KENNY C. GUINN
Governor
STATE OF NEVADA
State Seal
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
 AGENCY FOR NUCLEAR PROJECTS 
1802 N. Carson Street, Suite 252
Carson City, Nevada 89701
Telephone: (775) 687-3744 • Fax: (775) 687-5277
E-mail: nwpo@govmail.state.nv.us
ROBERT R. LOUX
Executive Director

April 26, 1999

STATE OF NEVADA COMMENTS ON THE U.S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION’S FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICE OF FEBRUARY 26, 1999 ON CHANGES TO REQUIREMENTS FOR RENEWAL OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANT OPERATING LICENSES

1.0   General Comments on the February 26, 1999 Federal Register Notice

1.1   Publication of the Notice was Inaccurate and Misleading

Even thought it deals exclusively with the transportation of spent nuclear fuel, the title of the Federal Register Notice refers only to proposed "Changes to Requirements for Environmental Review of Nuclear Power Plant Operating Licenses." Such a title has the effect - intentionally or otherwise - to limit access to the proposed changes to the people most affected by them, namely citizens located along transportation routes and, in particular, people in the Las Vegas area and the State of Nevada.It was only by sheer luck that State officials happened upon the Federal Register Notice.Local governments in southern Nevada were entirely unaware of it before it was brought to their attention by State officials.It is highly unlikely that other states and communities located along potential transportation routes to a Yucca Mountain repository are aware of the Notice or the opportunity to comment on this crucial matter.

The State of Nevada believes that NRC must reissue the Notice with a title that is clearly reflective of the actual content and intent of the proposed action.In addition, the State contends that (1) the public comment period must be extended to afford people who have been excluded from reviewing and commenting on the Notice by the misleading title adequate opportunity to participate in the public review process; (2) public hearings (at least in Las Vegas and perhaps in other key transportation communities) should be held to actively promote public comments and involvement; and (3) meetings with southern Nevada local governments affected by the transportation scenario postulated in the Notice must be held to seek their input.

2.0   Comments on the Generic Environmental Impact Statement for License Renewal of Nuclear Plants, Main Report: Section 6.3 -- Transportation, Table 9.1 Summary of findings on NEPA issues for license renewal of nuclear power plants, NUREG--1437, Vol.1, Addendum 1

The Federal Register Notice incorporates the findings of a revised spent fuel transportation analysis contained in the above-referenced report.The State of Nevada has reviewed the revised Transportation Addendum and makes the following comments:

2.1   Comment #1 - Inaccurate and Misleading Title

The title of the draft Addendum is inaccurate.Inclusion of the word "Transportation" in the subtitle does not accurately convey the subject of the draft report.The draft report consists of 44 pages of text.More than 38 pages (at least 19 pages of text, and 19 pages of computer output) specifically address the risks and impacts of transporting spent nuclear fuel from commercial power reactor sites to the Yucca Mountain proposed repository site.

The title of the draft report is also misleading.The title does not mention the City of Las Vegas or Clark County, Nevada, although all shipments of spent nuclear fuel to the Yucca Mountain proposed repository are assumed to travel through the City of Las Vegas and/or Clark County, Nevada.Indeed, the draft report specifically mentions Las Vegas or Clark County at least 68 times on 24 different pages.And yet neither Las Vegas nor Clark County are mentioned in the draft report abstract.This omission is misleading because it denies potentially affected stakeholders information about a major federal agency action, thus denying them an opportunity to study and comment upon the agency action.

2.2   Comment #2 - Failure to Consult with Nevada State Agencies

NRC staff and contractors did not consult with State of Nevada agencies during the preparation of the draft report.Several Nevada agencies have considerable experience with nuclear waste transportation issues generally, and extensive knowledge of Nevada-specific conditions and concerns necessary for route selection and risk reduction.At a minimum, NRC staff and contractors should have notified four agencies of their intent prior to preparation of the draft report: the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects (NANP), the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP), the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), and the Radiological Health Section of the Nevada Divison of Health (RHS).By failing to consult with state agencies, NRC denied itself the benefit of agency expertise which would have prevented numerous errors in the draft report.NRC also squandered an opportunity to establish respectful working relationships with the very state agencies NRC will have to deal with on transportation issues during the licensing process for Yucca Mountain.

2.3   Comment #3 - Failure to Consult with Nevada Local Governments

Except for limited contacts with the Clark County Department of Public Works, NRC staff and contractors did not consult with Nevada local governments during the preparation of the draft report.A number of Nevada cities and counties have considerable experience with nuclear waste transportation issues as a result of their oversight of DOE’s Yucca Mountain project.County and city personnel also have special knowledge of unique local conditions and concerns necessary for route selection and risk reduction.At a minimum, NRC staff and contractors should have notified the local government jurisdictions which would be directly affected by spent nuclear fuel transportation through the Las Vegas area: the Clark County Departments of Planning and Public Safety; the City of Las Vegas; and the City of North Las Vegas.As a direct result of NRC failure to consult with affected jurisdictions, basic statistics and other information (such as the current population figures for Las Vegas) are erroneous, calling into question the assessments used to estimate radiological and non-radiological risk and other analyses contained in the report.

