WASHINGTON — Federal lawmakers are calling for public hearings and a broader review of the government application to build a rail line across rural Nevada for nuclear waste shipments to Yucca Mountain.
DOE plans for the 330-mile route “will have impacts far beyond Nevada’s borders,” the state’s five members of Congress said in a letter to the chairman of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which is weighing the application.
The board “has both a statutory and moral duty to comprehensively examine the full effects of the proposed nuclear waste line on the entire national rail transportation system before making any decision,” they said.
The Department of Energy has proposed to build track running west from Caliente and then around the Nevada Test Site south to Yucca Mountain. There, plans call for a nuclear waste handling complex and an underground repository.
DOE has estimated a shipping campaign could take place over a period of 46 years, with an average of 17 trains a week chugging across the state.
Completion of the Nevada segment would give the green light to commence shipments of radioactive material from operating reactors and decommissioned reactor sites in 39 states, the lawmakers said.
The letter was sent to Charles Nottingham, chairman of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. It was sent on Sept. 29 but made public on Tuesday.
It was signed by Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign, and Reps. Jon Porter, Shelley Berkley and Dean Heller.
An agency spokesman on Tuesday evening had not seen the letter and could not immediately arrange for comment.
“The impacts of the proposed rail line will affect about 25,000 miles of rail lines in 44 states” through which nuclear waste would travel, the lawmakers told Nottingham.
“It would be prudent for the STB to provide Nevadans and the American public ample opportunity to comment, including by scheduling a public hearing,” the members of Congress urged.