Nevada's senators are objecting to a Department of Energy plan to use dedicated train service to transport spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to the proposed Yucca Mountain repository.
In an Aug. 17 letter to Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman, Sens. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) charge that the plan "is riddled with gaps and inconsistencies and provides no sound justification or support for its conclusions."
Last month, DOE said trains hauling nuclear fuel from commercial reactors and radioactive waste from government sites to Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, would carry no other freight. Previously, the department had envisioned using general freight service for rail shipments.
"While we don't believe the proposed Yucca Mountain repository will ever open, we're also not going to let DOE get away with misleading the public into thinking there is any way to safely transport 70,000 tons of nuclear waste over thousands of miles and through hundreds of communities," Reid and Ensign write.
The senators asked DOE to explain how it plans to ship waste by train when one-third of the 72 reactor sites around the country where spent fuel is stored have no rail access. Consequently, trucks and barges might have to be used. "Will dedicated train service be used at these 24 sites? If so, please provide DOE's plans and timeline for providing the necessary infrastructure."
A DOE spokesman says the department is reviewing the letter. "We remain committed to opening Yucca Mountain using the best science and technology available to ensure the safety and health of all citizens," the official says. The repository is being developed for the permanent disposal of radioactive waste generated by nuclear power plants and defense-related activities.