2.4   Comment #4 - Failure to Consult with Nevada Indian Tribes

NRC staff and contractors did not consult with Nevada Indian Tribes during the preparation of the draft report.At a minimum, NRC should have consulted with the two reservations which would be directly affected by spent nuclear fuel shipments to Yucca Mountain.The Moapa Indian Reservation, located about 30 miles northeast of Las Vegas, would be traversed by all truck shipments on I-15 and all rail shipments using the Union Pacific Salt Lake-Los Angeles mainline.The Las Vegas Indian Reservation, located about 5 miles north of Las Vegas, would be traversed by all truck shipments on US 95, and could potentially be affected by all rail shipments on a new rail access spur.Additionally, several potential rail access corridors identified by DOE cross lands claimed by the Western Shoshone National Council under the Ruby Valley Treaty of 1863.

The affected Indian Tribes may view the radiological risks of spent nuclear fuel transportation quite differently than NRC staff and contractors.NRC must evaluate any increased radiological exposures from routine operations or accidents, and any resulting health effects, within an appropriate cultural context.NRC must also consider the unique cultural impacts of any release of radioactive materials on Indian reservation lands, the adverse cultural impacts of cleanup efforts, and the potential adverse impacts of any contamination episode on reservation residents’ and other tribal members’ future attitudes toward their lands, even if all radioactive materials are completely removed and the original environment restored.Moreover, NRC must consider potential Indian tribe claims of authority to regulate shipments across reservation lands.

2.5   Comment #5 - Failure to Consult Relevant Yucca Mountain Transportation Risk and Impact Studies

According to the reference citations in the draft report, NRC staff and contractors failed to consult virtually all of the major Yucca Mountain transportation risk and impact studies prepared by DOE since 1986.NRC apparently consulted none of the more than three dozen major transportation studies prepared by Nevada state agencies, Nevada local governments, and the Nevada University System.

At a minimum, NRC staff and contractors should have consulted the following DOE reports and contractor studies:

  1. Sandquist, G.M., et al., Exposures and Health Effects from Spent Fuel Transportation, RAE-8339/12-1, Prepared for U.S. DOE, Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, Salt Lake City: Rogers and Associates Engineering Corporation, November 29, 1985.

  2. U.S. Department of Energy, Environmental Assessment: Yucca Mountain Site, Nevada Research and Development Area, Nevada, DOE/RW-0073, Prepared by Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, May, 1986.

  3. U..S. Department of Energy, Nevada Highway Route Study, DOE/NV-10576-7, Prepared by Yucca Mountain Project Office, Las Vegas, NV, April, 1989. 4.U.S. Department of Energy, Nevada Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Transportation Experience, YMP/91-17, Prepared by Technical and Management Support Services Contractor, September, 1991.

  4. Hill, C.V., et al., The Nevada Railroad System: Physical, Operational, and Accident Characteristics, YMP 91-19, Prepared for Yucca Mountain Site Characterization Project Office, Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, U.S. Department of Energy, Las Vegas, NV, September, 1991.

  5. TRW Environmental Safety Systems, Inc., Nevada Potential Repository Preliminary Transportation Strategy Study 2, Vols. 1 and 2, Prepared for U.S. Department of Energy, Yucca Mountain Site Characterization Project, Las Vegas, NV, February, 1996.

At a minimum, NRC staff and contractors should have consulted the following State of Nevada reports and contractor studies:

  1. Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects/Nuclear Waste Project Office, A Report on High-Level Nuclear Waste Transportation: Prepared Pursuant to Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 8 of the 1987 Nevada Legislature, NWPO-TN-001-88, December, 1988

  2. Audin, L., Nuclear Waste Shipping Container Response to Severe Accident Conditions: A Brief Critique of the Modal Study, NWPO-TN-005-90, Prepared for Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office, December, 1990.

  3. Golding, D., and A. White, Guidelines on the Scope, Content, and Use of Comprehensive Risk Assessment in the Management of High-Level Nuclear Waste Management, NWPO-TN-007-90, Prepared for Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office, December, 1990.

  4. Halstead, R.J., et al., State of Nevada Comments on the OCRWM From-Reactor Spent Fuel Shipping Cask Preliminary Design Reports, NWPO-TN-009-90, December, 1990.

  5. Resnikoff, M., Probabilistic Risk Assessment and Nuclear Waste Transportation: A Case Study of the Use of RADTRAN in the 1986 Environmental Assessment for Yucca Mountain, NWPO-TN-006-90, December, 1990.

  6. Souleyrette, R.R., et al., Yucca Mountain Transportation Routes: Preliminary Characterization and Risk Analysis, Vols. 1-3, NWPO-TN-011-91, Prepared for Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects/Nuclear Waste Project Office, May 31, 1991.

  7. Freudenburg, W.R., Organizational Management of Long-Term Risks: Implications for Risk and Safety in the Transportation of Nuclear Wastes, NWPO-TN-013-91, Prepared for Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office, September, 1991.

  8. Chalmers, J., et al., State of Nevada Socioeconomic Studies of Yucca Mountain, 1986 - 1992: An Annotated Guide and Research Summary, NWPO-SE-056-93, Prepared for Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects/Nuclear Waste Project Office, September, 1992. 15.Souleyrette, R.R., and S. Lim, GIS-Based Characterization of Rail and Highway Access to Yucca Mountain, UNLV/TRC/RR-92/5, Prepared for Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects/Nuclear Waste Project Office, September, 1992.

  9. Mushkatel, A., and K.D. Pijawka, "Nuclear Waste Transportation in Nevada: A Case for Stigma-Induced Economic Vulnerability," in State of Nevada Socioeconomic Studies: Biannual Report, 1993 - 1995, NWPO-SE-063-95, Prepared for Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects/Nuclear Waste Project Office June, 199517.

  10. Planning Information Corporation, The Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Waste: A Systematic Basis for Planning and Management at National, Regional, and Community Levels, Prepared for Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office, September, 1996.

