Gibbons Wants Details On Nuke Shipment Safety

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A Nevada congressman is calling for the Energy Department to detail how nuclear waste shipments to a planned Yucca Mountain repository would be protected from sabotage or a terrorist attack.

Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., asked in a letter to Margaret Chu, chief of the Energy Department's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, if the federal Department of Homeland Security, FBI, nuclear safety officials and state managers have been consulted about protecting train and truck shipments of high-level radioactive waste.

Energy Department spokesman Joe Davis said his agency received Gibbons' letter and will respond, adding the government has shipped spent nuclear fuel across the country for years with no accidents resulting in the harmful release of radiation.

The Energy Department early this month announced plans for 3,000 to 3,300 nuclear waste shipments over a 24-year period to a rail head near Caliente, 150 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Department officials have not specified routes to ship the waste to Nevada, but have detailed plans to build a 319-mile rail line to haul the material across the state to Yucca Mountain, located 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Gibbons, chairman of the House homeland security subcommittee on intelligence and counterterrorism, also addressed his Friday letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Transportation Department officials.

He asks if police, firefighters and paramedics in 43 states through which shipments would pass would be trained to meet federal or state standards.

In other developments, Nevada's attorney general was investigating Tuesday whether a board studying the Energy Department's rail plan violated state open meeting laws by barring residents and the media from a meeting last week in Pahrump.

The Central Nevada Community Protection Planning Working Group includes elected officials from several communities and the counties of Esmeralda, Lincoln, and Nye. It was formed early this year to let communities affected by the plan coordinate their dealings with the Energy Department.

Also Tuesday, Energy Department officials corrected the date for one of five Nevada meetings concerning Yucca Mountain.

The incorrect date was published Monday in the Federal Register in Washington, D.C.

A Las Vegas meeting will be held May 17 at Cashman Center. Other meetings are May 12 at the University of Nevada, Reno; May 3 in Amargosa Valley; May 4 in Goldfield; and May 5 in Caliente.

The Energy Department plans by the end of the year to submit to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission an application to entomb 77,000 tons of the nation's most highly radioactive waste beginning in 2010. The Bush administration and Congress picked the site in 2002 to hold waste now stored at military sites and commercial nuclear reactors.


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