8/27/97 Letter to Major General Marvin Esmond - July 31, 1997


Capitol Complex
Carson City, Nevada 89710
Telephone: (702) 687-3744
Fax: (702) 687-5277
Executive Director

July 31, 1997

Major General Marvin Esmond
Commanding Officer
Nellis Air Force Base
4370 North Washington Blvd., Ste. 117
Nellis Air Force Base, NV 89191-7076

Dear General Esmond:

At a presentation to the Nevada Commission on Nuclear Projects on July 24, 1997, representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy's Yucca Mountain Site Characterization Office (YMSCO) indicated that DOE is actively studying a heavy haul route through the Nellis Air Force Range (NAFR) for shipping spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to the proposed Yucca Mountain repository site. You will recall that I wrote to you in April, 1996 regarding a proposal before Congress to authorize DOE to use a road identified as the "Chalk Mountain Heavy Haul Route" for such shipments.

That legislation was not enacted, and, until this month, Nevada officials were led to believe that consideration of a route through the Nellis Range had been abandoned. As the State agency designated in statute to oversee DOE's Yucca Mountain program, the Agency for Nuclear Projects has a responsibility to insure that any activities involving the evaluation of potential shipping routes meet all requirements for health, safety and environmental impact assessment. In this regard, I would appreciate it if you could advise me as to whether the Air Force has, in fact, authorized DOE to consider the Chalk Mountain route (or any other Nellis route) for heavy haul or rail shipments to Yucca Mountain or Area 25 of the NTS, and, if so, what provisions the Air Force is making to assure that appropriate environmental impact assessment and public involvement procedures are followed in the evaluation of any routes within the Nellis complex.

In Nevada's scoping comments on the Nellis Renewal EIS, the State indicated that if such routes were to be considered, "a subsequent analysis of potential environmental impacts must be prepared.... [C]onsideration of these impacts must be either directly incorporated in the Nellis legislative EIS or otherwise assessed independently. In the latter case, State officials strongly suggest that the EIS specifically acknowledge the potential for incremental impacts of any actions that are reasonably foreseeable that would result from the development of either a rail or heavy-haul transportation route for high-level nuclear waste across the NAFR, regardless of what entity or federal agency would undertake such an action." Because of the high-profile and highly controversial nature of possible spent fuel and high-level waste shipments into Nevada, it is essential that any potential transportation routes be thoroughly evaluated in terms of risks and impacts to the environment and to the public.

As I indicated in my April, 1996 letter, should DOE's proposal for heavy haul shipments of spent fuel and high-level waste through the Nellis Range go forward, State and federal inspectors and regulators will require routine access for the purposes of inspections, shipment monitoring, and environmental and risk assessment during the route evaluation, construction, and operational phases of the activity. It is also quite likely that thousands of shipments of low-level radioactive waste and hazardous wastes bound for storage or disposal at various NTS locations would also use the heavy haul road or rail spur should either be constructed. State personnel responsible for inspecting, regulating, and monitoring these wastes will also require regular access to the Nellis portions of the route to carry out their statutory responsibilities.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. Should you have questions regarding this request or need additional information as to my Agency's interest in the matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Robert. Loux
Executive Director

cc   Governor Miller
      Nevada Congressional Delegation

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