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E-M:/ Mixed Oxide Nuclear Fuels Shipments

Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>

Perhaps Southpark can make a movie about shipping
mixed oxide nuclear fuel through Michigan.... "Blame Canada!"....

Anyway, this notice from Laura Holgate of the 
"Office of Fissile Materials Disposition" is the environmental
assessment concerning the shipments from New Mexico to
Chalk River in Ontario....last I heard it was supposed to 
go through Michigan on the big Mac bridge...

[Federal Register: September 8, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 173)]
[Page 48810-48813]
>From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Finding of No Significant Impact in the Environmental Assessment 
for the Parallex Project Fuel Manufacture and Shipment

AGENCY: U.S. Department of Energy.

ACTION: Notice of Availability.


SUMMARY: An environmental assessment (EA) has been prepared to assess 
potential environmental impacts associated with a U.S. Department of 
Energy (DOE) proposed action to conduct limited mixed oxide (MOX) fuel 
manufacture and shipment for the purpose of confirming the viability of 
using MOX fuel in Canadian Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) reactors. The 
Proposed Action would involve preparation and analysis activities in 
TA-55 (building PF-4) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), and 
shipping of the MOX fuel to the U.S.-Canada border. This EA covers only 
those activities necessary to manufacture and ship up to 59.2 lb (26.8

[[Page 48811]]

kg) of MOX fuel. Based on the analysis in this EA, and after 
considering comments received, DOE has determined that the proposed 
action is not a major federal action significantly affecting the 
quality of the human environment within the meaning of the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq). Therefore the 
preparation of an environmental impact statement is not required.

ADDRESSES: Single copies of the EA and further information concerning 
the proposed action are available from: Bert Stevenson, NEPA Compliance 
Officer, Office of Fissile Materials Disposition (MD-4), U.S. 
Department of Energy, P.O. Box 23786, Washington, DC 20026-3786, 
telephone (202) 586-5368.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information regarding the 
DOE NEPA Process, contact: Carol Borgstrom, Director, Office of NEPA 
Policy and Assistance (EH-42), U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 
Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC, 20585, telephone (202) 586-
4600, or (800) 472-2756.


Purpose and Need

    DOE needs to test and demonstrate the feasibility of using MOX fuel 
in CANDU reactors, as a potential disposition option
&lt;SUP&gt;1&lt;/SUP&gt; for 
surplus weapons-usable plutonium. The proposed action discussed in this 
EA is a limited scale test that would provide DOE with information 
needed to assess that option.

    \1\ As described in the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Storage 
and Disposition of Weapons-Usable Fissile Materials Final 
Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (S&amp;D PEIS), DOE's 
strategy for disposition of surplus plutonium is to pursue an 
approach that allows immobilization of surplus plutonium in glass or 
ceramic materials for disposal in a geologic repository pursuant to 
the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, and burning of some of the surplus 
plutonium as MOX fuel in existing, domestic, commercial reactors, 
with subsequent disposal of spent fuel in a geologic repository 
pursuant to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The ROD stated that DOE 
would retain the option of dispositioning some of the weapons-usable 
plutonium as MOX fuel in heavy-water-moderated reactors, such as 
CANDU reactors, in the event of a future multilateral agreement 
among Russia, Canada, and the United States.


