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E-M:/ Mixed Oxide Nuclear Fuels Shipments
- Subject: E-M:/ Mixed Oxide Nuclear Fuels Shipments
- From: "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <email@example.com>
- Date: Wed, 8 Sep 1999 13:15:18 -0400 (EDT)
- List-Name: Enviro-Mich
- Reply-To: "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <email@example.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)]
>From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
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
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
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&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&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&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&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),
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
would be managed under the Canadian spent fuel program.
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 <greek-m>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-
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
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-
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.
Director, Office of Fissile Materials Disposition.
[FR Doc. 99-23331 Filed 9-7-99; 8:45 am]
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