BEYOND NUCLEAR et al v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, FORRESTAL BUILDING, ROOM GM-174 GROUND FLOOR, SOUTH BUILDING, 1000 INDEPENDENCE AVENUE, S.W., WASHINGTON, D.C. 20585 et al
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION re 15 Defendants' motion for summary judgment, 17 Plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment, 21 Defendants' motion to strike extra-record materials, and 26 Plaintiffs' motion to supplement the record. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 2/2/2017. (lctsc2)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
BEYOND NUCLEAR, et al.,
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, et al.,
Case No. 16-cv-1641 (TSC)
This case concerns the U.S. Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) obligation under the
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq., to publish an
environmental impact statement (“EIS”) prior to taking any action that may significantly affect
the quality of the environment. Before the court is the question of whether DOE violated NEPA
by not preparing a supplemental EIS ahead of its planned transportation of 6,000 gallons of
highly-enriched uranyl nitrate liquid (“HEUNL”) from Chalk River, Ontario, Canada to the
Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Plaintiffs are seven environmental advocacy groups who
contend that DOE’s reliance on past EISs and publication of two supplement analyses is not
sufficient under the agency’s NEPA requirements. The parties jointly agreed to an accelerated
summary judgment briefing schedule and hearing ahead of DOE’s planned February 2017
commencement of the transportation. Pursuant to that schedule, Defendants moved for summary
judgment on November 4, 2016, and Plaintiffs cross-moved for summary judgment on
November 22, 2016. The court heard oral argument on the motions on January 18, 2017.
Upon consideration of the parties’ motions and the administrative record, Defendants’
motion is GRANTED and Plaintiffs’ cross-motion is DENIED. Defendants’ motion to strike the
extra-record materials submitted by Plaintiffs is also GRANTED, and Plaintiffs’ motion to
supplement the record is therefore DENIED.
Requirements of NEPA
Before the DOE, or any federal agency, engages in activity that may “significantly
affect the quality of the human environment,” NEPA requires it to prepare “a detailed
statement” on “the environmental impact of the proposed action,” as well as any potential
alternative actions that may be taken. 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(c)(i)–(v). DOE must thus take a
“hard look” at environmental consequences before moving forward on a major administrative
action. Kleppe v. Sierra Club, 427 U.S. 390, 410 n.21 (1976). The purpose of this requirement
is to ensure “‘a fully informed and well-considered decision, not necessarily’ the best decision.”
Theodore Roosevelt Conserv. P’ship v. Salazar, 616 F.3d 497, 503 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (quoting
Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 435 U.S. 519, 558 (1978)).
The statute sets procedural requirements, but does not mandate certain outcomes. See Robertson
v. Methow Valley Citizens Council, 490 U.S. 332, 350 (1989) (“If the adverse environmental
effects of the proposed action are adequately identified and evaluated, the agency is not
constrained by NEPA from deciding that other values outweigh the environmental costs.”).
DOE’s NEPA obligations, like those of all federal agencies, are guided by the Council on
Environmental Quality’s (“CEQ”) regulations at 40 C.F.R. §§ 1500–08, as well as DOE’s own
regulations at 10 C.F.R. § 1021. These regulations, for example, require DOE to issue a Record
of Decision (“ROD”) upon completion of an environmental impact statement, stating its
decision, alternatives considered, factors balanced by the agency, and whether all practicable
means to avoid or minimize environmental harm from the selected alternatives had been adopted
or why not. 40 C.F.R. § 1505.2. The regulations also require agencies to solicit public
comments on proposed actions while preparing an EIS. See 40 C.F.R. §§ 1503.1, 1501.4(b),
1506.6. At issue here is the DOE’s obligation to supplement an EIS if “[t]he agency makes
substantial changes in the proposed action that are relevant to environmental concerns” or
“[t]here are significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and
bearing on the proposed action or its impacts.” 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9(c)(1)(i), (ii); 10 C.F.R.