  11. Halstead, R.J., and J.D. Ballard, Nuclear Waste Transportation Safety and Security Issues: The Risk of Terrorism and Sabotage Against Repository Shipments, Prepared for Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects/Nuclear Waste Project Office October, 1997.

2.6   Comment #6 - Failure to Consider the Full Spectrum of Transportation Mode and Route Scenarios

The draft report fails to consider the full spectrum of repository transportation mode and route scenarios currently being evaluated by DOE for SNF transportation to Yucca Mountain. DOE is evaluating use of rail, legal weight trucks (LWT), and heavy haul trucks (HHT) for SNF shipment. Repository transportation alternatives include five different rail access options, and five routes for HHT transport of rail casks from three intermodal transfer facilities. Under some of these options, all rail casks could traverse the Las Vegas area twice, once as rail shipments and again as HHT shipments. DOE and the State of Nevada are also evaluating alternative highway routes to Yucca Mountain which avoid the Las Vegas area, including the NDOT “B Route” through West Wendover, McGill, Ely, Tonopah, Goldfield, and Beatty.

The draft report asserts that an all-truck shipping scenario using GA 4/9 casks “represents an upper bound” on cumulative transportation impacts in the vicinity of Las Vegas, and further asserts that “rail transport would have smaller risks than truck transport.” [p. 4] The only documentation cited in support of this assertion is a report on transportation of mixed waste from the Oak Ridge K-25 Site. This claim can not be substantiated without conducting a comparative risk assessment, for example by running the RADTRAN 4 code for an all truck scenario, an all rail scenario, and a rail plus heavy haul truck(HHT) scenario. Nevada believes that such a comparative assessment of the “full spectrum” of transportation alternatives is required by NEPA.

Nevada has generally supported the view that, all things being equal, rail transportation of SNF is preferable to truck transportation of SNF, and that DOE should maximize use of rail for SNF shipments to a repository. However, the range of rail transportation options currently being evaluated by DOE, unique local conditions in the Las Vegas area, and DOE’s refusal to require that all repository shipments be made by dedicated train, require a detailed assessment of rail transportation risks. First, all rail shipments to the repository could be routed through downtown Las Vegas, where the Union Pacific mainline is close to the Las Vegas Strip. Second, all rail shipments to the repository could be made in individual casks shipped in general freight service. Third, the already high resident and non-resident population densities in downtown Las Vegas may continue to increase, particularly in areas immediately adjacent to the rail route. Fourth, many difficult-to-evacuate facilities are located near the rail route.

Moreover, it is not intuitively obvious that routing all truck shipments through Las Vegas on interstate and limited access highways, as the draft report does, results in a larger cumulative radiation dose than does routing all trucks through the cities along the NDOT “B Route.” NRC must assess the potential dose contribution of slower average speeds, stop times at intersections and traffic signals, additional stops for refueling, and closer distances between routes and adjacent residences, schools, and businesses in the cities along the NDOT “B Route.” It is possible that use of the NDOT “B Route” would result in a higher cumulative crew dose, a higher cumulative public dose, and/or a higher dose to the maximally exposed individual.

Additionally, the assumption that all truck shipments will use the new GA-4 casks (or GA-9 casks for BWR fuel) is not necessarily a conservative assumption. When the GA-4 design was first developed as part of DOE’s “From Reactor Spent Fuel Shipping Cask Design” program, the objective was to develop new high-capacity casks that could accommodate 75% to 85% of the expected SNF inventory. Because of facility interface requirements, a number of reactors cannot use the GA-4 and GA-9 casks without special arrangements. Higher enrichment, higher burnup fuel may require shipment in GA-4 casks at less than optimal capacity (three assemblies per cask, instead of four) or greatly extended cooling time. Many repository shipments could use smaller-capacity casks such as the currently-licensed NAC-LWT, or in yet-to-be-designed “specialty casks,” resulting in a significantly larger total number of truck shipments than assumed in the draft report.

2.7   Comment #7 - Failure to Consider Cumulative Impacts of All Spent Fuel, HLW, and LLW Shipments

The draft report fails to address the cumulative impacts of all expected spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste shipments to the Yucca Mountain proposed repository site. In addition to the 50,185 truck shipments of commercial SNF (75,278t shipments with license renewal) , the report must consider the additional impacts of shipments of DOE-owned spent fuel (including naval reactor fuel), shipments of vitrified civilian and defense high-level wastes, and shipments of miscellaneous wastes requiring geologic disposal. If no repository volume limits are assumed, and all wastes are shipped to the repository by truck, the additional shipments could include more than 25,000 truck casks of commercial and defense high-level wastes, more than 5,000 truck casks of DOE-owned spent nuclear fuels, and an undetermined number of truck shipments of miscellaneous wastes. Moreover, the draft reports fails to consider the cumulative impacts on the Las Vegas area of many thousands of past, current, and future DOE truck shipments of low-level radioactive wastes to the Nevada Test Site.

2.8   Comment #8 - Failure to Conduct a Legally Sufficient Risk Assessment

The draft report does not constitute a legally sufficient assessment of the risks of transporting spent nuclear fuel to Yucca Mountain through the Las Vegas area. NRC staff and contractors prepared a risk assessment using the RADTRAN 4 computer code to model incident-free radiological exposures and consequences of radiological releases resulting from accidents. Use of an accepted probabilistic risk assessment model, such as RADTRAN 4, is not in and of itself sufficient to meet the requirements of NEPA. NRC must specifically consider in its risk assessment (1) unique local conditions which could result in low probability/high consequence accidents with frequencies and consequences greater than those assumed in RADTRAN 4; (2) unique circumstances of the planned transportation operations for which there is little or no historical experience and/or empirical data; (3) the potential for sabotage or terrorism, including attacks involving military weapons or commercial high-energy explosive devices, which may result in the release of radioactive materials; and (4) potential for human errors in cask design, cask manufacture, and cask loading, which could cause or exacerbate the release of radioactive materials.

