Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy and Nuclear Waste Transportation Issues

As the agency adapts to an ever-changing world of energy use and production, so the services and work performed by the Energy Office also change. During 1998-1999, the agency worked and funded, directly or indirectly, new activities that involved energy efficiency, renewable energy and nuclear waste transportation issues as well as the historical activities for which it is known.

High-Level Nuclear Waste Transportation and Storage

The majority of nuclear waste in Nebraska is produced by the two nuclear power stations in Brownville and Fort Calhoun. For storage purposes, radioactive waste material is classified as high-level or low-level waste depending on the length of time the waste remains radioactive.

High-level waste is spent nuclear fuel and has primarily been stored on site at nuclear power plants awaiting construction of a temporary or permanent repository.

Once a temporary or permanent storage site becomes available, transporting the high-level waste will begin. Because many nuclear facilities are east of Nebraska and likely storage areas are west of the state, rail lines and highways in Nebraska are probable corridors for shipments of high-level radioactive waste.

Two national studies have indicated that 92,000 shipments of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste currently stored at sites across the nation will be shipped over a period of 30 years to temporary or permanent storage sites. Based on the latest information, it is estimated that 62 percent of the nation's truck shipments of spent nuclear fuel and 82 percent of the nation's rail shipments will cross Nebraska. Current projections indicate an estimated 49,166 truck shipments and 10,332 rail shipments will cross the state.

The Energy Office became involved in two issues related to the transportation and storage of spent nuclear fuel during the previous and current reporting periods:

In 1996, Nebraska joined nearly 20 other states and several utilities in filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy when the federal agency announced that it had no obligation to begin accepting nuclear waste until a storage facility was constructed. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agreed with the states, ruling that the federal agency must begin accepting nuclear shipments in 1998. The Energy Department has not determined how, when or where the agency will begin accepting spent nuclear fuel.

During the reporting period, the Energy Office, Emergency Management, the State Patrol, the Department of Health and others continued to examine the state's readiness for a dramatic increase in the number of shipments of spent nuclear fuel across the state.

National Energy Code Compliance on New Home Construction

The agency was requested by several federal housing agencies to review house plans of Nebraskans financing the purchase of their home with a Veterans' Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture/Rural Development or Federal Home Administration mortgage. To be eligible for the government-backed mortgages, the homes must meet or exceed the 1992 Model Energy Code. The agency charges $50 for each review.

In 1998-1999, the agency evaluated two homes for compliance with the energy code. The agency also provided building code compliance computer software and technical assistance to builders so they could ascertain code compliance for themselves.

Wind Resource Assessment

In mid-1994, the Nebraska Power Association and other renewable energy interests, including the Energy Office, agreed to participate in a multi-year study of eight wind sites in the state for their energy producing potential.

On behalf of the Power Association, the agency applied to the Utility Wind Interest Group for a grant to partially fund the Nebraska wind study. In late 1995, the Power Association received a $59,600 grant from the Interest Group.

In early 1996, the Energy Office received another grant in support of the Nebraska wind project. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory awarded a $74,428 grant to also partially fund the project. A $10,000 grant from the American Public Power Association was also received by the Power Association in support of the project. The state's major utilities are supplying the remainder of the cost of the study. The assessment, which was extended until March 1999, is expected to cost more than $300,000. When concluded, the study will have four years of data from all the sites.

During the four years of the study, average annual wind speeds ranged from 13.9 to 16.8 miles per hour with the highest speeds generally in the early afternoon. Valentine and Springview had the highest average annual wind speeds at 16.8 and 16.7 miles per hour. The lowest average wind speed of 13.9 miles per hour was recorded at Wahoo. Rushville and Winnebago shared the second lowest speed of 14.5 miles per hour.