5
Improving Spent Fuel and High-Level Waste Transportation in the United States

The focus of this chapter is on the last two charges of the original statement of task for this study (see Sidebar 1.1):

  • What are likely to be the key principal technical and societal concerns for radioactive waste transportation in the future, especially over the next two decades?

  • What options are available to address these concerns, for example, options involving changes to planned transportation routes, modes, procedures, or other limitations/restrictions; or options for improving the communication of transportation risks to decision makers and the public?

The task statement makes a clear distinction between current and future transportation activities. This distinction was made in recognition of the fact that the federal government is planning to initiate a large-scale, multidecade program to transport much of the nation’s commercial spent nuclear fuel and Department of Energy (DOE) spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste to a federal repository. To this end, DOE plans to submit an application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) for a license to construct and operate a repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada (see Chapter 1). At the time the task statement was developed, the National Academies anticipated that there were likely to be specific technical and societal concerns associated with a transportation program to a federal repository. This is in fact the case as shown in this chapter.

The committee was not directed by the statement of task to undertake



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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States 5 Improving Spent Fuel and High-Level Waste Transportation in the United States The focus of this chapter is on the last two charges of the original statement of task for this study (see Sidebar 1.1): What are likely to be the key principal technical and societal concerns for radioactive waste transportation in the future, especially over the next two decades? What options are available to address these concerns, for example, options involving changes to planned transportation routes, modes, procedures, or other limitations/restrictions; or options for improving the communication of transportation risks to decision makers and the public? The task statement makes a clear distinction between current and future transportation activities. This distinction was made in recognition of the fact that the federal government is planning to initiate a large-scale, multidecade program to transport much of the nation’s commercial spent nuclear fuel and Department of Energy (DOE) spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste to a federal repository. To this end, DOE plans to submit an application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) for a license to construct and operate a repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada (see Chapter 1). At the time the task statement was developed, the National Academies anticipated that there were likely to be specific technical and societal concerns associated with a transportation program to a federal repository. This is in fact the case as shown in this chapter. The committee was not directed by the statement of task to undertake

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States a detailed programmatic review of the federal repository transportation program, nor did it attempt to do so. While many of the concerns raised in this chapter apply specifically to this federal transportation program, they could also apply to other transportation programs designed to move large quantities of spent fuel and(or) high-level waste within the United States to other federal repositories or to interim storage—for example, the Private Fuel Storage, LLC program. A detailed description of the transportation system for this federal repository is provided in Appendix C. 5.1 PRINCIPAL FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION PRINCIPAL FINDING ON TRANSPORTATION SAFETY: The committee could identify no fundamental technical barriers to the safe1 transport of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in the United States. Transport by highway (for small-quantity shipments) and by rail (for large-quantity shipments) is, from a technical viewpoint, a low-radiological-risk activity with manageable safety, health, and environmental consequences when conducted in strict adherence to existing regulations. However, there are a number of social and institutional challenges to the successful2 initial implementation of large-quantity shipping programs that will require expeditious resolution as described in this report. Moreover, the challenges of sustained implementation should not be underestimated. Spent fuel has been transported in the United States and several other countries for several decades; the committee knows of no releases of radioactive materials from package containments above regulatory limits.3 This safety record can be attributed to the robust design and construction of the packages used for transport and the rigorous regulatory oversight of transportation operations. Studies of package performance have demonstrated the effectiveness of package containment over a wide range of transport conditions, including most severe accident conditions (Chapter 2). Similarly, studies of the health and safety risks of spent fuel transportation (Chapter 3) indicate that such risks are generally well characterized and are 1   As noted in Chapter 1, safety refers to measures taken to protect spent fuel and high-level waste during transport operations from failure, damage, human error, and other inadvertent acts. 2   The committee defines “success” in terms of the program’s ability, under existing statutes, regulations, agreements, and budgets, to transport spent fuel and high-level waste in a safe, secure, timely, and publicly acceptable manner. 3   As described in Section 3.1, however, there are well-documented instances in which radioactive contamination on the external surfaces of packages have exceeded regulatory limits. The committee is aware of no documented instances in which this contamination has resulted in exposures of workers or the public above regulatory limits.

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States generally low. However, the social risks and related institutional challenges may impinge on the successful implementation of large-quantity shipping programs. Transportation programs can take proactive steps to identify and manage these risks and challenges as discussed in Chapter 3 and elsewhere in this chapter. The wording of this finding—“The committee could identify no fundamental technical barriers to the safe transport of spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste in the United States”—is carefully and narrowly constructed. This finding is focused on the technical aspects of transportation programs: package and conveyance design, fabrication, and maintenance and the conduct of transportation operations. It is predicated on the assumption that these technical tasks are being carried out with a high degree of care and in strict adherence to regulations. The finding also is based on an assessment of past and present transportation programs and would apply to future programs only to the extent that they continue to exercise appropriate care and adhere to applicable regulations. Continued vigilance by all parties involved in these transportation programs—planners, implementers, and regulators—will be required to ensure that transportation operations in the United States continue to be conducted in a safe manner, especially as large-quantity shipping programs to interim storage and a federal repository are ramped up over the next one to two decades. Some issues of particular concern are discussed in Section 5.2. In Chapter 2, the committee notes concerns about the potential impacts of very long duration fires on package containment effectiveness. Specifically, the committee notes that there may be a very small number of credible accident conditions involving long-duration, fully engulfing fires that are potentially capable of damaging the seals on transportation packages if such fires are allowed to burn in an uncontrolled manner for long periods of time (many hours to days). The committee also recommends that additional investigations be carried out to obtain a bounding-level understanding of the risks and consequences of such accidents. In Chapter 3, the committee describes a relatively simple operational step that can be taken to mitigate these risks. Consequently, the committee judges that very long duration fires do not present a technical barrier to transportation safety. PRINCIPAL FINDING ON TRANSPORTATION SECURITY: Malevolent acts against spent fuel and high-level waste shipments are a major technical and societal concern, especially following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. The committee judges that some of its recommendations for improving transportation safety might also enhance transportation security. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is undertaking a series of security studies, but the committee was unable to perform an