The draft report fails to consider unique local conditions which could result in accident risks greater than those assumed in RADTRAN 4. NANP staff and consultants, in consultation with the Clark County Department of Planning, have developed a number of Las Vegas area accident scenarios which could in loss of radiation shielding and/or release of radioactive materials to the environment. These scenarios include a high-speed rail or truck collision followed by a long-duration fire fueled by rupture of a collocated petroleum or natural gas pipeline; a high-speed truck cask collision involving another truck loaded with commercial or military explosives; a truck or rail cask involved in a massive infrastructure failure, such as a bridge or overpass collapse; a truck or rail cask involved in a natural disaster, such as a severe earthquake or massive flooding; and a rail or truck cask involved in an accident with a military aircraft.

NANP and Clark County are particularly concerned about accidents involving trucks and aircraft carrying military explosives, because of routine activities at Nellis Air Force Base and other military facilities in Central and Southern Nevada.

The draft report fails to consider unique circumstances of the transportation system being evaluated. For example, NRC assumes that all shipments will be made in the new General Atomics GA4/9 truck casks, but fails to explicitly address uncertainties about the design and performance of those casks. In order to achieve a four-fold increase in cask capacity, the GA4/9 casks utilize a number of new design features and materials. Further, the weight of the loaded GA4/9 cask requires that it be used in conjunction with a specially designed trailer, a lower weight cab-over-engine tractor, and a single fuel tank, in order to comply with legal weight limits. To the best of our knowledge, there is no operating experience with spent fuel shipments in actual GA 4/9 casks, although DOE contractors have conducted operational tests using mock-ups. Indeed, it is possible that no GA 4/9 casks have yet been manufactured under the recently issued NRC certificate. The validity of the NRC risk assessment therefore rests entirely upon speculative assumptions about the performance of casks which have never been used.

Nevada believes NRC must therefore demonstrate that the GA4/9 cask, trailer, and tractor system is appropriately designed for use in a decades-long, nationwide shipping campaign to Yucca Mountain. For example, NRC’s risk assessment must evaluate issues such as: the power and handling characteristics of the tractor relative to long hauls in mountainous terrain under winter driving conditions; noise and vibration levels within the cab, and the potential impacts on driver fatigue and increased probability of human error; and the constrained fuel capacity of the tractor, requiring refueling every 300 to 400 miles, which could may additional safety and safeguards risks. The GA4/9 cask's vulnerability to terrorist attack with armor piercing weapons and commercial shaped charges must specifically be evaluated.

The State of Nevada believes these deficiencies could best be corrected by NRC adoption of the comprehensive risk assessment (CRA) approach for SNF and HLW transportation described in Golding and White, Guidelines on the Scope, Content, and Use of Comprehensive Risk Assessment in the Management of High-Level Nuclear Waste Transportation, 1990. Golding and White based their recommendations in large part on lessons learned from the NRC’s reassessment of the Reactor Safety Study(WASH-1400) and reappraisal of probabilistic risk assessment techniques in the 1980s.

2.9   Comment #9 - Insufficient Consideration of Routine Transportation Radiological Risks Due to Use of Average Dose Rate Lower than the Regulatory Limit

The draft report gives insufficient consideration to routine radiological risks because it calculates crew and public doses using an average radiation dose rate lower than the regulatory limit. The regulatory limit is 0.1mSv/hour [10 mrem/hour] at 2m[6.6 ft] from the vehicle or container surface. The draft report uses a rate corresponding to “about 0.7mSv/hour [7mrem/hour] at 2m[6.6 ft],” which the draft report asserts “is conservative and actual average radiation levels are expected to be much lower than 0.07mSv/hour [7mrem/hour] at 2 m [6.6 ft] assumed in this analysis.” [p. 4] The draft report further asserts that the lower rate “was assumed because most shipments are not expected to be close to the regulatory limit, so the average dose rate was assumed to be lower than the regulatory limit.” [p. 5]

The draft report’s use of the lower average dose rate is unjustified. First, the draft report cites no empirical data on past shipments in support of the lower dose rate. Even if such data were presented, it must be remembered many shipments over the past two decades involved SNF with lower enrichment and burnup and longer cooling than must be assumed for repository shipments. Second, the draft report offers no modeling results in support of the lower dose rate for future shipments. Modeling must substitute for empirical data here because there is no historical dose rate data for GA 4 cask shipments. Third, the draft report offers no modeling results in support of the lower dose rate for future shipments of higher enrichment, higher burnup fuel. SNF shipped in the future will have a higher surface dose than reference SNF with the same cooling time, and the GA-4 cask will have a four-fold increase in payload. Therefore, the draft report’s assertion that “most shipments are not expected to be close to the regulatory limit,” cannot be accepted without a compelling show of evidence. In fact, there is reason to believe just the opposite, that future shipments will operate very close to regulatory limits.