    The end of the Cold War has created a legacy of surplus weapons-
usable fissile materials both in the United States and the former 
Soviet Union. The global stockpiles of weapons-usable fissile materials 
pose a danger to national and international security in the form of 
potential proliferation of nuclear weapons and the potential for 
environmental, safety, and health consequences if the materials are not 
properly safeguarded and managed. In September 1993, President Clinton 
issued a ``Nonproliferation and Export Control Policy'' in response to 
the growing threat of nuclear proliferation. Further, in January 1994, 
President Clinton and Russia's President Yeltsin issued a ``Joint 
Statement Between the United States and Russia on Nonproliferation of 
Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Means for Their Delivery.'' To 
demonstrate the United States' commitment to these policies, President 
Clinton announced on March 1, 1995 that about 224 tons (203 metric 
tons) of U.S.-origin weapons-usable fissile materials, of which 182 
tons (165 metric tons) are highly enriched uranium and 42 tons (38 
metric tons) are weapons-usable plutonium, had been declared surplus to 
the United States' defense needs.
    To safeguard and manage this material, DOE has decided to implement 
a program to provide for safe and secure storage of weapons-usable 
fissile materials and a strategy for the disposition of surplus 
weapons-usable plutonium, as specified in the ROD for the S&amp;D PEIS. The 
fundamental purpose of the program is to maintain a high standard of 
security and accounting for these fissile materials while in storage, 
and to ensure the plutonium produced for nuclear weapons and declared 
surplus to national security needs is never again used for nuclear 
    The Final S&amp;D PEIS ROD, issued January 14, 1997, established a 
hybrid strategy to irreversibly dispose of the Nation's surplus 
plutonium and to reduce from seven to three the number of sites that 
store nuclear weapons materials. The strategy would immobilize some 
(and potentially all) of the surplus plutonium in glass or ceramic 
formulations and allow the use of some of the surplus plutonium as MOX 
fuel. The option of dispositioning some of the weapons-usable surplus 
plutonium as MOX fuel in heavy-water-moderated reactors, such as CANDU 
reactors, was retained as an option in the event of future multilateral 
agreement among Russia, Canada, and the United States. As explained in 
the ROD for the S&amp;D PEIS, DOE proposes to engage in a test and 
demonstration program for CANDU MOX fuel consistent with ongoing and 
potential future cooperative efforts with Russia and Canada, and based 
on appropriate NEPA review. The test and demonstration activities would 
occur at LANL, New Mexico, and at Chalk River Laboratories (CRL), 
Ontario, Canada.

Proposed Action

    To meet the purpose and need for Agency action, DOE proposes to 
fabricate and transport up to 59.2 lb (26.8 kg) of MOX fuel as part of 
the Parallex Project. DOE has already fabricated a portion of this MOX 
fuel at LANL, and DOE proposes to fabricate additional MOX fuel at LANL 
if needed. MOX fuel would be fabricated in building PF-4 in TA-55 at 
LANL. This test and demonstration project has been named Parallex 
(parallel experiment) because of the roles of the United States and 
Russia in supplying test material. The Parallex Project would be a 
joint agreement between Russia, Canada, and the U.S. to demonstrate the 
irradiation of U.S. and Russian MOX fuel in parallel in the Atomic 
Energy of Canada, Limited (AECL)-owned National Research Universal 
(NRU) reactor. This international project would use MOX fuel made in 
the U.S. (specifically LANL) and Russia (specifically from Bochvar) 
from surplus weapons-usable plutonium out of both countries' nuclear 
    Research and development of MOX fuels has already been conducted at 
LANL as part of its ongoing mission relating to the development of 
energy sources for experiments and research reactors. However, these 
various MOX fuel forms were not made with weapons-grade plutonium. In 
contrast, the MOX fuel fabrication process involved in the Parallex 
Project would use weapons-grade plutonium (in an unclassified form) 
obtained from decommissioned nuclear weapons.
    The MOX fuel fabricated at LANL would be transported to the 
Canadian border. At the border the AECL, per prior agreement, would 
take possession of the fuel. The fuel would remain on the same truck 
and the AECL would complete the shipment to the reactor site. At Chalk 
River, Ontario, the MOX fuel would be delivered to CRL for testing in 
the NRU reactor. The AECL would be responsible for conducting all 
subsequent tests of the fuel's performance and the function of the 
    Fueling the NRU reactor with MOX fuel would be part of a 
feasibility test to determine MOX fuel performance in converted CANDU 
reactors. The NRU test reactor is the only available reactor 
specifically designed to test MOX fuel performance for CANDU reactors. 
Positive test results could support subsequent decisions on the 
dispositioning of surplus weapons-usable plutonium in CANDU reactors. 
All spent fuel resulting from the tests

[[Page 48812]]

would be managed under the Canadian spent fuel program.

