Yucca Mountain News
Page 1 Spring 2004 Yucca Mountain News
Lander County Oversight Office
2004 825 N. Second St.
Battle Mountain, NV 89820
NRC Completes Audit of Yucca Mountain
On May 6th the Nuclear Regulatory important because NRC will not accept a
Commission (NRC) held a technical license application for review until all
Inside this Issue exchange on the results of a recent Yucca information needed to support the license is
Mountain Project audit. In the audit, NRC made available.
Transportation Program: 2 focused on three important areas for
Yucca Waste Shipments
to Dwarf past licensing. Those areas include (1) general The NRC is the agency responsible to
and localized corrosion of the waste review a license application from the
Yucca Mountain Science 3 package outer barrier, (2) commercial spent
Center Brings “Discovery
Department of Energy to construct and
nuclear fuel waste form degradation model, operate a repository at Yucca Mountain.
Day” to Lander
and (3) drift (i.e. tunnel) degradation. NRC DOE plans to submit a license application
Counties present views 4 performed an audit to determine the by December of 2004.
at National Conference technical completeness of information
of State Legislators needed to support the aforementioned NRC may be trying to head-off the
areas. The audit did not determine the submission of an incomplete application.
Budget Cuts could delay 5 accuracy of the information. Overall, NRC NRC has only three years to review the
Yucca Project continues to see gaps in quality assurance application once it is submitted. If the
measures, lack of supporting information, process slows down while in the review
and problems with overall transparency of period.
the scientific investigations supporting a
license application. These audits are
NRC Authorizes Nuclear Cask Testing
WASHINGTON -- Seeking to boost public confidence in radio- nuclear waste and spent fuel to the proposed Nevada
active waste handling, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has repository, they said.
authorized new safety testing of a full-sized cask designed to
carry spent nuclear fuel to Yucca Mountain. But the NRC's action, signed by the agency's three
commissioners and disclosed in a May 5th staff memo,
Agency officials said got a thumbs down from Nevada representatives. They
putting a 150-ton ship- said the planned testing falls short of what is necessary
ping container through a to measure cask safety.
75 mph crash and a
"fully engulfing" fire will "The staff requirements memo is completely unaccept-
confirm their safety re- able," said Robert Halstead, a Wisconsin-based trans-
quirements for nuclear portation authority and Nevada nuclear waste consult-
waste casks that are ant.
largely based on scale
model testing and com- The tests will highlight an important element of the
puter calculations. Yucca Mountain Project. Government and industry offi-
cials say the safety of a 24-year Yucca shipping cam-
A disaster demonstra- paign will depend in large part on the durability of the
tion involving an 18-foot-long cask might also build public ac-
ceptance of a government campaign to transport 77,000 tons of (Continued on page 2)
Yucca Mountain News Spring 2004 Page 2
(Continued from page 1) TRANSPORTATION PROGRAM: Yucca Waste
steel casks that will shield highly ra-
dioactive fuel assemblies.
Shipments to Dwarf Past
3,000 tons of nuclear waste annually
Nevada officials had lobbied heavily for about 24 years to a repository
to get the nuclear safety agency to being planned to hold 77,000 tons of
order more comprehensive tests. highly radioactive waste.
The state advocated full-scale testing The department is forming a blue-
of several truck cask designs, as well print calling for 3,000 to 3,300 rail-
as casks that will be carried by rail-
road shipments from government
road to a Yucca repository. Officials
weapons plants and commercial nu-
also pushed for rigorous stress test-
clear utilities to the Yucca site. An-
ing to determine a cask's breaking
WASHINGTON -- Over three dec- other 1,000 shipments would travel
ades, 2,500 tons of spent nuclear by truck.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff fuel was shipped in the United
rejected the idea of "testing to failure," Crowley said that from 1949 to 1998
States, an amount that would be there were eight incidents where
saying there are no realistic accident eclipsed in only a single year of op-
scenarios that could cause a cask to coolant or other liquid leaked from
erations for the Yucca Mountain Pro- casks. On 49 occasions, contamina-
rupture or leak. ject, an expert science panel was tion was found on shipping cask sur-
told . faces.
