The Nuclear Waste Policy Act as amended (NWPA), designated the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada as the only site to be considered for a geologic repository for disposal of spent fuel and high-level nuclear waste. The NWPA also provided for "affected units of local government" (AULGs) within the vicinity of Yucca Mountain to oversee and participate in the Yucca Mountain Project. By affording AULG participation rights, Congress sought to increase public confidence in the scientific integrity of the repository program, provide citizens the means to interact with the federal government, and demonstrate a commitment to external oversight.
Nine counties in Nevada and one in California have been designated as affected counties.1 These counties are eligible under the NWPA to receive financial assistance for a variety of purposes, including:
In addition, Nye County, as the situs county, is entitled to on-site representation in order to monitor DOE's day-to-day site characterization activities.
This annual report provides a combined summary of affected county activities to meet their responsibilities under the NWPA, with particular emphasis on accomplishments and cooperative efforts to share resources and responsibilities. The counties' programs are generally divided into eight elements:
1. The situs jurisdiction, Nye County, was specified by the NWPA. Churchill, Clark, Esmeralda, Eureka, Inyo, Lander, Lincoln, Mineral, and White Pine were subsequently designated by DOE.
Appendix A lists specific activities and accomplishments for each county under each program element. A listing of affected county contact persons is included in Appendix B.
The Yucca Mountain Project has reached a pivotal junction. During the coming two years DOE will determine the viability of seeking a license to construct a repository at Yucca Mountain. DOE will also complete National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance documentation and prepare a construction license application to be submitted to NRC. These activities will involve requirements for document review, independent impact assessment and constituent involvement by affected counties.
What is just as important to the affected counties, is that DOE will make a determination of site viability on the basis of a less extensive site characterization program than was previously envisioned, in order to reduce costs and meet scheduling requirements. To be effective participants in the program, local governments must have the technical capability to fully engage DOE and others on the complex technical issues surrounding site characterization, site suitability, and licensing. The nation's commitment to meaningful oversight by affected local governments will be measured by the degree to which funding to the affected counties is provided at levels needed to conduct independent assessments and effectively monitor DOE OCRWM activities.
Beyond site characterization and licensing activities at the repository site, Congress continues to pursue legislation which would establish interim storage near Yucca Mountain and commence waste shipments by 2001. This gives new urgency to route selection, transportation impact assessment and emergency preparedness. Interim storage, including the possibility of storage in Nevada, could present new and unforeseen challenges to the affected counties. Taken together, these developments present significant new requirements for affected counties to effectively oversee and participate in DOE's expanded technical program.
The Yucca Mountain Project presents a unique set of challenges to affected local governments. The technical difficulties of determining site viability, site suitability and eventually licensing and constructing a repository are unprecedented. At the same time, much of the public is skeptical of the federal government. In this complex and rapidly changing climate, affected counties have a vital interest in 1) participating in site characterization and site viability/suitability evaluations, and 2) assessing for themselves the impacts of interim storage, transportation, site characterization and repository development. Additional features of the Yucca Mountain Project that influence the affected counties' oversight program requirements includes the following:
To ensure that financial assistance funds are used effectively and efficiently, the affected units of local government have diligently cooperated to develop coordinated oversight and impact assessment programs. Coordination on the part of counties has minimized the potential for duplication of effort and made maximum use of available funds. In general, the counties cooperate and coordinate through the following activities: meetings of the State, Tribal, Local Government Coordinating Group; routine sharing of reports, data, and correspondence; cooperation on public information initiatives; cooperation on technical monitoring and analysis; and cooperation in systems development and applications. The following are examples of specific cooperative initiatives: