Yucca Mountain Information Office
P.O. Box 257
Eureka, Nevada 89316
(702) 237-5372 fax (702) 237-5708
February 11, 1998
Dear Contracting Officer:
Eureka County, Nevada, is one of the affected units of local government under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 as amended. In a May 14, 1997, letter to the Department of Energy, we provided comments on the draft Request for Proposal for privatizing transportation to a repository. We appreciate the opportunity to provide additional comments on the revised draft.
Standardization of equipment
With at least two Regional Servicing Contractors (RSCs) and possibly four each procuring casks from manufacturers, we believe it is essential for the DOE to ensure that there is standardization of this procurement. Our concern is that without some sort of "big picture" guidance, the RSCs will procure slightly different containers that may meet the individual specifications for their territory, but may create problems at the repository end, with lack of uniformity. This is analogous to directing the RSCs to throw a ball, without specifying which kind of ball to throw (baseball, football, basketball). The repository facility should not have to be designed to catch all kinds of balls. Through standardization of canister procurement, this problem can be addressed.
Rail vs. truck
While the RFP language intimates that rail is preferable to truck, this should be clearly stated in the RFP.
While the use of dedicated trains is alluded to in the draft RFP, it should be stated outright. The RSC may choose not to use dedicated trains. If DOE is truly concerned about safety, dedicated trains should be required.
Throughout the draft RFP there is too much emphasis on cost in relation to safety. It is essential that the transportation of nuclear waste not cut corners, nor should the public perceive it to be penny wise and pound foolish. If the contractor is motivated by keeping costs down and profits up, it is possible that safety precautions could suffer. Unlike some other kinds of cargo, this is one that needs to be fail-safe. This method does not encourage, let alone guarantee, safety.
Local and regional participation
The draft RFP does not contemplate participation on the part of affected states and regional entities regarding contractor selection. The decisions made about who will be selected to transport the nuclear waste will have a profound effect on states and regions. DOE should take the opportunity to involve these entities in reviewing proposals and in having input into the decisions, through consultation with the jurisdictions.
Reporting to states
The draft RFP should require the RSCs to report directly to states on a frequent basis.
Involvement of the public
It our understanding that DOE contemplates that the RSCs will hold public meetings and be responsible for communicating directly with the public about route selection. If this is the case, the RFP should expressly state this. Currently it is ambiguous, and discusses consultation with local and state agencies, which is different from the public.
Special consideration for host states
It is essential that DOE and the RSCs acknowledge the special role of the host state in transportation to a repository. The host state should be given special consideration through consultation, and to be fully informed and involved in the shipping campaign information.
Coordination of RSC activities
Overall, DOE must be the responsible party and leader in making sure that there is full coordination between DOE, the RSCs, and the states and local governments that will be impacted by their transportation actions and decisions. This role should be clearly stated in the draft RFP.
Recently in Nevada we have had the unsettling experience of learning that low level radioactive waste shipments by a private contractor from Fernald to the Nevada Test Site were not adequately monitored by the DOE. The contractor procured the containers which did not meet standards. The material was still shipped across the country to Nevada even after it was demonstrated at the site of shipment that the container was inadequate.
Learning from this experience, the public needs more than promises from DOE that everything will be safe. The draft RFP and DOE plans and procedures must include the specifics of how DOE will assure that the contractors are not cutting corners at the expense of public safety. The promise that the contractor won't be paid if the shipment is not delivered safely is not enough assurance for members of the public who may be faced with contractor incompetence.
We still believe that privatization as proposed will result in a hodgepodge of routes, modes, and carriers, difficult to oversee, and vulnerable to error. We encourage DOE to modify their plans to address our concerns.
Thank you for considering our comments.