Halstead said state officials may ask
Congress to intervene, saying taxpay- Kevin Crowley, director of a study
ers will be shortchanged by testing "There have been no reported acci-
being conducted by National Acad- dents involving breach of the casks
that will not yield the most useful in- emy of Sciences, said research is
formation. He estimated the cask test- and a leak of the (waste) contents,"
showing between 1,923 and 2,746 he said.
ing will cost between $35 million and reported cask shipments of nuclear
$40 million. waste were moved by truck among Panel members sought comment on
A full-size rail cask could cost the U.S. sites between 1964 and 1997. whether the record of shipments
government between $1 million and might be a safety indicator for the
Railroads transported between 279 much larger Yucca Mountain opera-
$3 million, industry officials have said. and 511 cask shipments, he said. tions.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is drafting a In terms of tonnage, Crowley said,
bill that would require the NRC to Michele Boyd, a legislative represen-
"the total U.S. experience is slightly tative for the Public Citizen advocacy
conduct physical tests on full-scale
less than what we would expect to group, said the past is not a good
versions of all designs for casks that
see shipped during one year of a predictor.
would carry nuclear waste to the state
Yucca Mountain transportation pro-
by truck and by railroad and each
design would be required to be tested gram." "Simply extrapolating from past ex-
to determine its failure point. perience, the statistics of which are
Crowley made his presentation to a disputable, will not be sufficient to
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal 16-member expert committee assem- ensure that these shipments will be
bled by the academy. The board is safe, and certainly will not convince
developing recommendations on how the public that they are," she said.
the government might manage an
ambitious campaign to move highly Boyd said statistics do not tell the
radioactive waste and spent nuclear entire story. For example, she said,
fuel from 39 states to Nevada. from 1986 to 1990 the Energy De-
partment transported two dozen train
When it is fully operational, the En- (Continued on page 4)
ergy Department estimates shipping
Page 3 Spring 2004 Yucca Mountain News
Yucca Mountain Science Center brings “Discovery Day” to Lander
In an all day marathon students at
the elementary level in Battle Moun- “Studying fossils
tain had the opportunity to build a gives us information
volcano made of papier mache, cre- that would otherwise
ate a fossil from clay and design a be lost forever. We
structure that is considered to be safe would not even know
under extreme conditions. The Yucca of the existence of
Mountain Science Center team dinosaurs if there
taught students about geology and were not any fossils.”
engineered barriers. Nuclear waste is
to be stored within engineered casks
underground at Yucca Mountain. Us-
ing hands-on experiments, the team Each student received a
could explain the geology of Yucca plastic cup and a piece of
Mountain at an elementary level. Stu- clay. Clay was molded into
dents were told how scientists use a pancake shape the size
fossils and study volcanoes to learn of the bottom of the cup.
more about the proposed site. Using An assortment of shells
a Dixie cup, an egg, tape and bubble and simulated fossils were
wrap students also assembled an used to create the fossils.
“engineered barrier” then tossed from
an 8-foot ladder where the goal
would be not to break the egg.
Teachers commented on how they
can use these experiments to discuss The cups were collected and
Yucca Mountain with their students. filled with plaster. Students
picked them up at the end of
After the marathon “Discovery Day”
at the elementary schools, DOE’s After 24 hours they break
Yucca Mountain Science Center the cup and peel the clay off
team returned the next day to speak the hardened plaster and
to the middle and high school groups. have a fossil mold. This is a
Students from Austin were also able technique paleontologists
to attend and hear the DOE’s per- use to share fossils they
spective of Yucca Mountain. The find.
presentation focused on the scientific
studies taking place tat Yucca and
students and faculty were pleased
with the presentation and opportunity Three criteria for being a fossil:
to talk about issues relating to trans-
1) Must be very old
portation of high-level nuclear waste 2) Must be preserved in rock.
and the current licensing process to 3) Must have once been alive
begin in 2005.
Yucca Mountain News Spring 2004 Page 4
Counties Present Views at National
Conference of State Legislatures
On May 12th, Lander County made a presentation to the National Confer-
ence of State Legislatures, High-Level Waste Working Group regarding its
activities and concerns about the Yucca Mountain Project. Several other
Nevada communities were also at the meeting to provide comments to the
Working Group. Presentations were focused on: (1) specific impacts the
proposed repository will have on Lander County, (2) concerns that have
been raised by citizens in Lander County with regards to the proposed
Yucca Mountain repository, (3) the prevailing view within Lander County
with regards to the proposed Yucca Mountain repository; and any monitor-
ing or planning work being done with respect to the proposed Yucca Moun-
Representative for Lander County’s Nuclear Waste
The working group, which also contained Nevada legislators, allowed Oversight Program, Rex Massey making a presen-
nearly 3 hours for county presentations. There were common themes pre- tation to the National Conference of State Legisla-
sented throughout the meeting such as emergency response impact to tures.
local communities, conflicts and impacts associated with high-level trans-
portation, and concerns about the suitability of Yucca Mountain as a long-
term repository site.
Yucca waste shipments (continued)
(Continued from page 2)
shipments of nuclear fuel debris from tute, gave a different view. "We be-
the Three Mile Island plant in Penn- lieve experience to date is a valid
sylvania to Idaho. indicator of the future," he said.
