Hauling plans sought

The Department of Energy played a card in its strategy to haul highly radioactive waste across the nation to Yucca Mountain with a Federal Register notice Monday seeking comments on public safety training and planning grants for states and American Indian tribes.

The notice offers planning grants of up to $200,000 and training grants of up to $100,000 annually to affected states and tribes. Both are subject to congressional appropriations.

Highly radioactive defense wastes and spent nuclear fuel from commercial power reactors are stored at 121 locations in 39 states. That means all but a handful of the contiguous 48 states as well as tribes in them could be affected by DOE's plans to ship nuclear waste by trucks and trains to Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Eligible states and tribes could receive financial assistance up to four years before waste shipments begin and each year after they begin.

The notice came five years to the day after President Bush signed legislation overriding then-Gov. Kenny Guinn's veto of the Yucca Mountain Project.

Bob Loux, executive director of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects and a longtime critic of the federal government's Yucca Mountain effort, said he can't envision any of the waste being transported until 2017 at the earliest.

"I don't think this means anything other than them showing they've got progress going. It's 12 years away and they haven't got a license application filed yet," Loux said.

Gary Lanthrum, director of DOE's logistics management office for the project, said, in a written statement, "Preparations for the safe transportation of waste are an important step towards opening Yucca Mountain as the nation's first permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.

"DOE has a long history of safely shipping transuranic and other wastes for disposal, and this training will build on these procedures to prepare safety officials in these jurisdictions," Lanthrum said.

On Friday, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who is running for president, called for hearings on government plans to push the Yucca Mountain Project forward without a radiation safety standard from the Environmental Protection Agency.