Saturday, May 31, 2008

Comments on DOE/NNSA's Draft Supplemental Analysis

May 29, 2008

NEPA Document Manager
P.O. Box 98518
Las Vegas, NV 89193-8518

RE: Draft Supplemental Analysis for the Final Environmental Impact Statement
for the Nevada Test Site and Off-Site Locations in the State of Nevada

To Whom It May Concern:
In response to DOE/NNSA’s April 17, 2008 notice announcing the availability of the
above-referenced Draft Supplemental Analysis (Draft SA), the Nevada Agency for
Nuclear Projects is providing the following comments:
DOE/NNSA must undertake the development of a new NTS Site-Wide
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Nevada Test Site (NTS)
It has been almost 12 years since DOE issued the Final NTS EIS in October 1996.
Since that time, there have been major changes and developments at NTS and within the
DOE/NNSA complex nationally that impact NTS. These include, among others:
Developments and changes with respect to the proposed Yucca Mountain highlevel
radioactive waste repository project and its interface/cumulative impacts
with regard to other NTS land uses;
Proposals for the T-18 relocation to the Device Assembly Facility;
Accelerated importation of mixed hazardous and low-level radioactive waste to
NTS for disposal;
Sub-critical testing at various NTS locations, including the JASPER program;
Proposals to dispose of Greater-Than-Class-C (GTCC) wastes at NTS;
Potential storage and/or disposal of sealed sources at NTS;
Potential disposal of Department of Defense depleted uranium at NTS;
Biological and chemical releases at NTS for use in training hazardous materials
and emergency response personnel;
The identification of NTS as a potential location for facilities considered in the
Draft Complex Transformation Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement;
The use of NTS as a Radiological/Nuclear Countermeasures Test and Evaluation
Consolidation of “special nuclear material” at NTS;
The proposed move of a research reactor currently at Sandia National Laboratory
to NTS;
Various current and future commercial ventures at NTS, including renewable
energy projects;
Potential large scale, open-air explosive detonations at locations not previously
evaluated and designated for such activities (e.g., Divine Strake);
Activities associated with maintaining readiness for resumption of underground
nuclear weapons testing, and the potential for resumption of such testing;
Generation of new transuranic waste at NTS resulting from the JASPER program,
the continued accumulation of TRU waste at NTS, and the transportation of TRU
waste off-site for disposal, characterization and repackaging;
Proposal to dispose of PUREX at NTS; and
Other uses that have been or may be proposed for NTS.
Since 1996, baseline conditions have changed markedly. It is difficult to see how the
1996 EIS and the two subsequent cursory and inadequate Supplemental Analyses
(including the current one) can possibly represent today's known baseline conditions.
The purported “updated” information contained in the April 2008 Draft SA is wholly
inadequate for making informed decisions regarding current and future uses and
management of NTS and its environment.
Long-term surveillance and maintenance plans and costs for the Area 3 and Area 5
disposal sites in relation to the remaining waste shipments from the weapons complex as
well as future uses of Mercury and the rest of the base camps in relation to existing and
future activities conducted on NTS must be evaluated in a new site-wide EIS. This is not
done –or even discussed –in the Draft SA. At a minimum, DOE needs to undertake a
comprehensive EIS to fully identify and evaluate all existing and proposed uses of NTS,
including waste disposal activities and historic contamination, including groundwater
By the same token, long-term plans for managing "rad contaminated" surface soils in
Yucca flat require a full-blown NEPA analysis. Nevada has been asking the question, “Is
a cleanup option being considered for NTS, and at what level (i.e., cleanup standard), or
not?” for years. If not, what is the plan for long-term institutional control and how does
this fit with the land use purposes currently applicable to NTS land withdrawals under
provisions of the Federal Land Management and Policy Act (FLPMA)? NTS is the only
facility in the DOE/NNSA weapons complex where comprehensive environmental cleanup
is not a priority. A new site-wide EIS must address long-term plans for cleaning up or
managing environmental contamination at NTS in the same manner that these issues are
being addressed at places like Hanford, Oak Ridge, Rocky Flat (where clean-up has been
substantially completed), and other DOE/NNSA sites.
There is also a need to establish new environmental baselines using, among other
things, data produced by the Underground Test Area (UGTA) investigations to date –i.e.,
groundwater contamination from testing –as well as data regarding environmental
impacts from the sub-critical testing program and numerous other defense activities
conducted at NTS. The Draft SA fails to address long-term environmental surveillance in
any meaningful way. Development of a new site-wide EIS is the only way to do this
adequately and comprehensively.
The Draft SA does not substantively address the issue of the NTS land withdrawal
and the conflicts between current and proposed land uses and the existing NTS land
withdrawal legislation
The Draft SA contains a single reference to the continuing controversy over the status
of the land at NTS and the failure by DOE to implement the conditions of the 1997
Settlement Agreement in State of Nevada v. O’Learythat called for consultations
between DOE and the Department of Interior (DOI) to attempt to clarify and resolve this
matter. The Draft SA states:
“As noted in the NTS EIS response to comments, DOE committed to consult with the
U.S. Department of Interior regarding the status of the administrative land
withdrawals constituting the NTS. That consultation process was initiated in 1997
and is continuing. DOE anticipates that these consultations will continue and hopes
they will reach a satisfactory conclusion.” (Draft SA, p. 3-18, section 3.2.1 –Land
The Settlement Agreement required DOE to report to the Nevada Attorney General
on those negotiations, something that has not been done. Recent correspondence from
the Nevada congressional delegation and the Nevada Attorney General to the Secretary of
Energy asking for clarification of the land status matter and the outcome of DOE’s
negotiations with DOI has had no response. In addition, language in a 2005 House of
Representatives committee report directs DOE to enter into formal consultations with
DOI and, if necessary, revise and update the NTS land withdrawal to reflect additional
uses that are currently not covered by the NTS land withdrawal legislation.
The need for new and comprehensive land withdrawal legislation also reinforces the
imperative of a new NTS site-wide EIS that can be used as a basis for such legislation
and that would provide current baseline information on past, existing, and proposed NTS
activities and assess impacts that need to be addressed and mitigated as part of any new
land withdrawal legislation.
It appears that, given congressional language in the land withdrawal legislation
governing NTS, DOE has been and is operating on tenuous legal grounds in expanding
the range of activities undertaken at NTS. The preparation of a new site-wide EIS for
NTS is in the interests of both DOE and the State of Nevada. A thorough analysis of all
current and planned/proposed NTS activities in such a new site-wide EIS, together with
an evaluation of the legal framework governing NTS, which requires a revised
congressional land withdrawal, is essential for resolving long-standing land use issues. A
new EIS is the only way to adequately assess the cumulative impacts of past, current and
proposed NTS activities and to establish new and accurate baseline data against which to
assess present and future impacts to humans and the environment.

Robert R. Loux
Executive Director


cc Governor Gibbons
Nevada congressional delegation
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto
Marta Adams, Deputy Attorney General
Allen Biaggi, DCNR
Stan Marshall, NSHD
State Clearinghouse

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