Along the way, she said, DOE vio- Kraft said nuclear waste cask de-
lated speed limits and rush-hour rules signs and transportation safety plans Waste shipment cask
through St. Louis. One shipment col- have remained consistent.
lided with a car stalled on the tracks,
while another carried inaccurate plac- "The quality assurance of the cask,
arding. the certification of the cask, the trans-
portation plan, the first responder
"These type of errors need to be plan, the security plan, are shipment-
evaluated in the context of a massive independent," Kraft said. "Each ship-
transportation program involving mul- ment is the same."
tiple truck casks per day or multiple
Source: Las Vegas Sun
train casks per week over a period of
at least 24 years," she said.
Steve Kraft, waste management di-
rector for the Nuclear Energy Insti- Rail line and train
Page 5 Spring 2004 Yucca Mountain News
Budget cuts could delay Yucca project
site. The department has projected a shift money from nuclear weapons
2010 repository opening. programs or environmental cleanups
to the repository effort.
But the Yucca Mountain budget has
become complicated by a Bush ad- Another possible option might be for
ministration request that Congress the White House to carry out the
reclassify a portion of the fund that budgeting change administratively,
pays for the repository program. Hobson said.
The reclassification, essentially a But Rick Mertens, energy branch
WASHINGTON - Energy Department
change in how the money is counted chief of the White House budget of-
officials are preparing a report on the
for budgeting purposes, has run into fice, said, "In our view that is not
impact of potentially deep budget
roadblocks, creating a shortfall in something the executive branch can
cuts in the Yucca Mountain Project,
how much money may be available unilaterally do.
including calculations of layoffs and
delays in the program to establish a for Congress to spend on the Yucca
project, Hobson said. "We're looking at the options and
nuclear waste repository in Nye there aren't any easy ones," Mertens
County. As a result, Hobson said, the bill his said.
The report is being put together in the subcommittee passes may be limited
to $131 million for the repository. The Hobson said the Bush administration
form of a letter to Rep. David took "a poor gamble" by pushing to
Hobson, R-Ohio, chairman of a Senate or a conference committee
could add money later in the year. reclassify the nuclear waste fund in
House subcommittee that is prepar- the face of obvious opposition from
ing to write an energy and water pro- "I don't have the flexibility to steal Nevada's senators who oppose any
ject spending bill for next year. money from other accounts in the initiative that would make it easier for
energy and water bill to make up for the government to send nuclear
Hobson told Energy Secretary
shortfalls in Yucca Mountain," waste to the state.
Spencer Abraham in an April 29 letter
that DOE might get only a fraction of Hobson said.
Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and
the $880 million it requested for the This is not the first time the Yucca Harry Reid, D-Nev., blocked the pro-
repository in fiscal year 2005, which Mountain Project has faced a severe posal in the Senate Budget Commit-
begins Oct. 1. budget crunch. tee earlier this year. Aides said they
are watchful for other attempts to get
Hobson repeated his warning on In 1995, the Clinton administration it passed.
Wednesday in a speech to the U.S. requested $630 million along with a
Transport Council, an association of budgeting change that proved un- Hobson characterized the admini-
nuclear waste shippers. popular in Congress. stration's Yucca Mountain budget
plan as "a three-way bank shot."
"I don't believe in coming here and The Energy Department ended up
telling you everything is rosy, be- with only half its requested amount, "I don't think you could pull this off in
cause it is not," Hobson said. "I don't forcing a major restructuring and the Senate when the Nevada sena-
have the money." hundreds of layoffs amounting to a tors have their hands in all the pock-
third of its contractor workforce, offi- ets," he said.
The Energy Department plans to file
a repository license application in cials said.
Source: Las Vegas Sun
December and has stepped up its Hobson said he is trying to persuade
strategizing to transport highly radio- the White House to send Congress
active spent nuclear fuel from reac- an amended DOE budget that re-
tors in 34 states to the Nye County stores Yucca Mountain funding, or to
Yucca Mountain News Spring 2004 Page 6
This newsletter is a publication of the Lander County Repository Planning and Oversight Program. Lander
County is one of ten affected units of local government involved in the proposed Yucca Mountain Repository.
Funding provided to Lander County is paid by users of electricity generated by nuclear power plants. Under a
general contract with nuclear generating utilities, the federal government collects a fee of one mill (one-tenth
of a cent) per kilowatt-hour from utility companies for nuclear generated electricity. The money goes into the
Nuclear Waste fund which is used to fund all program related activities.
For more information on Lander County’s program contact Deborah Hinze at the Community Development
Department (775) 635-2860 or Joy Brandt at (775) 964-2447. Additional information on the repository pro-
gram can be obtained from the U.S. Department of Energy. Yucca Mountain, Site Characterization Project
Office at (702) 794-1444 or contact them at www.ymp.gov, or the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Project, Nu-
clear Waste Project Office, Capital Complex, Carson City, Nevada 89570, (775) 687-3744 or visit them at
their web site at www.state.nv.us/nucwaste.
Lander County Oversight Office Bulk Rate 255
825 N. Second St. US Postage Paid
Battle Mountain, NV 89820
Battle Mountain, NV 89820