Caliente rail corridor named by Yucca supporters |

Caliente rail corridor named by Yucca supporters

The Department of Energy has selected the Caliente rail corridor as its preferred route to bring nuclear waste into Nevada and to Yucca Mountain.

The route was one of five possible corridors to transport the waste and approaches the Yucca Mountain site from the north of Nellis Air Force Base Range.

Two southern corridors — the Jean and the “Valley Modified” routes — were eliminated because they run through the Las Vegas Valley.

The other corridors approach from the north including Department of Energy’s second choice – the Caliente route.

Bob Loux, head of Nevada’s Nuclear Projects Agency, said it was an obvious decision to avoid the heavily populated Las Vegas Valley, but he won’t know until reviewing the record whether the process used was legal. Much, he said, depends on whether the state wins it’s courtroom challenges of the Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement process.

“If we’re right that that document is defective, then these decisions would be illegal as well,” Loux said.

A Department of Energy spokesman said now that the preferred corridor has been selected, the agency intends to proceed with selecting a “mode of transportation.” That is expected to be to transport the waste “mostly by rail.”

That portion of the process should be completed within 30 days.

Then the federal energy department must develop an Environmental Impact Statement on the specific rail corridor. A spokesman said no actual construction of a rail line can take place until the environmental process is completed – which will take several years.

If they get that far. Loux said they face additional challenges.

“This route they’ve chosen is the most difficult and challenging from an engineering and environmental perspective,” he said.

The Department of Energy anticipates completing the rail route and the rest of the necessary steps to open the dump by 2010 – “when the department anticipates it will have received a license form the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to open the repository.”

The federal government and nuclear energy industry hope to dump more than 78,000 tons of high level nuclear waste generated by power plants around the nation at the Yucca Mountain site. Nevada is still fighting that effort in court.

The major state lawsuits, including the challenge of the environmental impact statement, are set for oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

“The Department of Energy does not have a license to open a nuclear waste dump in our state, and releasing a preferred route puts them nowhere closer to that ability,” Sen. Harry Reid said Tuesday. “In just a few weeks Nevada’s attorneys will take our case to court as we continue working to stop this proposed dump.”

In addition to challenging the process used to designate Yucca Mountain as the nation’s dump site, the state is challenging on grounds the decision by Congress violated the U.S. Constitution.