DOE’s Planned Transportation of Highly Enriched Liquid Uranium
This case concerns the planned transportation of “target material,” which is the residual
substance that remains after highly-enriched uranium targets are irradiated in a research reactor,
removed, and dissolved in a nitric acid solution to recover molybdenum-99, which decays into a
radioisotope used in medical applications such as cancer diagnosis and treatment. (AR
0026360). The specific terminology used by DOE and other agencies reflects important
differences in categories of material, many of which have statutory definitions. Plaintiffs at
times refer to the target material at issue as “nuclear waste,” “toxic liquid stew,” “highlyradioactive liquid waste,” or “a form of spent fuel.” DOE clarifies that these terms are either
meaningless in a technical sense or have specific definitions that do not include target material. 1
Spent nuclear fuel is the “fuel that has been withdrawn from a nuclear reactor following
irradiation, the constituent elements of which have not been separated by reprocessing,” 42
U.S.C. § 10101(23), and while spent nuclear fuel comes in many forms, including plates, tubes,
pins, or rods, target material is not one such form, but something else entirely. DOE also
clarifies that while Plaintiffs’ term “highly-radioactive liquid waste” has no technical definition,
the term “high-level radioactive waste” is a technical term defined as including “the highly
radioactive material resulting from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel” or “other highly
radioactive material that the [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] . . . determines by rule requires
permanent isolation.” 42 U.S.C. § 10101(12). The definition of high-level radioactive waste
Under the DOE’s acceptance policy, the agency accepts shipments of spent nuclear fuel
and target material containing U.S.-origin uranium from foreign research reactors and then
manages that uranium at facilities in the United States. See 61 Fed. Reg. 25,092–103 (May 17,
1996). This program is part of a larger effort, dating back to 1950s, in which the United States
has provided highly enriched uranium to foreign nuclear research reactors conditioned on the
promise to not develop nuclear weapons, then later accepted the spent nuclear fuel and target
material back from those foreign reactors to avoid the stockpiling of nuclear material in foreign
countries and to ensure the safe processing and maintenance of the material in the United States.
Id. at 25,092–93. Pursuant to this acceptance program, DOE intends to accept 6,000 gallons of
target material from Ontario and transport it to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina for
processing and storage. (AR 0026361, 0027336).
Between 1995 and 2000, DOE issued three environmental impact statements and Records
of Decision (“ROD”) in support of this Acceptance Program. The first ROD was issued in 1995
and included the “Programmatic Spent Nuclear Fuel Management and Idaho National
Engineering Laboratory Environment and Waste Management Programs EIS” (the “1995 EIS”).
(AR 0001570; 60 Fed. Reg. 28,680 (June 1, 1995)). The 1995 EIS assessed the potential
environmental impacts of the transportation, receipt, processing, and storage of spent nuclear
fuel, and the receipt and storage of aluminum-clad target material, at the Savannah River Site in
South Carolina. Next, in 1996, DOE and the Department of State jointly issued the “Proposed
Nuclear Weapons Nonproliferation Policy Concerning Foreign Research Reactor Spent Nuclear
Fuel EIS” (the “1996 EIS”), which was “tiered from,” or based on, the 1995 EIS and also
also includes “liquid waste produced directly in reprocessing [of spent nuclear fuel] and any
solid material derived from such liquid waste that contains fission products in sufficient
concentrations,” but this definition does not include target material, which is not waste. Id.
considered the transportation, receipt, and storage of about 18.2 metric tons heavy metal of
aluminum-clad spent nuclear fuel and about 0.6 metro tons heavy metal of target material to the
Savannah River Site. (AR 0007903–9098). This 1996 EIS supported DOE’s ROD that year
establishing the ten-year Acceptance Program. 61 Fed. Reg. 25,092 (May 17, 1996).