The draft report ignores analyses of these issues prepared by the State of Nevada, the Western Interstate Energy Board, and other stakeholders in 1990 when DOE issued the GA-4 cask preliminary design report for review and comment. Commenters then noted that the cask designers had difficulty making trade-offs between increased cask capacity and increased fuel burnup while continuing to meet current regulatory limits for surface radiation dose rate and gross vehicle weight for fully loaded casks. DOE directed the designers to take maximum credit for allowable dose rate in order to maximize payload. Significant extra cooling time would be required to accommodate a full payload of higher burnup fuel - from 13.4 years for 40 GWd/MTHM PWR fuel up to 36.6 years for 60 GWd/MTHM fuel. Surface dose rates for fully-loaded GA-4 casks were projected to be so high that incorrect placement on the trailer would result in exceeding dose limits for the driver. [State of Nevada Comments on the O.C.R.W.M. From-Reactor Spent Fuel Shipping Cask Preliminary Design Reports, NWPO-TN-009-90, December, 1990]

Finally, the State of Nevada objects to NRC’s characterization of the use of a lower average dose rate as a “conservative assumption.” [p. 4] This contradicts NRC’s definition of a conservative analysis as one that is “intentionally structured to overestimate the likely impacts.” [p. 3] If NRC’s objective is a conservative analysis, the State of Nevada concludes that the RADTRAN analysis must be repeated using a higher average dose rate which corresponds to the regulatory limit of 10 mrem/hour at 2 meters.

2.10   Comment #10 - Insufficient Consideration of Routine Transportation Radiological Risks to Members of the Public Residing, Working, or Institutionally Confined at Locations Near Shipping Rutes.

The draft report conclusions regarding radiological exposures and health effects rely entirely upon the RADTRAN 4 analysis. The draft report failed to consider alternative approaches to dose calculation, unique local conditions along routes in Nevada, and use of a dose rate based on the regulatory limit, which could result in significantly higher potential doses to the maximally exposed individual.

Individuals who reside, work, or are institutionally confined at certain locations within 6 to 40 meters (20 to 130 feet) of a nuclear waste highway route, or within 6 to 50 meters (20 to 160 feet) of a nuclear waste rail route, could potentially receive yearly radiation doses equal to a significant percentage of, or even in excess of, average annual background doses (360 mrem/year). Such exposures could occur under circumstances where: (1) residences, workplaces, or certain institutions (especially schools, prisons, or long-term health care or retirement facilities) are located near route features or segments which would require nuclear waste trucks or trains to stop and start again, or travel at very slow speed; (2) the number of shipments is high enough, one to several casks per day, that opportunities for exposures occur frequently at the same locations, and (3) the individuals residing, working, or confined at near-route locations are regularly present to be exposed to a significant portion (if not all) of the shipments which occur annually.

All three circumstances could exist along some of the routes likely to be used for shipments to a repository at Yucca Mountain. Legal-weight truck (LWT) routes of special concern would include US 95 from the I-15 interchange in downtown Las Vegas to Lathrop Wells, and the so-called NDOT B Route, US 93A, US 93, US 6, and US 95 from West Wendover to Lathrop Wells (especially where vehicle stops and/ or left turns are required in West Wendover, Mcgill, Ely, Tonopah, Goldfield, and Beatty).These routes could carry between 600 and 2,700 truck casks per year. Rail route locations of particular concern would potentially include areas in Jean, Arden, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Moapa, and Caliente along the Union Pacific mainline from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. These routes could carry between 300 and 500 rail casks per year. Heavy haul truck (HHT) route segments of special concern would include US 93 west from Caliente to Oak Springs Summit, State Route 375 through Rachel, US 6 intersection with US 95 in Tonopah, and US 95 through Tonopah, Goldfield, and Beatty. This route could carry an average of 500 - 600 slow-moving HHT shipments per year. It is also possible that HHT shipments could be routed through North Las Vegas or Las Vegas.

In 1985, Sandquist generated exposure rates (in microrem/minute) using the PATHRAE model Sandquist specified exposure times(in minutes) and distances(in meters) for routine transportation events (such as slow transit through residential areas and areas with pedestrians, truck stops for driver's rest and refueling), and calculated maximum individual exposures(in millirems) per event. These exposures, when appropriately qualified, can be used to estimate maximum potential annual doses to individuals near truck cask shipping routes, as follows:

 

Distance from cask center 6 m/20 ft  10 m/33 ft  15 m/49 ft  40 m/131 ft 
Dose Rate(microrem/min.)7040206
Maximum Dose, 6 min. exposure(mrem)0.40.20.10.04
Maximum Dose, 2 min. exposure(mrem)0.140.080.040.01
Max. Annual Ind. Dose, 600 trucks(mrem)84-24048-12024-606-24
Max. Annual Ind. Dose, 2,400 trucks(mrem)  336-960192-48096-24024-96

 

It is possible that there are locations along highway routes in Nevada where exposure times could average 6 minutes per truck shipment. It is probable that there are locations where exposure times could average 2 minutes per truck shipment ( for example, uphill grades, left-turn lanes, and traffic signals at downtown intersections along the NDOT B Route in West Wendover, Ely, and Tonopah). Depending upon the number of truck shipments and distance from the route, a maximally exposed individual near a highway route could potentially receive annual doses ranging from 6 mrem to 960 mrem, equivalent to 2% to 266% of the average annual background radiation dose.

Estimation of exposures from rail transportation is more difficult, primarily because of uncertainties about service options (dedicated trains versus general freight service), number of casks per shipment, and continuous rail shipment or intermodal transfer to HHT. At various times, DOE has considered locations in Jean, Arden, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Caliente for rail spur origination and/or rail cask transfers. A maximally exposed individual located within 20 meters (66 feet) of rail interchange/transfer points could potentially receive annual doses in the range of 150 mrem, assuming 500 rail cask/shipments per year and an average exposure time of 10 minutes per rail cask received.