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States in-depth technical examination of transportation security because of information constraints. RECOMMENDATION: An independent examination of the security of spent fuel and high-level waste transportation should be carried out prior to the commencement of large-quantity shipments to a federal repository or to interim storage. This examination should provide an integrated evaluation of the threat environment, the response of packages to credible malevolent acts, and operational security requirements for protecting spent fuel and high-level waste while in transport. This examination should be carried out by a technically knowledgeable group that is independent of the government and free from institutional and financial conflicts of interest. This group should be given full access to the necessary classified documents and Safeguards Information to carry out this task. The findings and recommendations from this examination should be made available to the public to the fullest extent possible. Several participants at the committee’s information-gathering meetings highlighted security4 as an important current concern for transportation of spent fuel and high-level waste in the United States. The committee concurs with this view and judges that such concerns are likely to grow in the future, especially once shipments commence to centralized interim storage or a federal repository. As reported in Section 1.2, the committee was unable to perform an examination of transportation security risks because of information restrictions: much of the information available on this topic is either classified or otherwise restricted. The committee concluded that it would be difficult to provide a substantive assessment of security issues because not all committee members have the necessary clearances to access this information. Four members of the committee and one staff member with appropriate security clearances were given a classified briefing by USNRC staff on investigations under way within that agency to assess the security of transportation packages. Some of these members also have some knowledge of the extensive classified and unclassified literature on this topic. There appears to be sufficient information available to undertake a substantive review of spent fuel and high-level waste transportation security by a cleared group if it is given unrestricted access to the relevant literature and information. The cooperation of several federal agencies (USNRC, DOE, and the 4   As noted in Chapter 1, security refers to measures taken to protect spent fuel and high-level waste during handling and transport from sabotage, attacks, and theft.

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States Department of Homeland Security [DHS]) would be required to obtain the information needed to carry out this study. The committee’s recommendation that an examination of spent fuel and high-level waste transportation security be carried out independently of the government and by a group free of financial and institutional conflicts of interest is made in the spirit of improving its objectivity and public credibility. The committee’s recommendation that the findings and recommendations of this examination be presented in a format that can be shared with the public is made in the spirit of improving the quality of informed dialogue on this sensitive but important issue. The preparation of findings and recommendations that are suitable for public release will require that the group charged with this examination be given access to appropriate and timely classification guidance. While the recommendations in this report are focused primarily on improving transportation safety, the committee judges that some of these might also improve transportation security. For example, the recommended operational changes to reduce the number of total shipments to a federal repository (Section 5.2.1), to limit shipment travel times and stops (Section 5.2.3), and to encourage transport of older (and radiologically cooler) spent fuel (Section 5.2.4) would help to reduce the opportunities for some types of malevolent acts or limit their potential consequences. 5.2 TRANSPORTATION OPERATIONS The committee uses the term transportation operations to refer to the spectrum of activities associated with the actual shipments of spent fuel and high-level waste in the United States. The committee provides findings and recommendations on the following six operational issues in this section: Mode (road vs. rail) for transporting spent fuel and high-level waste to a federal repository (Section 5.2.1) Route selections for transport to a federal repository (Section 5.2.2) Use of dedicated trains for transport to a federal repository (Section 5.2.3) Acceptance order for commercial spent fuel transport to a federal repository (Section 5.2.4) Emergency response planning and training (Section 5.2.5) Information sharing and openness (Section 5.2.6) Although these recommendations are focused on DOE’s program for transporting spent fuel and high-level waste, they also apply to any large-quantity shipping programs whether federally or privately operated. The committee intends that these recommendations would also apply to the

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States Private Fuel Storage program for transporting large quantities of commercial spent fuel to centralized interim storage in Utah, if that facility is constructed and opened. 5.2.1 Mode for Transporting Spent Fuel and High-Level Waste to a Federal Repository FINDING: Transport of spent fuel and high-level waste by rail has clear safety, operational, and policy advantages over highway transport for large-quantity shipping programs. The committee strongly endorses DOE’s selection of the “mostly rail” option for the Yucca Mountain transportation program for the following reasons: It reduces the total number of shipments to the federal repository by roughly a factor of five, which reduces the potential for routine radiological exposures, conventional traffic accidents, and severe accidents (Table 3.8). Rail shipments have a greater physical separation from other vehicular traffic and reduced interactions with people along transportation routes, which also contributes to safety. Operational logistics are simpler and more efficient. There is a clear public preference for this option. The committee does not endorse the development of an extended truck transportation program to ship spent fuel cross-country or within Nevada should DOE fail to complete construction of the Nevada rail spur or procure the necessary rail equipment by the time the federal repository is opened. RECOMMENDATION: DOE should fully implement its mostly rail decision by completing construction of the Nevada rail spur, obtaining the needed rail packages and conveyances, and working with commercial spent fuel owners to ensure that facilities are available at plants to support this option. These steps should be completed before DOE commences the large-quantity shipment of spent fuel and high-level waste to a federal repository to avoid the need to procure infrastructure and construct facilities to support an extended truck transportation program. DOE should also examine the feasibility of further reducing its needs for cross-country truck shipments of spent fuel through the expanded use of intermodal transportation (i.e., combining heavy-haul truck, legal-weight truck, and barge) to allow the shipment of rail packages from plants that do not have direct rail access. Mode selection is of special concern for the federal repository transpor-

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States tation program given its size and multidecade duration. DOE has decided that the mostly rail alternative defined in the final Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement (EIS; DOE, 2002a) is its preferred alternative for transporting spent fuel and high-level waste to a federal repository (DOE, 2004d). In this EIS, DOE noted that it referred to rail as its preferred mode as early as 1998 in the draft request for proposals for contractor support for waste acceptance and transportation (DOE, 2002a, p. M-9). In identifying mostly rail as the preferred mode, DOE evidently does not mean that it prefers each of the detailed site-specific mode choices assumed in the final EIS (DOE, 2002a), but rather that it will seek to employ rail transportation to the extent practicable. DOE summarized its evaluation of transportation mode options in the final EIS as follows (DOE, 2002a, p. 2-97–2-98): DOE believes that the EIS provides the environmental impact information necessary to make certain broad transportation-related decisions, namely the choice of a national mode of transportation outside Nevada (mostly rail or mostly legal-weight truck), the choice among alternative transportation modes in Nevada (mostly rail, mostly legal-weight truck, or heavy-haul truck with use of an associated intermodal transfer station), and the choice among alternative rail corridors or heavy-haul truck routes with use of an associated intermodal transfer station in Nevada. DOE has identified mostly rail as its preferred mode of transportation, both nationally and in Nevada. The environmental impacts for mostly rail are expected to be less overall than the impacts for mostly truck. For the mostly rail scenario, 9,600 rail and 1,100 truck shipments[5] are expected for shipping 70,000 MTHM [metric tons heavy metal] and, for the mostly truck scenario, 53,000 truck and 300 rail shipments are expected. The reduced number of shipments to move 70,000 MTHM and corresponding expected reduction in environmental impacts are the basis for preferring the mostly rail scenario. The impacts that weighed most heavily in DOE’s mode preference are safety related, primarily involving fatalities from exposure to ionizing radiation and conventional traffic fatalities (see Table 3.8). DOE noted that 5   For commercial spent fuel, one shipment, as the final EIS uses the term, apparently is equal to one package moving to the repository. Although the risk analysis in the EIS assumes one package per train, DOE states that in practice up to five railcars, each carrying one spent fuel package, could move together in one train (DOE, 2002a, p. J-14). DOE also states that its present plans call for three packages per train, or about 3000 trains entering Nevada (DOE, 2004d, p. 18559). A truck would carry only one package. This is based on a rail package capacity of 6 to 12 metric tons (about 7 to 13 short tons) heavy metal (MTHM), compared with 1.8 MTHM (2 short tons) for a legal-weight truck package (DOE, 2002a, Table J-2); the ratio of the number of shipments in the mostly rail scenario, compared with mostly truck, is about the ratio of truck package capacity to rail package capacity.

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States security considerations also support its rail preference. The analysis in the final EIS indicates that in the event of a terrorist attack on a transport package in transit, the likely consequences for a rail shipment would be less than for a legal-weight truck shipment, mainly because of the rail package’s thicker wall.6 The committee did not examine the risks of terrorist attacks on spent fuel packages and therefore cannot confirm this conclusion. Table 3.8 shows that the mostly rail option results in about a factor of five decrease in the number of shipments to the federal repository (53,000 mostly truck shipments versus 9600 mostly rail shipments7) over a period of 24 years. The mostly rail option also results in almost a factor of four reduction in expected radiation-related fatalities during routine transport, from 15 fatalities to 4. The number of expected fatalities for the maximally reasonably foreseeable accident is higher for the rail option than for the truck option (five fatalities versus less than one fatality), but the likelihood of occurrence of such a rail accident is very small (less than 3 in 10 million chances of occurring per year). The committee also sees clear operational advantages to the mostly rail option. Railroads in the United States are privately owned and operated, which allows for greater control over other activities on the rail line and a more coordinated regime for carrying out safety inspections. Rail transport can also result in reduced shipment travel times, especially if dedicated trains are used, which allows for the more efficient utilization of transport packages and conveyances.8 DOE’s mostly rail transportation strategy will require the development of a rail spur within Nevada, because the Yucca Mountain site is currently without direct rail access.9 The final EIS (DOE, 2002a) examined three alternative, but not mutually exclusive, provisions for transportation within Nevada: (1) a rail alternative that would entail constructing a rail spur from 6   While it is true that rail packages have thicker walls, they also hold greater inventories of spent fuel. It is not immediately obvious to the committee how these two factors would trade off for various types of terrorist attacks. 7   It should be noted that these shipment numbers are small compared to other types of hazardous material transport that occur on the nation’s highways, railroads, and waterways each year. About 400,000 large trucks are dedicated to hazardous materials service, including most tank trucks. About 115,000 railroad tank cars and more than 3000 tank barges operating on the inland and coastal waterways are in hazardous materials service. See NRC (2005c) for details. 8   In principle, reducing the travel time allows more round trips to be carried out per unit time or, at a fixed throughput, reduces the required numbers of packages and conveyances. 9   The EIS for the rail spur was under way when the present report was being finalized (December 2005). The transportation risks on rail spur will not be known publicly until the EIS and spur design are released. The committee presumes that the rail spur will be constructed up to modern-day standards and therefore will have risks similar to or less than other rail lines used to transport spent fuel and high-level waste to the repository.

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States a point on an existing rail line to the repository; (2) a heavy-haul truck alternative, in which full-size rail packages would be removed from railcars at a terminal constructed near an existing rail line and loaded onto heavy-haul trucks for transport to the repository; and (3) a legal-weight truck alternative involving the transport of spent fuel and high-level waste from commercial and DOE sites to the repository by truck. The final EIS stated that mostly rail is also the preferred mode within the State of Nevada (DOE, 2002a, p. S-2). DOE examined five possible rail corridors in Nevada in its final EIS (Figure 5.1) but it did not express a preference among them. In December 2003, DOE published a notice10 announcing that one of the five corridors, the Caliente corridor, is its preferred corridor in which to construct a rail line, and that a second route, the Carlin corridor, is its secondary preference. The notice explains the significance of this designation as follows: “If the Department adopts the mostly rail mode in Nevada, DOE will issue a Record of Decision selecting a rail corridor…. If the Department selects a rail corridor, DOE will issue a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register to initiate the preparation of a rail alignment EIS … to consider alternative alignments within the selected corridor….” Concerning the basis for the selection, the notice states: “The Department’s preference for Caliente takes into account many factors, including its more remote location, the diminished likelihood of land use conflicts, concerns raised by Nevadans, and national security issues raised by the U.S. Air Force on the Caliente-Chalk Mountain corridor [another corridor analyzed in the EIS].” DOE further explained its preferred mode designation and selection of the corridor in a Record of Decision (ROD) published in April 2004 (DOE, 2004d) and at the same time announced (DOE, 2004e) that it was beginning an EIS covering the selection of the alignment within the Caliente corridor and construction and operation of the rail line, with a draft to be issued in early 2005. The Caliente corridor begins at a point on the Union Pacific rail line near Caliente Nevada, 120 miles northeast of Yucca Mountain; runs west, passing north of the Nevada Test and Training Range, a military facility; and then turns south to Yucca Mountain (Figure 5.1). The final Yucca Mountain EIS estimates the cost of building the rail line in this 319-mile (513-kilometer) corridor to be $880 million in 2001 dollars and the construction time to be 46 months (DOE, 2002a).11 The three nonpreferred corridors are shorter and have lower estimated construction costs than the 10   DOE, “Notice of Preferred Nevada Rail Corridor,” 68 FR 74951–74952, December 29, 2003. 11   In December 2005, DOE acknowledged that construction costs had increased to $2 billion, presumably in current year (2005) dollars.

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States FIGURE 5.1 Potential corridors for the Nevada rail spur. The Caliente corridor starts near the town of Caliente at the lower right and runs north and west of the Nevada Test and Training Range. SOURCE: Modified from DOE (2002a).

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States Caliente route, but would have routed shipments through or near Las Vegas or through the Nellis Range. In its notice on beginning the alignment EIS (DOE, 2004e), DOE invited comments on whether it should allow private entities to ship commercial commodities on its rail line. The possibility of commercial use might make construction of the route more acceptable to some local interests. The choice of whether the line should be available for public use has implications for regulatory oversight of the line’s construction and operation. According to federal law, the Surface Transportation Board12 has jurisdiction over rate and service issues for common carrier rail lines (i.e., rail lines available for public use). The board must approve construction, and all state and local environmental or permitting requirements are preempted. Construction of a track for exclusive DOE use would not require board approval. Federal law would not preempt state and local regulation of construction of such a track. DOE’s preferred rail transportation strategy will also require the execution of an ambitious intermodal transportation scheme to move transportation packages to railheads from commercial sites lacking direct rail connections. The final Yucca Mountain EIS notes that 24 commercial spent fuel storage sites have no rail service but do have facilities to load rail packages. Of these 24, 17 have access to waterways, and the other 7 can ship to railheads by heavy-haul truck. There are an additional 6 sites that lack crane capacity or other facilities to load rail packages (DOE, 2002a, p. J-15, Tables J-5 and J-26). Of the 9600 train shipments in the final EIS mostly rail scenario, on the order of 2000 would be moved from sites without rail access to a railhead by heavy-haul truck or barge over distances of 6 to 256 kilometers (4 to 160 miles) (DOE, 2002a, Tables J-5, J-26, J-27). DOE’s illustrative heavy-haul truck (DOE, 2002a, Figure 2-29) is 67 meters (220 feet) long and weighs 90 metric tons (100 short tons) empty and around 180 metric tons (200 short tons) loaded. For comparison, a legal-weight truck carrying a spent fuel package would be about 18 meters (60 feet) in length and have a loaded weight of 36 metric tons (40 short tons). The possibility of a large volume of barge shipments of spent nuclear fuel has been a point of controversy. State representatives reported to the committee that there is opposition in the upper Midwest to spent fuel barge shipments on the Great Lakes. The final EIS estimates were not based on an evaluation of whether barge would be preferred from the standpoint of cost or risk at any sites of origin. Until up-to-date and detailed local site access 12   The board is an independent agency and the successor agency to the Interstate Commerce Commission.

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States ded in DOE’s OCRWM, which is responsible for constructing and operating a federal repository. The transportation program must compete with the much larger repository development program for personnel, funding, and management attention. OCRWM has embarked on what some have described (and the committee agrees) is an ambitious schedule to open a Yucca Mountain repository. Its last announced schedule for opening the repository included the following milestones: Submission of a repository construction license application to the USNRC in December 2004. Approval by the Commission in 2008 to begin construction of the repository and ancillary surface facilities. Submission of a license amendment to the USNRC in 2009 to begin receiving waste. Approval of this amendment by the USNRC and start-up of repository operations by the end of 2010. DOE missed the first milestone because of problems with the Environmental Protection Agency Agency’s standard for Yucca Mountain and completion of DOE’s licensing support network (see Section 1.3.2). A new schedule had not been formally announced by December 2005 when work on this report was being completed, although DOE has stated that Yucca Mountain will not open until 2012 at the earliest. The transportation program’s schedule is linked to the schedule for opening the repository. The last announced schedule for the transportation program included the following milestones: Complete work on the Nevada rail EIS and issue a ROD on the specific alignment in early 2006. Award the design contract for the rail spur in early 2005 and begin construction of the rail spur in early 2006. According to the final Yucca Mountain EIS (DOE, 2002a), construction is planned to last no more than 46 months at an estimated cost of about $880 million (see Section 5.2.1).52 Issue a request for proposals on rolling stock (i.e., railcars) in early 2005 and begin receiving equipment deliveries in early 2007. Undertake an assessment of industry’s ability to provide transportation packages of the sizes and quantities needed for the program. Package 52   As noted previously, DOE acknowledged that the estimated cost for constructing the complete 319-mile (513-kilometer) rail spur had increased to about $2 billion.

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States design, certification, and fabrication activities would be carried out in fiscal years 2005 and 2006. Complete work on an operational plan and issue a final concept of operations in early fiscal year 2005. This would presumably detail how DOE plans to conduct its transportation operations, including the role of contractors. Issue final routing selection criteria in late fiscal year 2005 and its transportation operations plan in late fiscal year 2006. Identify a suite of transportation routes in early fiscal year 2006, which will then trigger the awarding of Section 180(c) planning grants (see Section 5.2.5) to states later that fiscal year. Awards of Section 180(c) base grants would be made later in fiscal year 2007. In October 2005, OCRWM announced that it intended to adopt a standardized package design to transport, store, and dispose of commercial spent fuel. This will require certification of the new package design and modification of the design for the fuel receipt and handling facilities at the federal repository. DOE has not indicated what additional delays may be encountered in the repository program and its associated transportation program to implement these changes. Funding for the Yucca Mountain Program comes from a combination of direct federal appropriations to cover the costs of disposing of defense spent fuel and high-level waste and the Nuclear Waste Fund (Appendix C) to cover the costs of commercial spent fuel disposal. Both funding sources are controlled by Congress through the annual appropriations process.53 The transportation program’s annual budget request to Congress is submitted as part of the OCRWM budget request based on a target set by the Office of Management and Budget in consultation with DOE management. As shown by Table 5.3, the transportation program’s budget has not received high priority within OCRWM, possibly because the overall OCRWM budget has itself been underfunded relative to requested levels during several of the past years. The transportation program will require substantially higher future budgets to construct a Nevada rail line, procure transportation equipment, and make other necessary infrastructure improvements. While the apparent delay in opening a federal repository would potentially provide more time for the transportation program to attain operational readiness, it introduces other complications. For example, the com- 53   The Bush administration made an unsuccessful attempt in fiscal year 2005 to exempt the Nuclear Waste Fund from the annual appropriations process. This attempt, which was supported by the nuclear industry, would have provided DOE with a great deal more budgetary discretion.

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States TABLE 5.3 Congressional Appropriations for OCRWM and Its Transportation Program Federal Fiscal Year OCRWM Request ($ millions) OCRWM Appropriation ($ millions) Transportation Program Request ($ millions) Transportation Program Appropriation ($ millions) 1999 380 353 2 2 2000 409 351 2 2 2001 437 401 3.8 2.7 2002 445 375 5.9 4.6 2003 591 457 30.2 9.4 2004 591 577 73.1 63.6 2005 131a 572 186 30.7 2006 651 450b 85.4 19.9 aDOE requested $880 million, but the Bush administration requested only $131 million for defense waste disposal. The administration intended to obtain the remaining funding from the Nuclear Waste Fund and unsuccessfully attempted to have that fund taken “off budget,” which would have freed it from the annual congressional appropriations process. bDoes not include the $50 million appropriated by Congress in fiscal year 2006 for initiation of a site selection process for an integrated spent fuel recycling facility. SOURCE: DOE budget documents and written communications. mercial nuclear industry could begin shipments of spent fuel to Private Fuel Storage, LLC, in Utah once that facility is constructed and opened.54 Under current plans, this fuel will be placed in packages (see Sidebar 1.4) for transport and storage. However, unless the industry adopts the new DOE standardized package, which has not yet been designed, licensed, or manufactured, it may be required to repackage the fuel before it can be transported to the federal repository. In the meantime, additional nuclear plants are expected to establish dry-cask storage to relieve growing storage pressures in their pools, and additional plants may be closed and decommissioned. These changes could further affect the transportation program’s pickup schedules and require more repackaging of spent fuel for transport to the federal repository. The recent decision by Congress to promote the development of one or more federal interim storage sites for commercial spent fuel potentially 54   A license for this facility was submitted to the USNRC in 1997. As noted in Chapter 1, the Commission authorized its staff to issue a license to construct and operate this facility under the conditions in 10 CFR 72.40.

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States further complicates DOE’s transportation mission. The Energy and Water Development Fiscal Year 2006 report55 provides the following direction to DOE (italics added): Integrated spent fuel recycling.—Given the uncertainties surrounding the Yucca Mountain license application process, the conferees provide $50,000,000, not derived from the Nuclear Waste Fund, for the Department to develop a spent nuclear fuel recycling plan. Under the Nuclear Energy account, the conferees provide additional research funds to select one or more advanced recycling technologies and to complete conceptual design and initiate pre-engineering design of an Engineering Scale Demonstration of advanced recycling technology. Coupled with this technology research and development effort, funds are provided under the Nuclear Waste Disposal account to prepare the overall program plan and to initiate a competition to select one or more sites suitable for development of integrated recycling facilities (i.e., separation of spent fuel, fabrication of mixed oxide fuel, vitrification of waste products, and process storage) and initiate work on an Environmental Impact Statement. The site competition should not be limited to DOE sites, but should be open to a wide range of other possible federal and non-federal sites on a strictly voluntary basis. The conferees remind the Department that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act prohibits interim storage of nuclear waste in the State of Nevada. To support the development of detailed site proposals for this competition, the conferees make a total of $20,000,000 available to the site offerors, with a maximum of $5,000,000 available per site. To be eligible to receive these funds, each applicant site must be able to identify all state, regulatory, and environmental permits required for permitting this facility, including identifying any legislative or regulatory prohibitions that might prevent siting such a facility. The conferees direct the Secretary to submit a detailed program plan to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations not later than March 31, 2006, and to initiate the site selection competition not later than June 30, 2006. The target for site selection is fiscal year 2007, and the target for initiation of construction of one or more integrated spent fuel recycling facilities is fiscal year 2010. The development of an integrated spent fuel recycling facility will likely require interim storage at the recycling facility as well as additional transportation capacity, possibly involving a different mix of transportation packages, conveyances, and routes than for the federal repository. Even if Yucca Mountain fails to receive a license and an integrated spent fuel recycling facility is never constructed, the federal government may still require a transportation capability to move commercial spent fuel 55   House Report 109-275 Making Appropriations for Energy and Water Development for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2006, and for Other Purposes.

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States to one or more centralized storage sites to meet its commitments under the NWPA (see Chapter 1 and Appendix C).56 This fact alone argues for the establishment of a generic federal transportation capability that could service a repository and possibly other government transportation needs. Under the current organizational structure for the transportation program, all of the federal government’s transportation “eggs” have been placed in the federal repository basket. The current transportation program is unusual in another sense: The committee knows of no other federal government-run program that has a mission to take ownership of private-sector waste for the purposes of transport and disposal.57 Such programs are usually private-sector responsibilities. The government’s usual role is to control and regulate such activities. Several members of the committee have extensive experience with the design and operation of large transportation programs. Their experience suggests that such programs are more likely to be successful when they have the following: An appropriately focused mission; A systems-driven focus on the mission; Authority to carry out the mission and accountability for failure; Independent and strong regulatory oversight; Continuity and predictability of funding; and Alert, flexible, and responsive management. OCRWM’s transportation program lacks some of these attributes. The current program is focused on transport to Yucca Mountain; it is not organized to provide a generic transportation capacity that could serve the government’s other transportation needs. The transportation program director’s authority for carrying out the mission is limited because priorities 56   The fiscal year 2006 House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill directed DOE to begin accepting commercial spent fuel for interim storage at a government site within 12 months, but this language was not included in the final conference report. 57   Amtrak, a government-chartered corporation, has carried private-sector freight. The federal government has programs for the shipment of government-owned materials and wastes. For example, the military has transportation programs for moving military materials and wastes. DOE has transportation programs for shipping nuclear weapons and naval spent fuel. It also has transportation programs for shipping the wastes from its environmental cleanup programs at defense sites. Transport of non-DOE domestic and some foreign research reactor spent fuel is the responsibility of reactor operators (see Chapter 4). DOE is responsible for the transport of some foreign research reactor fuel, but this fuel is of U.S. origin and, because it contains HEU (see Chapter 4), is a proliferation concern.

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States are set at higher levels in the department. In principle, accountability follows authority. The program is partially self-regulating (see Table 1.3). There is little continuity, predictability, or rationality of funding in the annual appropriations process, as noted previously, and the transportation program has historically received a low priority for funding within OCRWM (see Table 5.3). The committee judges that there are several options for changing the current organizational structure to improve its chances for success; the principal attributes and advantages of these structures are summarized in Sidebar 5.4. One of these options could be implemented within the current structure of the NWPA, whereas two others would likely require fundamental changes to the NWPA. All of the options involve transferring the transportation program out of OCRWM with the explicit goal of increasing management authority and accountability for executing the program’s mission(s). Such a transfer could also be advantageous to OCRWM because it would allow that program to focus its staff and resources on its primary near-term mission, which is to license and construct a federal repository. There are of course some advantages to the current organizational structure: The transportation and repository development programs are closely coupled. In principle, this promotes coordination, cooperation, and systems-driven integration, helping to ensure a match-up between transportation supply, demand, and schedules. However, the committee has not seen much evidence that these advantages are being realized in the current transportation program. Programmatic decisions appear to be based more on funding availability (Table 5.3) than on technical or schedule considerations. The committee did not perform an exhaustive analysis of alternative organizational structures for the transportation program. However, based on the expertise and experience of its members, at least three different organizational structures seem feasible. The following paragraphs describe these options and their potential advantages and disadvantages. First, within the current structure of the NWPA, the transportation program could be organized as the Nuclear Waste Transportation Administration, a quasi-independent DOE office program reporting directly to upper-level DOE management (i.e., the DOE secretary, deputy secretary, or under secretary). The main advantages of this structure are that it would free the transportation program from the budget, personnel, and schedule constraints imposed by OCRWM management and give program staff greater authority to execute its mission. The effectiveness of this structure would be enhanced by giving the program more predictability and continuity of funding so that it could make long-term commitments to

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States SIDEBAR 5.4 Principal Attributes of Potential Organizational Structures for the Federal Transportation Program Nuclear Waste Transportation Administration Independent DOE program reporting directly to upper-level DOE management Could serve all of the federal government’s commercial spent fuel transportation needs Permissible under the current NWPA Effectiveness of this organizational structure could be enhanced by giving it authority to tap the Nuclear Waste Fund without annual congressional authorizations Organizational model: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) within DOT Quasi-Government Corporation Private-sector organization with partial government ownership Would have exclusive authority to take title to commercial spent fuel for the purposes of transport to a federal repository or federal interim storage Would be subject to the full regulatory authority of government for corporate finances and governance, worker and public health and safety, and transportation safety and security Could be chartered to be responsive to public participation and the social risk concerns (Chapter 3) Would require changes to the current NWPA to implement Organizational models: British Nuclear Fuels Limited and AREVA Private Company Similar to quasi-government corporation but with full private ownership Could be the most effective option for solving the spent fuel acceptance order problem Would require changes to the current NWPA to implement Organizational model: Private Fuel Storage, LLC construct the Nevada rail spur58 and purchase transportation packages and conveyances. This could be accomplished by giving the program more 58   Under this and the other two organizational options described in this section, the responsibility for constructing the Nevada rail spur and making other transportation-related infrastructure improvements within Nevada could continue to reside within OCRWM following the recommended organizational restructuring. The transportation program could be given the responsibility for purchasing transportation packages and conveyances and making the needed infrastructure improvements at commercial power plant sites (see Appendix C) and on transportation routes outside of Nevada. This could provide a better separation between repository-specific responsibilities and other responsibilities for a generic federal transportation capability.

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States direct access to the Nuclear Waste Fund and authority to tap that fund without prior congressional authorization. A possible model for this arrangement is the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) within DOT, which reports directly to the Secretary of Transportation. The FHWA is funded mainly from congressional appropriations from the Highway Users Trust Fund, a government account replenished by highway user fees. While FHWA’s main mission is to provide programmatic grants to states for highway construction, it also sets selected standards for federally funded roads and provides technical support to state departments of transportation. Additionally, it funds and conducts research to develop and improve relevant technology and enhance the effectiveness of its grant programs. FHWA oversees a highly decentralized set of activities in which oversight is provided by the federal government but roads are owned by states and local governments, and built and maintained largely by hundreds of private contractors. Some of these activities are also subject to review and approval by other agencies—for example, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense. Many of these activities also involve considerable public outreach and participation. The FHWA must operate in a collaborative fashion to execute its missions and has had a long and successful partnerships with state, contractor, material supplier, and academic institutions. The administration has developed a skilled staff with the core competencies required to carry out its missions. A successful Nuclear Waste Transportation Administration would be similar in many respects to the FHWA. It would be largely dependent on congressional appropriations for its funding and, like FHWA, would rely on a permanent fund (the Nuclear Waste Fund) for most of its budget. It would be involved heavily in cooperative relationships with other federal agencies, states, tribes, local governments, nuclear utilities, contractors, and other nongovernmental organizations. Even though it would likely contract out many of its functions, it would need to have a strong staff with competencies in transportation planning, design, operations, materials handling, and public outreach. However, it would also be different from FHWA in some respects: It would have operational responsibilities and would be much smaller in dollar terms. The other two organizational models would require changes to the NWPA. The second option would be to reorganize the transportation program as a quasi-government corporation. Such a corporation would operate like a private-sector organization and would be subject to the full regulatory authority of the government for corporate finances and governance, worker and public health and safety, and transportation safety and security. The charter for this corporation would give it exclusive authority to take title to commercial spent fuel for transport to the federal repository or

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States federal interim storage.59 DOE would take title to shipped materials at the gate of the federal repository or interim storage facility. This quasi-corporate model has two primary advantages. First, it would bring some private-sector efficiencies to the transportation program, which could help the program operate in a more timely and cost-effective manner. The corporation could freely draw upon existing worldwide transportation capabilities, thereby reducing development costs and schedules. Second, this arrangement would get the government out of the business of regulating itself, which creates both real and perceived conflicts of interest. It would also reduce the potential for political pressures on program plans and operations—for example, on the acceptance order for commercial spent fuel. If desired, DOE could also contract with this corporation to transport its defense spent fuel and high-level waste to the repository. The main potential disadvantages of this model are that a corporation could be perceived to have less accountability to the public and would be freed from many of the public participation processes in which the government is required to engage.60 If chartered correctly, however, a quasi-government corporation might actually be more accountable than a government agency for meeting legal and regulatory requirements: the corporation could be fined and its staff subject to civil and criminal penalties for violating statutes and regulations. Moreover, in chartering this corporation, Congress could establish requirements for outside consultation and public participation and make it responsive to the social risk concerns described in Chapter 3 (Section 3.2). There is a precedent for this organizational model in the United Kingdom and France. British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) and the French company AREVA are private companies with a high level of government ownership.61 These companies provide a wide range of nuclear services, including spent fuel and high-level waste transportation services. They are subject to the full regulatory authorities in all of the countries in which they operate, including their home countries. 59   This take-title provision would be workable only if the corporation were covered by the Price Anderson Act. 60   For example, Flynn et al. (1998) reported the results of a national survey that asked respondents whether they preferred having the federal government manage nuclear waste transportation directly or contract with private companies to manage it. A majority of respondents (about 52 percent) preferred to have the federal government manage transportation directly. The WGA has also expressed a clear preference that the federal government not delegate key transportation responsibilities to contractors (WGA, 2005). 61   The committee cites these companies as examples of government-owned organizations that transport commercial spent fuel. The citation is not an endorsement of these companies, their business models, or their performance records.

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States A third option for reorganizing the transportation program is to make it a fully private company operated by the commercial nuclear industry. There is already an industry consortium in existence (Private Fuel Storage, LLC; see Chapter 1) that is developing a transportation capability that could serve as a model for such a company. This arrangement would have some of the same advantages and disadvantages of the quasi-government corporation option, although requirements for outside consultations and public participation might be harder to enforce. However, this might be the most effective option for addressing the commercial spent fuel acceptance order issue (Section 5.2.4), especially if owners had collective economic incentives to maximize the efficiency of the transportation program,62 and individual owner interests did not trump these collective incentives. Under this option, DOE would be responsible for transporting its own spent fuel and high-level waste but could contract this activity out to the private entity if desired. The selection of a specific organizational model for the federal transportation program is a policy decision that goes well beyond the task for this study. In making this decision, the federal government will have to consider factors beyond Yucca Mountain. The government is encouraging the construction of new nuclear plants in the United States. If such construction occurs on a large scale, the federal repository and the transportation program that supports it will have to be expanded. In this case, it might make sense for the government to turn over the transportation program to a quasi-private or private entity if it does not wish to be in the permanent business of transporting the industry’s spent fuel. As noted previously, a generic transportation capability could also be useful if the federal government decides to transport commercial fuel to one or more centralized sites for storage or reprocessing to meet its commitments under the NWPA (see Chapter 1 and Appendix C). This argues for the establishment of a generic transportation capability that could service a range of government transportation needs. If the federal government decides to maintain the transportation program in its current organizational form, the committee judges that it will at the very least need a greater commitment to continuity in funding and programmatic direction from the Secretary of Energy and Congress to successfully execute its mission. This may not be possible in the current fiscal and political climate, which is why the committee is recommending that other organizational structures be examined. 62   For example, Congress could make adjustments to the Nuclear Waste Fund (either by changing the fee structure or by providing negotiated refunds to cover transportation costs) to provide such an incentive.

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Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States Regardless of which option is selected, continuing attention must be paid to ensuring that the transportation program develops and maintains an integrated systems focus. The program is complex from both physical and institutional perspectives: it will involve the movement of large quantities of hazardous materials from multiple locations over long distances for sustained periods of time. It will also involve major construction, equipment acquisition, and training. It must coordinate its activities with a large number of constituencies: Congress; spent fuel owners; state, tribal, and local governments; and other nongovernmental organizations. The successful operation of various components and functions of the transportation system is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for overall system effectiveness. The interconnections among the components must also be explicitly thought through and managed. An integrated systems approach is a proven technique for achieving this goal. The committee did not review the current OCRWM transportation program to determine if it has an integrated systems focus. The committee did see evidence of integrated systems thinking in one presentation it received from transportation program staff (Lanthrum, 2004). However, the committee also saw clear evidence that the current organizational structure for the transportation program is impeding such an integrated approach because, as noted previously, the program does not have the autonomy and funding necessary to execute its mission. The industry has developed best practices that could be applied to this program (Meredith et al., 1985; Blanchard and Fabrycky, 2005). One element of such best practices is the development of a continuing review and correction process to ensure that a systems focus is maintained from program conception through operations. The committee strongly encourages the program to seek expert advice (e.g., using consultants and expert advisory groups) to learn about and incorporate best industry practices for designing and operating this transportation system using an integrated systems approach. This encouragement is in addition to the recommendations in Section 3.4 for an expert committee to advise transportation implementers on social risk. Finally, the committee’s comments in this section should not be interpreted to reflect on the quality of the federal staff in OCRWM’s Office of National Transportation. The committee has had the opportunity to interact with several of these staff during the course of this study and judges that they are capable and dedicated individuals. However, they are working within a difficult organizational structure and in a political environment that could make success close to impossible.