Fall Newsletter Headlines

In July the Department of Energy announced their intention to study the Mina Branch line as a possible transportation option for Yucca Mountain. The Mina Branch line extends south from the Union Pacific mainline at Hazen in western Churchill County. The line then extends through Lyon County south through the Walker River Paiute Reservation before terminating near Hawthorne. This change is important to Lander County because waste shipments will pass through the Battle Mountain area enroute to the Mina Branch line.

The Mina route is now under intensive study by DOE to determine its possible inclusion as a potential rail route to Yucca Mountain. Two important factors have led to DOE reconsideration of the Mina Route. First, the Walker River Tribe Paiute is now willing to consider rail shipments through the reservation to potentially avoid Highway shipments. The Tribe currently owns the underlying land for the portion of the Mina Branch line which passes through the reservation. As a result, the Tribe controls use of the Mina Branch south of the reservation. Currently, the Tribe maintains a user agreement with the Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot, the only users on the line south of the reservation. Second, the Mina Branch line alternative to Yucca Mountain potentially provides substantial cost savings over the construction of the Caliente route.

In response to potential nuclear waste shipments, the Lander County Board of County Commissioners have authorized three recent studies using nuclear waste funds provided by the federal government for independent oversight of the Yucca Mountain project. Radiological Waste Management Associates is performing a risk assessment on the Union Pacific line through the Battle Mountain area. The risk assessment will analyze the potential for accidents in the corridor and the accident consequences that may arise in the event of a derailment or collision. Parsons Brinckerhoff, a rail engineering firm, is conducting two rail studies to identify potential problems and conflicts in the rail corridor that might be associated with shipments of nuclear waste. They will also identify potential mitigation actions required to improve safety throughout the rail corridor in Lander County. For more information on the County’s oversight program and studies being conducted, contact Ms. Deborah Teske at 775- 635-2860.


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