Alternatives Considered

    The EA describes several alternatives to the proposed action as 
well as the No Action Alternative.
    No Action: The No Action alternative provides an environmental 
baseline to compare to the potential effects of the Proposed Action. 
Under this alternative, LANL would continue to store the existing MOX 
fuel at TA-55. No additional fuel pellets or additional fuel rods would 
be made for the Parallex Project. The AECL would have no source of U.S. 
MOX fuel rods and, therefore, would have to cancel its testing program 
at the NRU reactor in parallel with Russian MOX fuel, or if Russian 
fuel were made available, operate the testing program in the absence of 
U.S. supplied MOX fuel.
    Other Transportation Routes: Seven routes were analyzed for the 
shipment of MOX fuel from LANL to the Canadian border. Each route 
involves a separate point of entry into Canada. In accordance with 
standard transportation planning practices, all routes use available 
interstate highways and city bypasses, where available, to go around 
high-population areas, and meet Department of Transportation routing 
requirements. For very specific reasons, DOE has decided not to use two 
of these routes. The Port Huron, MI route would not be used because of 
construction on the Blue Water Bridge, and the Detroit, MI route would 
not be used because the Ambassador Bridge currently does not allow 
placarded (i.e., carrying hazardous material) vehicles. Other possible 
interstate highway routes, such as via Sweetgrass, Montana and 
Champlain, New York were not evaluated because of excessive travel 
    MOX Fabrication at Other DOE Facilities: Under this alternative, 
MOX fuel would be fabricated at other DOE facilities and then shipped 
to CRL. No DOE site other than LANL presently has the ability to 
fabricate MOX fuel. Furthermore much of the raw materials that would be 
used in the demonstration are already located at LANL. The time 
required to upgrade other sites to produce MOX fuel would delay the 
further fabrication and shipment of MOX fuel such that the Parallex 
Project schedule would not be met. Therefore, this alternative was 
dismissed from further analysis.
    Other Technologies for MOX Evaluation: This alternative would use 
other methods such as computer simulation or surrogate fuels to 
evaluate the MOX fuel fabrication process. The use of computer 
simulation is not developed to the point where it can be applied to MOX 
fuel fabrication. The use of surrogate fuels in the Parallex Project 
would not produce the irradiation data required for verifying reactor 
performance. Therefore, this alternative was dismissed from farther 
    Transport of MOX Fuel by Air: Federal regulations under 10 CFR 
71.88 (Air Transport of Plutonium) explicitly prohibit the transport of 
plutonium by air or the delivery to a carrier for air transport unless 
the plutonium is in a form with a specific activity no greater than 
0.002 &lt;greek-m&gt;Ci/g, and shipped in a single package with no more than 
a specified quantity. The restrictions imposed for transportation of 
plutonium by air prohibit this alternative for shipment of the MOX fuel 
quantities needed for the Parallex Project. Therefore, this alternative 
was dismissed from further analysis.
    Transport of MOX Fuel by Rail: Rail shipment is an allowable mode 
for the transport of radioactive materials and is regulated by the U.S. 
Department of Transportation (DOT) under 49 CFR 174.700. However, there 
is no direct rail service from Los Alamos, New Mexico. Moreover, this 
mode of transport would not be feasible because of the lack of 
dedicated rail routes, and long layovers for railcar transfers. 
Cumulatively, all these factors negate use of this transport mode.
    Shipment of MOX Fuel by Safe Secure Transport (SST): The SST fleet 
is a DOE owned and operated transportation system that consists of 
armored tractor-trailers and special escort vehicles. The added 
security and expense of the SST system is not needed because the MOX 
fuel would be in small quantities, would have a negligible radiation 
dose to the public, and could not easily be converted into weapons-
usable form.

Environmental Impacts

    The results of evaluations in key impact areas are summarized in 
the following section; other types of consequences were determined to 
be negligible and are not discussed in detail.
    Human Health: The potential threat to workers from MOX fuel 
fabrication would come from penetrating radiation. No excess fatal 
cancers would be expected in the involved workers from penetrating 
radiation exposures. Noninvolved workers, those performing other jobs 
as well as the usual PF-4 building personnel, would not be expected to 
receive a dose from the proposed operation. MOX fuel fabrication is not 
expected to measurably increase the airborne radioactive material 
emissions from PF-4 associated with routine operations; therefore, no 
effects to the public are expected.
    Facility Accidents: Abnormal events or accidents are hypothetical 
incidents that are not a planned part of routine operations. A fire in 
the MOX fuel fabrication line was chosen for the accident analysis. The 
likelihood of this accident occurring was categorized as ``unlikely.'' 
The small amount of material that would be released within PF-4 and the 
reduction of that release by the two-stage high-efficiency particulate 
air (HEPA) filtration system would result in a negligible dose to the 
offsite maximum exposed individual (MEI) and no latent cancer 
fatalities (LCFs) within the offsite population. The radiological dose 
to involved workers from such an accident was estimated at 1.8 rem, 
with calculated LCFs of less than one.
    Transportation: No changes to the existing highway infrastructure 
would be required to allow passage of the MOX fuel shipment(s), nor 
would roads need to be closed. The normal traffic flow along the MOX 
fuel transportation routes would not be expected to change with the 
added presence of one to three commercial truck(s). The shipment(s) of 
MOX fuel by commercial truck from LANL to the Canadian border would not 
be expected to adversely affect the health of the truck crew or the 
public along any of the analyzed routes.
    Transportation Accidents: Two transportation accident scenarios 
were analyzed for the shipment of MOX fuel to the Canadian border. One 
accident would involve the release of radioactive materials and the 
other would not involve the release of radioactive materials.
    The first accident relates to an event that leads to the MOX fuel 
package container breaking open, igniting, and releasing plutonium 
dioxide particles into the air. The probability of such a severe 
accident occurring and adversely affecting the public is extremely 
unlikely. The accident scenario could occur anywhere along the 
transportation corridors, and could have transboundary effects on 
Canadian populations. The population and individual doses would be very 
small. Therefore, no LCFs would be expected from an accident during the 
shipment(s) of MOX fuel to Canada.
    Under the second accident scenario for MOX fuel transportation to 
the Canadian border, no radioactive material would be released by the 
vehicular collision. This scenario

[[Page 48813]]

analyzed potential fatalities from the force of a collision. Results of 
the accident analysis indicated that no driver or public fatalities 
would be expected.
    Air Quality: Air emission from the fabrication of MOX fuel pellets 
and rods for the Parallex Project would be a very small percentage of 
the overall LANL annual air emissions. The MOX fuel pellets and rods 
would be made inside sealed gloveboxes that have negative air pressure 
and a primary air system fitted with HEPA filtration. PF-4 laboratories 
also have negative air pressure and a separate HEPA filtered air 
system. The filters would prevent any measurable release of particles 
into the atmosphere. Therefore, no MOX fuel powder particles would be 
expected to be released from PF-4 into the environment.
    No change to the air quality along the route(s) to Canada would be 
expected since the MOX fuel would be sealed in rods and package 
container(s) during transportation. A commercial truck carrying MOX 
fuel would be one out of thousands of trucks on the road at any one 
time. The overall contribution of nonradiological air pollutants from a 
single vehicle to the air quality within a given airshed would be 
    Waste Management: The small quantities of low-level radioactive 
waste (LLW) and transuranic (TRU) waste produced from MOX fuel 
fabrication would not appreciably increase waste generation rates at 
LANL. No mixed waste, hazardous waste, or additional nonhazardous solid 
waste would be generated from MOX fuel fabrication. MOX fuel 
fabrication would not measurably increase the volume of sanitary 
wastewater generated. No radioactive or hazardous waste would be 
generated during the shipment of MOX fuel to the Canadian border.
    Environmental Justice: Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to 
Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income 
Populations, requires that Federal agencies identify and address, as 
appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or 
environmental effects of their programs and activities on minority and 
low-income populations. Because no adverse effects are anticipated as a 
result of the proposed actions during both normal operations and 
accident conditions, there would be no opportunity for 
disproportionately high and adverse consequences on minority, or low-
income populations.
    Other Environmental Impacts: The consequences of the proposed 
action are expected to be negligible for other types of impacts, 
including those on land use, socioeconomics, cultural resources, 
aesthetic or scenic resources, geologic resources, water resources, 
ecological resources, noise, or site services.
    Cumulative Impacts: Because the contributions from the Proposed 
Action would be extremely small, the proposed action is not expected to 
contribute substantially to the overall cumulative impacts from past or 
anticipated operations at LANL and along the transportation corridors.


    Based on the analysis in this EA, and after considering the 
preapproval review comments, I have concluded that the proposed action 
does not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the 
quality of the human environment within the meaning of NEPA. Therefore, 
an EIS for the proposed action is not required.

    Issued at Washington, DC, this 13th day of August 1999.
Laura Holgate,
Director, Office of Fissile Materials Disposition.
[FR Doc. 99-23331 Filed 9-7-99; 8:45 am]

Alex J. Sagady & Associates        Email:  ajs@sagady.com

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Communications on Air, Water and Waste Issues
and Community Environmental Protection

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