Finally, in 2000 DOE issued the “Savannah River Site Spent Nuclear Fuel Management
EIS” (the “2000 EIS”), which considered alternatives for the management, storage, and disposal
of aluminum-clad spent nuclear fuel and target material at the Savannah River Site, and adopted
an alternative using both a new melt-and-dilute technology and conventional processing for the
uranium received there. (AR 0011537; 65 Fed. Reg. 48,224 (Aug. 7, 2000)). In 2004,
approaching the conclusion of the ten-year Acceptance Program, DOE prepared a Supplement
Analysis to determine whether a supplemental EIS was necessary to extend the program, and
determined that extension would not constitute a significant change, so no supplemental EIS was
required. (AR 0017883–914; 69 Fed. Reg. 69,901 (Dec. 1, 2004)).
The uranium transport at issue in this litigation would bring 6,000 gallons of target
material from Ontario to the Savannah River Site by truck on land. (AR 0027336). The primary
difference between this plan and that analyzed in the 1996 EIS is that the target material
considered in 1996 was in the form of loose oxide powder (i.e., a solid) while here it is in the
form of a uranyl nitrate liquid solution (i.e., liquid). (AR 0026366–68). Essentially all other
aspects of the plan, including the source location, the use of trucks carrying casks over land, the
potential routes used, and the storage at the Savannah River Site are the same. DOE seeks to
accept and transport liquid target material because it was notified in 2008 by Atomic Energy of
Canada, Ltd., the Canadian agency overseeing the nuclear material in that country, that certain
constraints precluded taking the additional step of converting the target material to solid form
after it was dissolved in the nitric acid solution. (AR 0024238). In 2012, DOE agreed to
consider acceptance of liquid target material, and the two agencies signed a contract to take steps
necessary to determine whether such acceptance would be possible. (AR 0026260–79).
In March 2013, DOE issued a Supplement Analysis (the “2013 SA”) to consider whether
acceptance and transportation of liquid target material from Canada required supplementation of
the 1995 EIS, 1996 EIS, or 2000 EIS. (AR 0026359–94). The 2013 SA stated that DOE’s
acceptance of the material would depend on whether the specific casks designed to hold the
target material (referred to as NAC-LWT casks) were certified, and would be subject to the
regulatory requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation and Nuclear Regulatory
Commission as well as DOE approval of the plans for transportation and security. (AR
0026367). DOE reviewed and evaluated, including by updating its risk assessment
methodology, any potential human health effects that would result from transportation of the
target material in liquid, rather than solid, form. (AR 0026379–93). The 2013 SA also included
analysis of the risks of sabotage and terrorism during and after transport of the target material,
for which DOE had previously prepared a similar EIS (the “Yucca Mountain EIS”). (AR
0026369–70, 0026388). DOE concluded that the potential impacts of transporting target
material in liquid form would not be significantly different from the risks of transporting target
material already evaluated in the 1996 EIS, and therefore under the CEQ’s regulations neither a
supplemental EIS nor a new EIS were required. (AR 0026371–72). The 2013 SA reached the
same conclusion with respect to whether to use conventional processing of the target material at
the Savannah River Site as opposed to the melt-and-dilute technology selected by earlier EISs.
Transportation of the liquid target material required development of a specialized
container. The vendor tasked with making this container, NAC, proposed configuring special
“HEUNL containers,” four of which would fit into the standard NAC-LWT casks already used
for transport of target material. (AR 0026411–911). The Nuclear Regulatory Commission
issued a Certificate of Compliance for the new container plan in 2014, certifying that it met the
applicable safety standards at 10 C.F.R. part 71. (AR 0027047, 0027079–105). The Department
of Transportation issued its own Competent Authority Certification in 2015, certifying that the
transport package met the applicable U.S. and International Atomic Energy Agency standards.
(AR 0027108–09). At the same time, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission conducted its
own independent analysis and reached the same conclusions, determining in July 2015 that the
transport containers met all Canadian regulatory requirements. (AR 0026973–7022).
DOE issued another Supplement Analysis in 2015 (the “2015 SA”) disclosing these U.S.
and Canadian regulatory evaluations and approvals and determining again that it found nothing
indicating a need to reassess its conclusions from the 2013 SA. (AR 0027334–56). The 2015
SA therefore concluded that any differences associated with transporting the target material in
liquid rather than solid form “would be very low and not significantly different from the impacts
reported in [the 1996 EIS],” and so neither a supplemental nor a new EIS was required under the
CEQ’s regulations or NEPA. (AR 0027354).
