The DOE has chosen the Caliente Route as the preferred route to ship high-level nuclear waste through Nevada. (Click on the map at the right for a larger view.)
High-resolution Caliente corridor [pdf - 6mb, be patient]
High-resolution Mina corridor[pdf - 11mb, be patient]
DOE Says it will Use Rail for Transportation to Yucca Mountain Repository; Selects Proposed Caliente Corridor as Nevada Route [pdf]
The U.S. Department of Energy will transport used nuclear fuel to the repository by rail and road, inside massive, sealed containers that have undergone safety and durability testing.
The NRC regulates container design and manufacturing to ensure that the containers maintain their integrity under routine transportation conditions and during severe accidents. The NRC must certify all container designs.
Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada – Nevada Rail Transportation Corridor (DOE/EIS-0250F-S2D; the Nevada Rail Corridor SEIS), and Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a Rail Alignment for the Construction and Operation of a Railroad in Nevada to a Geologic Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada (DOE/EIS-0369D; the Rail Alignment EIS) [complete, 126 mb, pdf]
Amended Notice of Intent to Expand the Scope of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Alignment, Construction, and Operation of a Rail Line to a Geologic Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada, October 13, 2006 [pdf]
Final Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada (DOE/EIS-0250F, February 2002)
Mina Rail Route Feasibility Study, Appendix B (maps package) [pdf, 27mb, be patient]
Routing — Used nuclear fuel may be shipped only along specified highway routes. Shippers submit routes to the NRC for approval ahead of time and notify officials in the states through which the shipments travel. The NRC checks that a route conforms to Transportation Department regulations, requiring the most direct interstate route and avoiding large cities.
DOT has established a process for selecting highway routes. DOE will work with states through regional organizations, and with tribes on a government-to-government basis, to identify suites of routes, including alternatives to preferred shipping routes. All states and tribes can — and some states already have — designated “preferred” highway routes.
The process for identifying rail routes that DOE expects to use begins with the routes identified in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain. These routes are based on established railroad practices and reflect operational input from potential railroads. Although commercial rail lines are privately owned, DOE will work with rail carriers, states, and tribes to identify and evaluate rail routes through a collaborative process.
How are transportation safety and security standards established?
DOT and NRC share primary responsibility for establishing standards for the safe transport of radioactive materials within the United States. These standards are based on international transport standards that are used to safely ship radioactive materials worldwide. DOT standards cover packaging, transporting, and handling of radioactive materials, including labeling, shipping papers, placards, loading, and unloading. DOT standards also specify training needed for personnel who perform handling and transport of hazardous materials. The DOT, in cooperation with the DHS, sets standards for emergency preparedness for carriers. NRC establishes design and performance standards for packages that carry materials with higher levels of radioactivity, like spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. All shipments of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain must use containers whose designs meet NRC certification requirements. When transporting radioactive materials, DOE meets or exceeds all applicable standards set by DOT and NRC.
What precautions does the government take in the transportation of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste?
Inspections — Specially trained federal, state, or carrier inspectors perform equipment and radiological inspections before every shipment. Inspectors also ensure compliance with applicable safety standards. States may require inspections en route, and inspections are required at final destination points for truck shipments of spent nuclear fuel.
The Department of Energy prefers the Caliente Corridor (see transportation route) because it is remote, has few land use conflicts, and can avoid Air Force land.
The DOE is pursuing its Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (ACT) mandate to construct and operate the nation’s first geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste. DOE submitted their License Application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on June 3rd, 2008 for authorization to construct the repository, and plans to construct a rail line to support construction and operation of the repository are also proceeding. Absent any intervention by responsible Nevada authorities, DOE is proceeding with a process that will result in a record of decision under the National Environmental Policy Act to construct rail in the Caliente Corridor. That record of decision on the Final EIS for Nevada Rail is on schedule to be promulgated in late August or early September of this year.
The DOE has filed an application with the Surface Transporation Board (STB) requesting a CPCN to construct and operate approximately 300 miles of new rail line connecting the existing rail line near Caliente, Nevada to the proposed geologic repository at Yucca Mountain in Nye County, Nevada. A denial of a CPCN would still allow DOE to build and operate a dedicated use rail line offering no benefits to Nevada.
Some believe that selection of the Caliente Corridor for the proposed rail line does little to mitigate the impact of the repository and related transportation activities, or to contribute to economic development opportunities for the State of Nevada, specifically:
Some do not believe that Congress is likely to fund construction of the proposed rail line until it has greater assurance that DOE will receive a license to construct the Yucca Mountain repository. If this funding prediction proves to be true, there is time to consider and select a transportation system, especially a Nevada Rail system that is optimized from logistical and economical perspectives. Considering the costs and impacts of the Caliente Route, the DOE needs to further examine the entire Mina Route, including further mitigation with the Walker River Paiute Tribe, greater consideration of alternative routes around the Walker River Paiute Reservation, and adding the Jean corridor to complete a through-going rail line.
After the DOE and STB make the decisions on routes and shared use, the detailed planning and construction will begin.