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.
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:
- Funding would begin 3 years prior to the onset of shipments.
- State/tribes would be able to begin the application process a year before funds would be provided.
- Funds would be provided directly to states - to an agency designated by the governor as the recipient agency. The program would not be combined with any other grant program.
- DOE, not the individual states, would calculate the amount of money each state would receive.
- Funding levels would be based on criteria developed by DOE including:
- Costs for 2 people per state to attend train-the-trainer classes
- Costs for up to 3 people per state to attend more specialized training
- Costs for one person per state to attend public information training
- Costs for up to 3 people per state to attend training in rail or highway inspection procedures
- Some planning costs would be covered by "taking the estimated salary of a health physicist employed full-time and providing a percentage of that salary"
- Costs for travel based on DOE-established limits (duration of training, per diem rates, etc.) would be included in the calculation as would costs for tuition to attend radiological training (based on costs of a DOE NTS radiological emergency operations course pro-rated per individual participant)
- A "variable amount" of money would be available for each state to train 3 additional personnel for every 160 miles along a route (rail or highway)
- Up to 10% of the money a state receives can be used for the purchase of training-related equipment.
- The notice specifies that DOE does not intend to codify the Section 180(c) policies and procedures in regulations as Nevada and other western states have urged. Promulgating regulations through a public rulemaking process would assure stability for the program over the years and in the face of changes in DOE personnel and structure.
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.
- Safe Routine Transportation - DOE defines this as "enforcement of standards and inspection of shipments of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste ... ." Excluded by this definition are activities that Nevada and other states have considered essential to assuring safe routine transportation including the identification of alternative routes and planning, staffing, and organization necessary to implement required training.
- Technical Assistance - This is defined as "assistance, other than financial, that the Secretary of Energy can provide that is unique to [DOE]... including, but not limited to, the provision of training materials, the provision of public information materials, and access to individuals involved in the shipments."
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:
- Application process - begins 4 years prior to shipments (costs of applying are not covered)
- Funding would begin 3 years prior to shipments and would be based on a 3 year program plan
- Year 1 of funding would be a "base grant" for planning and coordination (see above for basis for calculating base grant)
- Year 2 - the base grant plus a variable amount for training would be available
- Year 3 - a base grant plus a variable amount for training would be available
- If there is a lapse of 3 or more years between shipments, the state would loose eligibility until 3 years prior to the resumption of shipments
- DOE would determine what states are eligible and when, based on DOE's identification of routes and estimates of the timing of shipments
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:
- Only 10% of funds received each year can be used for "training-related" equipment
- Funds cannot be used to conduct drills or exercises
- Only 2/3 of the budget provided for training in the first round of responders training can be used in subsequent years for "refresher training" and to train new people
- Funds could not be used for things like alternative route analysis, risk assessments, etc. that would be needed to evaluate training needs, identify who needs training, and plan/target the training
- Funds could not be used for record keeping, audits, and other administrative functions not directly related to the provision of training
- The notice stipulates that DOE does not intend to pay for all costs associated with NWPA-related emergency response training and inspections, but rather sees its obligation as assisting states to "incrementally increase their level of preparedness"
Return to the Nuclear Waste Project Home Page
State of Nevada
Nuclear Waste Project Office
Carson City, NV 89710