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West Valley Spent Fuel Shipment Project - Lessons Learned

U.S. Department of Energy
Publication Date


On July 17, 2003, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) completed the movement of 125 commercial spent nuclear fuel (SNF) assemblies from the West Valley Demonstration Project (WVDP) to the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL). The assemblies were transported by rail in two dual-purpose shipping and storage casks specifically designed for the one shipment to the INEEL and for interim storage.

The movement of more than 2300 miles was completed more than 17 hours ahead of schedule without incident. Planning, preparation and conduct involved 4 railroads, 11 states (more than 22 state agencies), 2 tribes and 5 Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regions.

The DOE began planning in 1999 and was prepared to ship in August 2001. In late October 2001, the DOE chose to postpone the shipment to focus efforts at the INEEL on meeting legal commitments with the state of Idaho on waste management. Shipment planning was consistent with DOE Order 460.2, Radioactive Material Practices Manual, issued in 2002. DOE worked with the corridor states and tribes on route evaluation and selection, emergency response preparedness, security planning, and shipment timing and general coordination issues.

DOE notified the corridor states and tribes in December 2002 of its intent to conduct the shipment in 2003 based on the planning and preparation completed in 2001. Changes were to be limited to only those that were essential to safety and/or conduct.

Following successful completion of this shipment, DOE actively sought input on the shipment planning and conduct from staff in the involved railroads, states, and the Federal Railroad Administration. It was requested that input focus on steps to standardize shipment conduct and thereby reduce costs while ensuring safety.

Following are key areas that offer the greatest opportunity to develop standard, routine processes that
will significantly reduce redundant or unnecessary planning and preparedness efforts. For future single or multiple rail shipments of SNF addressing these areas could result in recurring savings in resource expenditures both at the federal and state levels.