GREAT SALT LAKE
Federal Board Gives Approval for Rail Line to Goshute N-Waste Storage Site
Plans to store high-level nuclear waste on the Skull Valley Goshute Indian Reservation are chugging forward -- literally. Private Fuel Storage LLC, the utility consortium that wants to build the nuclear waste facility, has received approval to build a rail line for the project.
The new Great Salt Lake and Southern Railroad LLC won preliminary approval from the federal Surface Transportation Board to build a 32-mile rail line and a train-to-truck transfer loop in Tooele County.
The consortium wants to store 40,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel on the reservation, 45 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
The 32-mile line would cost between $20 million and $35 million, the new railroad company estimated. It would go between Low, Utah, and the yet-to-be-built storage pad. The $6 million loop would be built about 1.8 miles from Timpie, where shipping casks could be transferred from the rail cars to trucks that would transport the waste to the reservation over the road.
By Judy Fahys
The Salt Lake Tribune
On January 5, 2000, Great Salt Lake and Southern Railroad Company, L.L.C. (GSLS), a noncarrier, filed an application under 49 U.S.C. 10901(a) for authority to construct and operate one of the two following rail projects:
(1) A rail line approximately 32 miles in length (and associated sidings) between Low, UT, (mile post 866.0 on the Shafter Sub) and a facility which applicant's parent, Private Fuel Storage L.L.C. (PFS), proposes to construct in the south-central portion of Skull Valley, UT, for the interim storage of spent nuclear fuel (SNF).
(2) A run-around track and sidings at a point approximately 1.8 miles west of Timpie, UT, (mile post 886.0) where applicant would locate an intermodal transfer point for the transfer of SNF shipping casks from arriving railcars onto heavy haul trucks for highway movement to the storage facility.
Although GSLS has not finally determined which of the two rail projects it will ultimately pursue, it prefers the direct rail option because it will permit efficiencies associated with rail-only movements.
Environmental review of the application under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and related environmental laws is currently ongoing by the Board's Section of Environmental Analysis (SEA). The Board is engaged in this environmental review in the capacity of a cooperating agency, where the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is the lead agency for environmental review.
According to applicant, NRC undertook this lead responsibility in connection with the June 1997 license application filed by PFS seeking NRC authority to construct and operate the SNF storage facility. The Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs of the United States Department of the Interior are also participating in the environmental review as cooperating agencies. Because a third-party consultant has been retained to prepare the necessary environmental documentation under the Board's direction and supervision, the Board's environmental reporting requirements are not applicable to this application.
GSLS indicates that substantially all of the traffic to be transported to the storage facility will be SNF originating at various commercial nuclear power electric generating plants throughout the United States. The total design capacity of the PFS facility will be 4,000 canisters of SNF. GSLS states that, although the United States Department of Energy (DOE) has the statutory responsibility to develop a geologic repository program for SNF by January 31, 1998, DOE is not likely to implement such a program for another decade. Applicant states that, accordingly, the nuclear power industry has no alternative but to build and operate its own storage facility where SNF can be stored for an interim period of up to 40 years, while DOE pursues its permanent disposal obligation.
Last Update 02/21/01
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