Affected Units of Local Government
Yucca Mountain Project
1998 Annual Report


The following sections provide general descriptions of the various program elements reflected in most county oversight programs. The relative emphasis given to each program element differs among the affected counties. For example, Nye County, through its on-site representation function, has emphasized site suitability issues, other jurisdictions have tended to emphasize socioeconomic or transportation-related studies.

    A.  Program Management

This element encompasses day-to-day management of each affected county's program. The majority of programs are staffed by at least one full-time employee who is principally located at the respective county seats. Funds are expended under this element in a number of key areas:

Program Salary and Benefits: These costs include salaries and fringe benefits for the staff and contract employees who administer support, and manage the county programs.

Operating Expenses: These include basic expenses for day-to-day operation of a program, such as purchase of supplies, office rent, printing and copying, equipment maintenance and repair, telephone, utilities, publications and periodicals, postage, and equipment rentals.

Equipment Purchase: Implementation of oversight and impact assessment programs requires purchase of equipment, especially computers which facilitate access to and review of information. The primary purposes of this equipment include 1) technical and administrative management, 2) electronic information sharing, 3) database management, 4) impact assessment modeling, 5) electronic document control, and 6) geographic information systems. County cooperation has reduced the requirement for redundant equipment purchases.

Travel: County officials, staff, and contractors must often travel to interact with organizations and individuals throughout Nevada and the nation. In particular, affected county representatives attend and participate in meetings conducted by DOE, DOE prime contractors, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, the State of Nevada, and procurement and contract management specialists. County representatives also participate in national conferences addressing repository-related issues and have toured various nuclear facilities. Finally, Nye and Clark Counties, along with the NRC, have regularly observed the conduct of DOE's audits of participant quality assurance programs. Affected counties actively coordinate meeting coverage and reporting in order to reduce cost and attendance redundancy.

Training: To effectively administer and understand the complexities of the Yucca Mountain project oversight program, a certain amount of training is seen as essential to most counties. Program staff may require training in support functions such as financial management and document processing, and in more technical functions such as geographic information system management, regulatory compliance, quality assurance, and other waste management issues.

Contract Management: Because of the repository program's complexity, including its regulatory and technical elements, the affected county programs must use contractors to assist with technical, socioeconomic and program management, data collection and analysis, on-site monitoring, impact assessment, legal research, public information, and regulatory oversight. Although it would not be desirable for all counties to use the same contractors, counties do coordinate their use of contractors whenever appropriate. For example, Lincoln, White Pine and Esmeralda counties have utilized the University of Nevada Reno and the University of Nevada Las Vegas to develop and utilize economic impact and transportation risk models, respectively.

    B.  General Program Monitoring, Review and Comment

Under this element, affected counties participate in a variety of local, regional, and national forums and meetings on the waste management program. Participation at these meetings ensures that the perspectives and concerns of the affected jurisdictions are effectively communicated to federal, state, and other local governments involved with the waste management program.

Monitoring: Monitoring of legislative actions affecting local governments and Yucca Mountain is an essential element in the oversight process. Observation of DOE activities in other state, federal, regional, and local arenas is also important. Monitoring of current activities (on and off-site) focusing on fiscal expenditures, employment, and policies are some of the oversight topics expected to be continued in FY99.

Affected counties will also continue to monitor key technical meetings and activities of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, industry groups, and other organizations.

Activity Review: Local governments review and comment on a variety of federal, state, and other local government publications pertaining to nuclear waste management. In particular, AULGs anticipate additional technical review of the exploratory studies facility and associated geotechnical issues, such as faulting. These reviews are critical, not only to keep the counties informed on program developments, but to communicate their concerns to DOE and other organizations. The Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement and Viability Assessment are key documents to which counties will offer pre-publication input on, review and provide comments to during FY 1999.

    C.  Socioeconomic Monitoring and Impact Assessment

Affected counties are extremely concerned about the potential impacts of interim storage, site characterization, repository development and transportation on the quality of life and economic vitality of their communities. A major priority for the affected counties is therefore to develop the data and analytic capabilities need to assess potential socioeconomic impacts of the waste management system. To varying degrees, every affected county is assessing socioeconomic impacts. Potential impacts of a repository are only generally understood at present. The schedule, pace, and potential repository configuration are uncertain and dependent on the federal funding cycle. This combination of a highly uncertain and poorly understood (in socioeconomic terms) project occurring in a dynamic socioeconomic climate dictates the need to develop monitoring and assessment systems with the capacity to perform ongoing assessments. Where appropriate, counties are collaborating to use similar monitoring and assessment systems and data collection techniques.

Baseline Date Gathering: All affected counties are gathering baseline data on local socioeconomic conditions. Some programs are concentrating on population characteristics in order to ascertain impacts from population influx and out-migration. Other programs are attempting to understand risks, whether real or perceived, from locating, operating, or transporting nuclear waste in close proximity to population centers. Information gathered from these programs is often incorporated into database formats for modeling or use in geographic information systems. Other baseline data collection efforts are concentrating on community potentials, policies, and planning issues relevant to Yucca Mountain activities. Where socioeconomic conditions and anticipated impacts are similar, local governments are attempting to coordinate their study approaches.

Geographic Information Systems: Geographic information systems (GIS) have become a vital medium for information management, assessment, and planning. Depicting data spatially is an important tool for use in better understanding potential impacts. The Yucca Mountain Project, itself, is using GIS to address the massive information base it is generating. The affected local governments are using GIS to interpret, evaluate, and display a variety of physiographic and socioeconomic data and trends. Graphic displays provided by GIS make it much easier to understand and plan for the complex interplay of socioeconomic, transportation and environmental conditions. In addition to planning, GIS also provides ready access to the massive amounts of repository and transportation-related data.

Through a number of avenues, local and federal agencies are attempting to coordinate their GIS efforts and maintain a level of congruity among agencies in an attempt to optimize the data's integrity and usefulness. The counties also share consultants and University resources in planning and implementing GIS systems.

Surveys: Some affected counties have used survey methodologies to better understand the attitudes and motivations of their communities. These surveys will focus on public perception, saliency of Yucca Mountain, public acceptance, public trust and confidence and a variety of independent issues unique to each jurisdiction. Labor market surveys have been undertaken by counties to better understand local labor supply characteristics and impact assimilation capacities.

    D.  Geotechnical Analysis, Independent Scientific Investigations, Regulatory and Licensing Analysis, and On-Site Representation

Affected counties believe that the evaluation of Yucca Mountain's suitability for a repository must be done with the utmost attention to quality science and technical analysis. For this reason, the counties have given particular attention to their approach to monitoring the characterization of Yucca Mountain. Three approaches have been adopted, to varying degrees, to address this aspect of the AULGs' responsibilities.

On-Site Representation: This activity entails having qualified personnel directly monitor site characterization activities, as well as observing other agencies conducting their oversight activities. Nye County maintains an on-site representative, as provided for in the NWPA, as amended, to monitor geotechnical activities at Yucca Mountain. Clark County also employs a technical staff person who monitors DOE's technical activities. The information gathered by these efforts is shared with all the affected counties.

Document, Study Plan, and Progress Report Review: Affected counties also review and comment on documents, study plans, and progress reports generated by DOE. Each county shares its comments with the other counties. During the coming year, particular emphasis will be placed upon review of the Viability Assessment and Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement.

Proactive and Independent Scientific and Technical Analysis: A third approach to oversight is to conduct independent analysis to verify or validate work performed by DOE. Nye County has undertaken a proactive program of independent scientific and technical analysis of issues that are, in its judgment, important to site suitability determinations and are potentially affected by study methodology. A well-qualified scientific team and support laboratory facilities is in place with the intent, for example, of independently analyzing the Yucca Mountain Project's splits of rock, gas and water. The foundation for this approach is provided by the Protocol for On-Site Representation, mutually agreed to by Nye County and DOE. The protocol requires Nye County access to samples and assures DOE that Nye County's work will not be disruptive of ongoing site characterization activities.

    E.  Environmental and Radiological Impact Monitoring

Another major concern of the affected counties is the potential for impacts to the environment caused by off-site releases of radionuclides. The history of inadvertent and unannounced radionuclide releases from the Nevada Test Site gives the so-called "downwind" counties great cause for concern. This element includes all efforts to establish a baseline understanding of environmental and radiological conditions at Yucca Mountain and the possible impacts of Yucca Mountain activities during site characterization and repository development.

Baseline environmental studies: Several counties have begun to collect baseline data on environmental conditions along transportation corridors.