2.11   Comment #11 - Insufficient Consideration of Radiological Risks Resulting from Traffic Gridlock Incidents

The draft report fails to consider traffic gridlock incidents with could result in individual radiation exposures of up to 40 mrem person per incident. [By comparison, the draft report calculates a lifetime 31 mrem dose from transportation for the maximally exposed individual]

Drivers and passengers of vehicles in traffic gridlock incidents could receive potentially significant radiation doses as a result of being trapped next to or near an undamaged truck cask for an extended period of time.

In 1985, Sandquist evaluated such events, and concluded that occupants of stopped vehicles in lanes adjacent to the cask vehicle could receive a maximum dose of 3 mrem, assuming a distance of 5 meters from the cask center and an exposure time of 30 minutes. In response to inquiries from the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board(NWTRB), DOE personnel in 1990 prepared an analysis which concluded that the maximum dose from a gridlock incident could be as high as 40 mrem. DOE provided the following analysis to the NWTRB:

Maximum Exposure of Critical Group in Gridlock:
Assumptions

  • Group located 1m from vertical plane of trailer
  • 4-8 people in vehicles closest to trailer
  • Gridlock lasts 2-4 hours
  • No remedial action to move group members
  • Exposure rate to group, 5-10 mrem/hr

Conclusions

  • Exposure to group member, 10-40 mrem
  • Exposure would be 2-8% of IAEA annual public dose equivalent limits

Source: Darrough, E., DOE/OCRWM, Presentation before U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, Transportation and Systems Panel, Washington, DC, October 22, 1990

The risks associated with gridlock incidents involving SNF shipments, and gridlock risk reduction strategies, have received little serious study and many questions relative to health effects remain unanswered. How often is gridlock expected to occur overall? Is gridlock likely to occur on a regular basis at congested urban interchanges like the Spaghetti Bowl in Las Vegas? Could gridlock involving a large number of vehicles occur in a rural area, for example, as a result of an accident in a highway construction zone? How many people could be exposed to 10-40 mrem in a worst case gridlock incident (e.g., cask jammed up against school bus, city bus, tour bus, etc.)? What, if any, health risks would be expected among "average" members of the public exposed to 40 mrem over 4 hours? Would the same 40 mrem exposure over 4 hours pose greater health risks to pregnant woman and unborn children, young children, or persons already exposed to higher than average levels of radiation ? Should a health effects analysis address possible psychological consequences, or trauma-related illnesses, which might result from a gridlock incident, or should such issues be considered as impacts of perceived risk?

2.12   Comment # 12 - Insufficient Consideration of Routine Transportation Radiological Risks to Vehicle Inspectors and Escorts

The draft report fails to consider potentially significant routine radiation doses to state transportation safety workers such as truck inspectors and vehicle escorts. Under the scenario considered in the draft report, all repository shipments by truck using routes through Las Vegas, the State of Nevada would almost certainly require a comprehensive safety inspection for each truck at the first port of entry. The State of Nevada would probably also require an escort in a chase vehicle for the entire distance traveled from Nevada entry to Yucca Mountain.

Workers responsible for safety inspections of SNF and HLW shipments could receive yearly occupational doses significantly in excess of annual background doses. In 1985, Sandquist assumed each truck cask inspection would take about 12 minutes, at a distance of 3 meters from the cask center (near the personnel barrier), and result in a dose of 2 mrem per event. In 1997, NANP estimated that inspection of each truck and cask entering Nevada will likely require 45 - 75 minutes, based on actual experience in other western states with the rigorous mechanical and radiological safety inspection protocols(the North American Enhanced Standards) developed by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance(CVSA). Inspections may also involve swipe sampling inside the personnel barrier to determine cask surface contamination levels. Such rigorous mechanical and radiological safety inspections at Nevada ports of entry could very well result in an average dose of 10 mrem per person per truck cask arrival. Using the range of dose estimates developed by Sandquist and NANP, an inspector who conducted two truck inspections per week could receive a cumulative annual dose ranging from 200 to 1,000 mrem. At one inspection per day, 5 days a week, an inspector could receive an annual dose of up to 2,500 mrem.

2.13   Comment #13 - Insufficient Consideration of Severe Transportation Accident Risks

The draft report’s discussion of severe transportation accidents is completely inadequate for honest risk communication with affected stakeholders. The State of Nevada has expressed its concerns about repository transportation accident risks, especially the consequences of severe accidents releasing radioactive materials, to NRC and DOE on numerous occasions since 1986. The Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects and the Nevada Attorney General’s Office are currently preparing a comprehensive listing of Nevada’s communications with the NRC about transportation safety issues. The draft report not only completely ignores Nevada’s concerns; the narrow definition of accident risk [Pp. 6, 23] and systematic underestimation of accident risk appears to be intentional. The draft report appears to be legally insufficient under NEPA, and Nevada is developing a case for legal challenge in the event that these deficiencies are not corrected in the final report.

Nowhere does the draft report discuss severe transportation accidents in sufficient detail for analysis by experienced technical reviewers, let alone for meaningful communication with affected members of the general public. The draft report discusses accident risks in Section 2.3, [pages 5 - 9], in the Appendix [pages 22 - 24], and in Attachment 2 [pages 31 - 44]. Nowhere is there a description of accident severity categories, severe accidents capable of releasing radionuclides, or NRC’s assumptions about the probability and the consequences of “the most severe hypothetical SNF transportation accident” referred to on page 24. By comparison, DOE’s 1986 EA repository transportation risk assessment, based on a report by Rogers and Associates Engineering [Sanquist, 1985], assumed that a very severe rail accident, such as a high-speed collision by a long duration fire, could breach a shipping cask, burst and oxidize the spent fuel, and contaminate an area of 42 square miles. Nowhere does the draft report reveal the details of radioactive materials release, maximum radiological exposure, and cleanup costs resulting from NRC’s “most severe” transportation accident. By comparison, DOE’s 1986 assessment assumed the very severe accident could release 1,380 curies of Co-60, Cs-134, and CS-137; calculated a 10 rem dose to the maximally exposed emergency responder; and estimated that if the accident occurred in a rural area, cleanup could take 460 days and cost over $600 million [in 1985 dollars]; and speculated that cleanup in an urban area would cost several billion dollars.

The draft report refers readers to the “results of the RADTRAN analysis (Attachment 2)” for details about accident risk calculations [Pp. 6-9, 23-24]. But Attachment 2 consists only of 14 pages of raw printout for the four transportation scenarios evaluated, with no explanation of what constitutes the most severe accident within each accident category, and no meaningful explanation of accident consequences. It is difficult to determine from Attachment 2 whether the spent fuel isotope inventory input(EOF ISOTOPES) in fact represents a GA-4 cask loaded with the reference repository spent fuel, 10-year cooled Westinghouse PWR with 3.7 % initial enrichment and 40,000 Mwd/MTHM burnup. Even a reviewer experienced in RADTRAN analysis would have difficulty extracting sufficient information from Attachment 2 to verify the draft report’s conclusions without actually running the model. A typical member of the affected public, for example high-school graduate residing along the transportation corridor, would have great difficulty judging the validity of the draft report’s conclusions based on Attachment 2.

The final report must include a detailed SNF transportation accident consequence assessment. The assessment must include a detailed description of the “most severe hypothetical SNF transportation accident” which could occur during truck transport of SNF through the Las Vegas area. NRC staff and contractors should consult State agencies, local governments, and Indian tribes about the most appropriate analytical tools (for example, the RISKIND code) and specific inputs (for example, meteorological conditions) to be used in preparing the consequence assessment. The consequence assessment must address both human health effects and economic impacts. The final report must present the consequence assessment methodology, inputs, and conclusions, including confidence levels and uncertainties, in a manner that can be understood by the general public.

2.14   Comment #14 - Failure to Consider Alternative Mode and Route Scenarios

The draft report asserts that an all-truck shipping scenario using GA 4/9 casks “represents an upper bound” on cumulative transportation impacts in the vicinity of Las Vegas, and further asserts that “rail transport would have smaller risks than truck transport.” [p. 4] The only documentation cited in support of this assertion is a report on transportation of mixed waste from the Oak Ridge K-25 Site. This claim can not be substantiated without conducting a comparative risk assessment, for example by running the RADTRAN 4 code for an all truck scenario, an all rail scenario, and a rail plus heavy haul truck(HHT) scenario. Nevada believes that such a comparative assessment of the “full spectrum” of transportation alternatives is required by NEPA.

Nevada has generally supported the view that, all things being equal, rail transportation of SNF is preferable to truck transportation of SNF, and that DOE should maximize use of rail for SNF shipments to a repository. However, the range of rail transportation options currently being evaluated by DOE, unique local conditions in the Las Vegas area, and DOE’s refusal to require that all repository shipments be made by dedicated train, require a detailed assessment of rail transportation risks. First, all rail shipments to the repository could be routed through downtown Las Vegas, where the Union Pacific mainline is close to the Las Vegas Strip. Second, all rail shipments to the repository could be made in individual casks shipped in general freight service. Third, the already high resident and non-resident population densities in downtown Las Vegas may continue to increase, particularly in areas immediately adjacent to the rail route. Fourth, many difficult-to-evacuate facilities are located near the rail route.

2.15   Comment #15 - Failure to Consider Socioeconomic Impacts

The draft report fails to address the potential adverse impacts of large numbers of nuclear waste shipments on tourism-based economies located near transportation corridors to Yucca Mountain. State-of-the-art risk studies sponsored by the State of Nevada and by USDOE have documented the public perception of risks associated with nuclear waste transportation. These studies have also documented potential adverse impacts on tourist visits to areas affected by nuclear waste shipments. The draft report must consider potential adverse impacts on year-round tourism (for example, in downtown Las Vegas), seasonal tourism, and special-event tourism .The report must also consider the effects of risk perception on property values along shipping routes, and risk-related impacts on business location and expansion decisions.

Moreover, the projected number of nonradiological accidents presented in Table A.2 [p. 21] requires that NRC address socioeconomic impacts. Table A.2 predicts between 12 and 19 nonradiological accidents during the 40 to 60 year period of repository operations. Nevada believes the higher accident rates on Clark County routes would result in many more accidents than NRC predicts using USDOT national accident rates. Nonetheless, the number of accidents predicted by NRC could have a major adverse impact of the Southern Nevada tourism economy even if there are no releases of radioactive materials.

