Thursday, October 12, 2006
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS – The Energy Department is reconsidering building a rail line through western Nevada to the site of a proposed national nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, officials said.

The north-south route dubbed the Mina Corridor was examined in the 1990s but shelved after the Walker River Paiute Indians refused access to their reservation. The tribe reconsidered this year.

The Energy Department has said it favored plans to build a 319-mile east-west rail line from Caliente, near the Utah border, across rural Nevada to the nuclear dump site, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The so-called Caliente Corridor route could cost $2 billion.

Department officials notified state and local leaders and members of Congress that the plan to take another look at the Mina route would be published Friday in the Federal Register. A draft notice obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal said the Mina coordor would be shorter, cross fewer mountain ranges and utilize existing rail bed.

“These potential advantages would simplify design and construction,” the department said.

The Energy Department plans to continue preparing an environmental impact statement on the Caliente corridor, with informational meetings about the rail plans planned in November in several Nevada towns.

Draft versions of both studies would be released by the summer, department and Yucca Mountain project spokesman Allen Benson said in Las Vegas.

Walker River Indian tribal leaders reversed policy and agreed in May to let the government map a new rail line through their reservation. The tribal chairwoman said the tribe was reserving a final decision on allowing nuclear waste shipments.

The state of Nevada opposes the repository plan. However, Bob Halstead, a transportation consultant for the state, said a north-south
corridor appeared to make more sense and could cost less than the Caliente route.

There currently is no rail line to the Yucca site, which Congress and the Bush administration picked in 2002 as the place to entomb 77,000 tons of radioactive waste now being stored at nuclear reactors in 39 states. The project has been stalled by funding shortfalls and questions about quality control work du