Epidemiological studies: Counties which are located in historically downwind locations from the Nevada Test Site are planning or considering conducting epidemiological studies to assess the health impacts of atmospheric nuclear testing on their populations. These counties are particularly interested in health and environmental effects from multiple exposures to radiation.

    F.  Transportation

Since all the nation's high-level waste and spent fuel could be transported through Nevada, transportation risks and impacts are of great concern to local jurisdictions. Local government coordination on transportation issues is being accomplished by sharing data development sources and contractors, and using University of Nevada resources, such as the Transportation Research Center (TRC) at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Transportation research and analysis are focused on the following areas:

Baseline Data Development: Work has been concentrated in obtaining existing data or developing new data on rail and highway conditions and usage. Where applicable, local jurisdictions have used available information sources. However, in many areas, AULGs have had to conduct independent transportation studies. These studies have been designed to evaluate highway and rail conditions, factors contributing to safe transport and accidents, characteristics of potential shipments, and options for routing shipments so as to minimize health risks.

Highway Transportation Network Risks and Analysis: Counties with potential transportation routes are developing county-specific transportation monitoring and assessment programs. Current and potential research topics include creating an inventory of, and monitoring traffic volume and characteristics, and highway conditions. In addition, affected counties are focusing their efforts on developing methods and systems for assessing the potential risk and stigma effects on communities adjacent to transportation routes. Topics of concern include the potential impacts on the desirability of these communities as places to live and locate businesses, and impacts on gaming and tourism.

Rail Transportation: Some affected counties have conducted considerable research on rail transportation. Areas of concern and analysis have focused on current railway conditions in Nevada, safety and risk analysis, and engineering considerations. Use of GIS has aided in understanding current rail corridors and in assessments of the feasibility of future route selection. Work is being planned to consider potential rail corridors relative to the protection and enhancement of natural resources near rail corridors. Several counties are using models such as RADTRAN to define the risk associated with rail transportation. Affected counties will continue to coordinate these efforts with one another and work with the University system.

    G.  Emergency Management

Emergency preparedness is a key issue in each of the affected jurisdictions. Counties are seeking to understand, inventory, and assess federal, state, and local emergency response capabilities. Reports and databases are currently being developed to ascertain the requirements and federal guidelines, such as FEMA REP 5, as they pertain to local emergency response systems. Counties are developing recommendations for local training and equipment required to establish and maintain adequate first responder capabilities to incidents and accidents involving radioactive wastes. This is also an area where affected counties are working together in sharing the expertise of the University of Nevada system.

    H.  Public Information, Involvement, and Education

Individual jurisdictions take a variety of approaches to public information and education. Diverse social and environmental issues among counties contribute to differing needs and priorities among their respective citizenries. Each jurisdiction has developed a public information and education program tailored to meet the specific needs of its citizens. Traditional information streams have not adequately informed the public on major issues of concern. County programs are working to fill the gaps left by traditional information sources.

Newsletters: Newsletters are one of the most effective ways to communicate at the local level. Most of the AULGs produce newsletters that cover recent Project-related events, county oversight activities, issues of local concern, publications, and meeting schedules. Several counties are cooperating on newsletter production.

Public Presentations: Public speaking engagements in a variety of forums have become a benchmark for education and information dissemination. Program updates and question and answer periods have allowed most jurisdictions to distribute information about the Yucca Mountain Project and county oversight programs. Discussions in public schools have helped increase awareness of political and scientific processes among citizens. Speakers bureaus are becoming more popular as public interest in the Project grows. All affected counties make presentations to interested organizations in their areas about the Yucca Mountain Project and their oversight programs.

Public Involvement: Public involvement in the affected counties is a vital element of the oversight process. Repository-related involvement of the boards of county commissioners and of appointed advisory committees are significant and will intensify as site characterization, viability assessment and NEPA compliance activities progress.

Information Availability: The wealth of information produced from the Yucca Mountain Project and its related activities is overwhelming. Providing public access to information, maintained as it is in a variety of formats, is a monumental challenge. To address this problem, several counties have initiated a document access database. These systems provide a means for quickly and effectively searching and locating a specific document of information on a desired subject. The document can then be released or copied for public review. Affected jurisdictions have also worked to provide quick access to other information sources such as videos and fact sheets. Expanded use of the Internet is also being pursued by the counties as a means to enhance information availability.


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Last Updated 08/2003