shipments as a policy objective. The RFP makes only one reference to maximum use of rail: "The RSC shall provide all transportation services to include heavy haul and inter-modal transfer services required to make maximum use of rail shipments from Purchasers' sites to the Federal Facility." [Page C-5]

Since 1990, the State of Nevada and other stakeholders have urged DOE to minimize the overall number of shipments to a repository by maximizing use of rail transportation. Inclusion of the above referenced sentence in this draft of the RFP does not adequately address our concerns. First, the RFP fails to define "maximum use of rail." Studies prepared for the State of Nevada show that the maximum credible rail share of civilian spent nuclear fuel shipments will probably be about 85 - 90 percent of the total inventory shipped, and the maximum credible use of rail could be significantly different from region to region, depending upon assumptions about facility infrastructure upgrades, rail abandonments, and use of barge and/or heavy haul truck transport to rail loading facilities. Second, the RFP does not specifically require maximum use of rail as a condition of contract award. Third, OCRWM's actual commitment to maximum use of rail versus other objectives is questionable given that maximum use of rail is not identified in the "Summary of Major Changes Incorporated Into This Draft RFP" [Pages 5-6] nor is it specifically identified as an issue to be addressed in the near site transportation infrastructure evaluations [C App.3-2] and regional transportation plans [Page C-13] to be developed by the RSCs.

The State of Nevada believes that the RFP as currently structured will likely promote heavy reliance on cross-country legal weight truck transportation, particularly if shipments start in 2002-2003, as proposed in pending congressional legislation.

The RFP ignores unresolved safety issues raised by states and other stakeholders

This draft of the RFP continues to ignore major transportation safety issues raised by the State of Nevada and other stakeholders . These issues include: comprehensive risk management, with special attention to human factors management and assessment of worst case accident/terrorist incident consequences; full-scale, physical testing of casks; mandatory use of dedicated trains and special rail operating protocols; comparative safety analysis of modes and routes, to ensure selection of safest modes and routes; and adequate funding for accident prevention and emergency response programs.

The RFP may contradict NRC's ALARA policy

This draft of the RFP does not explain how OCRWM and the RSCs will comply with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) policy regarding radiation exposures to workers and the general public. [See for example, Page C-v] First, the State of Nevada is concerned that the RFP abandons DOE's previous policy of shipping oldest fuel first, which may result in higher gamma and neutron radiation doses to workers and the general public, because of higher fission product inventories in 10 year-old spent fuel compared to 20 or 30 year-old fuel. Second, the RFP may increase public and worker exposures, by allowing market conditions to increase the overall share of spent fuel shipped by legal weight truck. Third, the RFP does not specify the economic standards to be used in making trade-offs between radiation exposures and transportation cost-savings.

The RFP adds uncertainties to NEPA analysis required in the Yucca Mountain EIS 

The continuing lack of specificity in this draft of the RFP adds uncertainties to the transportation risk and impact analysis that must be prepared for the Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Among the critical issues are: timing and sequencing of site and regional transportation plans, rail access to Yucca Mountain, LWT shipment numbers and routes in Nevada, HHT shipment numbers and routes in Nevada, and cross country truck and rail shipment numbers and routes.


 3.0 Concluding Comment

In addition to the comments provided above, the State of Nevada endorses the comments submitted by the Western Interstate Energy Board High-Level Radioactive Waste Committee on February 12, 1998.

Return to the
Nuclear Waste Project Office
Home Page
State of Nevada
Nuclear Waste Project Office
Capitol Complex
Carson City, NV 89710
(702) 687-3744 voice
(702) 687-5277 fax e-mail