Summary Of The Department of Energy's Notice Of Proposed Policies And Procedures On Safe Transportation and Emergency Response Training - Section 180(c)


The 1987 amendments to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA) contained a provision that requires the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to provide financial and technical assistance to states along transportation routes for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste for training emergency response personnel. Section 180(c) of the NWPA states:

"The Secretary [of Energy] shall provide technical assistance and funds to States for training for public safety officials of appropriate units of local government and Indian Tribes through whose jurisdiction the Secretary plans to transport spent nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive waste ... . Training shall cover procedures required for safe routine transportation of these materials, as well as procedures for dealing with emergency response situations. The [Nuclear] Waste Fund shall be the source of funds for work carried out under this subsection."

Since 1987, DOE has made several attempts to formulate an approach to implementing Section 180(c) and has published three different notices in the Federal Register seeking comments on alternative arrangements and mechanisms for establishing a national program of technical and financial assistance. The most recent is a "Notice of Proposed Policy and Procedures" that appeared in the Federal Register at the end of May, 1996. This notice lays out DOE's proposed approach for Section 180(c) assistance and addresses comments received in response to previous notices. DOE is seeking comments on the proposed approach by August 15, 1996.

Key Elements of DOE's Proposed Approach

The Federal Register notice sets forth the framework DOE proposes to utilize in providing technical and financial assistance for emergency response training. The notice deals with the framework in four subject areas: Funding Mechanism, Definition of Key Terms, Eligibility and Timing of the Grants Program, and Allowable Activities.

Funding Mechanism

DOE proposes to provide funds to states along routes identified (by DOE) along which spent fuel and HLW would be transported to a repository or interim storage facility. Some key aspects of the funding mechanism are as follows:

Definition of Terms

The definition of key terms is important because how DOE interprets the meaning of those terms will determine how the Section 180(c) program is conceptualized and implemented. In the case of the current notice, DOE's proposed definitions have the effect of constricting and narrowing the proposed program.

Eligibility and Timing of the Program

The notice proposes a program that would begin essentially 4 years prior to the expected date of shipments through a particular state:

Allowable Activities

Under the proposal, states would decide who gets trained, the level of training, and the organization that administers the training. However, DOE would need to approve a state's proposed training approach as part of the grant approval process. States would be encouraged to integrate Section 180(c) training with other hazardous materials/emergency preparedness training programs (FEMA, USDOT, etc.). Other proposed requirements/restrictions include: