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 safe1transport 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 successful2initial 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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