2.16   Comment #16 - Insufficient Consideration of Extended Fuel Burnup Issues

The draft report does not constitute a legally sufficient assessment of the risks of transporting higher burnup spent nuclear fuel to Yucca Mountain. First, it is not clear from the discussion in Chapter 3, whether NRC staff and contractors actually prepared a separate risk assessment for higher enrichment(5 percent), higher burnup(62,000 Mwd/MTHM) fuel using the RADTRAN 4 computer code to model incident-free radiological exposures and consequences of radiological releases resulting from accidents. No evidence such as modeling results is offered to support the assertions that NRC “staff has extensively studied the environmental impacts,”[p. 12] and that these “findings are robust”[p. 12] as they would apply to cumulative radiation exposures and resulting health effects. If NRC believes that use of higher burnup fuel will “slightly reduce the number of shipments” [p. 12]and thus to some extent reduce risks, some analysis must be offered as evidence. If such analyses were performed as part of the references cited (NUREG/CR-5009, NUREG/CR-2325, AIF/NESP-032, and WASH-1238) the results should be reproduced in Chapter 3.

Second, the draft report does not provide any detailed information on the radiological characteristics of higher enrichment(5 percent), higher burnup(62,000 Mwd/MTHM) fuel compared to the radiological characteristics of base case (4 percent or less, 33,000 Mwd/MTHM) fuel. All other factors (such as cooling time) being equal, each assembly of higher burnup fuel would be expected to have a substantially greater total activity(in curies) and a substantially higher surface dose rate (in Rem/hour) compared to base case fuel, due principally to a greater inventory of fission products. The information provided in Chapter 3 is not sufficient to allow reviewers to evaluate the conclusions offered in Section 3.3. This constitutes a major NEPA compliance issue. At a minimum, the draft report should have provided side-by-side comparisons of the radiological characteristics(total activity, radionuclide inventory, and activity for each of the most significant radionuclides) of reference PWR and BWR fuel, by assembly and by MTHM, with base case enrichment and burnup, and higher enrichment and burnup.

Third, the draft report does not address the implications of higher enrichment, higher burnup fuel for the consequences of low probability events such as severe accidents or successful terrorist attacks which could result in a breach of the shipping cask and a release of radioactive materials. Nor does the draft report address the implications of higher enrichment, higher burnup fuel for human errors in cask design, cask manufacture, and/or cask loading, which could increase the probability and/or the consequences of incidents resulting in the release of radioactive materials. A review of recent court decisions regarding nuclear waste transportation risk assessments concluded that NEPA requires specific consideration of high consequence accidents, human error, and sabotage, in addition to any probabilistic risk assessment (which would normally be prepared using RADTRAN). [E.J. Bentz, et al., “Legal Precedents Regarding Use and Defensibility of Risk Assessment in Federal Transportation of SNF and HLW,” Waste Management ‘97 Symposium, Tucson, AZ, March, 1997]

Moreover, the failure to specifically address the implications of higher enrichment, higher burnup fuel for consequences of radiological sabotage involving high-energy explosive devices is a significant departure from past NRC practice. When NRC evaluated this issue in 1984, NRC staff evaluated a smaller increase in burnup (from 33,000 Mwd/MTHM to 40,000 Mwd/MTHM), and concluded that “the calculated consequences of successful sabotage are about 45 percent higher than the consequences of successful sabotage of reference fuel.” [U.S. NRC, "10 CR Part 73, Modification of Protection Requirements for Spent Fuel Shipments: Proposed Rule," Federal Register, Vol. 49, No.112 (June 8, 1984), 23869] The significantly greater increase in fuel burnup proposed in the GEIS could result in a much greater increase in sabotage consequences, and must be specifically evaluated in this impact assessment. Further, the higher total source term and greater fission product inventory of a large-capacity shipping cask loaded with higher burnup fuel, underscore the importance of evaluating the radiological consequence of the loss of cask shielding, and the radiological consequence of the total amount of radioactive material released, and not just the tiny fraction of the inventory released as a respirable aerosol.

Finally, unique local conditions along transportation routes to Yucca Mountain require NRC to evaluate the consequences of very severe accidents which are credible in Nevada even though their probability in other environments is so low that NEPA might not otherwise require them. For example, the proximity of Yucca Mountain transportation routes to U.S. Air Force bombing activities in Southern Nevada caused DOE’s 1986 Yucca Mountain EA to conclude that military overflights were a potential threat to SNF and HLW shipments. A legally sufficient risk assessment must compare the consequences of such an accident involving a cask loaded with reference fuel and the consequences of an accident involving a cask loaded with higher burnup fuel.

3.0   Attachments

The following attachments are incorporated into these comments by reference:

(1) “Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Waste: A Systematic Basis for Planning and Management at the National, Regional, and Local Levels,” by Planning Information Corporation (September, 1996)

(2) “Nuclear Waste Transportation Safety and Security Issues: The Risk of Terrorism and Sabotage Against Repository Shipments,” by Robert J. Halstead and James David Ballard (October, 1997)

(3) “An Independent Cost Assessment of the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste Program,” by Planning Information Corporation, Thompson Professional Group, and Decision Research Institute (February, 1998)

(4) “The Fiscal Effects of Proposed Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel on Nevada State Agencies,” by Planning Information Corporation and Alvin Mushkatel, Ph.D. (June, 1998)

(5) “Probabilistic Risk Assessment and Nuclear Waste Transportation: A Case Study of the Use of RADTRAN in the 1986 Environmental Assessment for Yucca Mountain,” by Marvin Resnikoff, Ph.D. ( December, 1990)

(6) “State of Nevada Comments on the OCWRM From-Reactor Spent Fuel Shipping Cask Preliminary Design Reports,” by Robert J. Halstead, Lindsay Audin, Raymond E. Hoskins, and David F. Snedeker (December, 1990)

(7) “Yucca Mountain Transportation Routes: Preliminary Characterization and Risk Analysis,” Volumes I - III, by Reginald R. Souleyrette, Shashi K. Sathisan, and Russell diBartolo (May, 1991)



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