Plaintiffs filed this litigation in August 2016, challenging DOE’s determination that it did
not need to issue a supplemental EIS or a new EIS before accepting the liquid target material.
DOE agreed to postpone shipment and transportation of the target material until mid-February
2017 in order to allow for the expedited resolution of this case.
When reviewing motions for summary judgment in a suit seeking review of an agency’s
actions, the standard under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) does not apply. Coe v. McHugh, 968 F. Supp.
2d 237, 239 (D.D.C. 2013). Instead, the court must decide as a matter of law “whether the
agency action is supported by the administrative record and otherwise consistent with the APA
standard of review.” Id. at 240 (citing Richards v. INS, 554 F.2d 1173, 1177 & n.28 (D.C. Cir.
1977)). Pursuant to the APA, the court must set aside any agency action that is “arbitrary,
capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.” 5 U.S.C.
§ 706(2)(A). This same standard has been adopted for the narrower review of an agency’s
obligations to prepare a new or supplemental EIS under NEPA. Marsh v. Ore. Nat. Res.
Council, 490 U.S. 360, 376 (1989).
The court’s review is “highly deferential” and begins with a presumption that the
agency’s actions are valid. Envtl. Def. Fund, Inc. v. Costle, 657 F.2d 275, 283 (D.C. Cir. 1981).
The court is “not empowered to substitute its judgment for that of the agency,” Citizens to
Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 416 (1971), but instead must consider only
“whether the decision was based on a consideration of the relevant factors and whether there has
been a clear error of judgment.” Marsh, 490 U.S. at 378 (quoting Overton Park, 401 U.S. at
416). However, “courts should not automatically defer” to an agency’s decision not to prepare a
supplemental EIS, and should “carefully review the record” and that ensure the agency made a
“reasoned decision.” Id.
Motions to Strike and Supplement the Record
Plaintiffs referenced and submitted certain extra-record materials in their cross-motion
for summary judgment. Specifically, Plaintiffs submitted the Declaration of Gordon Edwards,
Ph.D. (ECF No. 16-1, corrected ECF No. 19-2), and the Declaration of Marvin Resnikoff, Ph.D.
(ECF No. 16-2), and they referenced and quoted from a 1972 report by the Atomic Energy
Commission. (See Pls. Mem. at 11 n.8, 17 n.11). After Plaintiffs filed their cross-motion for
summary judgment, Defendants moved to strike these materials on the ground that courts should
only review the administrative record before the agency at the time of its decision. (ECF No.
21). With their Reply brief, Plaintiffs moved to supplement the 27,000-page record to add these
three additional documents. (ECF No. 26). The court GRANTS Defendants’ Motion to Strike
and DENIES Plaintiffs’ Motion to Supplement.
When reviewing agency actions such as DOE’s decision here, courts review “the whole
record or those parts of it cited by a party.” 5 U.S.C. § 706; Overton Park, 401 U.S. at 420
(“[R]eview is to be based on the full administrative record that was before the Secretary at the
time he made his decision.”). This record includes “all documents and materials that the agency
directly or indirectly considered” before deciding what action to take. Pac. Shores Subdiv. v.
U.S. Army Corps of Engr’s, 448 F. Supp. 2d 1, 4 (D.D.C. 2006) (internal quotation omitted).
Judicial review is limited to the record because courts “should have before it neither more nor
less information than did the agency when it made its decision.” IMS, P.C. v. Alvarez, 129 F.3d
618, 623 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (quoting Walter O. Boswell Mem’l Hosp. v. Heckler, 749 F.2d 788,
792 (D.C. Cir. 1984)). Agencies bear the burden of compiling the materials and documents it
considered, either directly or indirectly, and the compiled record “is entitled to a strong
presumption of regulatory.” Marcum v. Salazar, 751 F. Supp. 2d 74, 78 (D.D.C. 2010).
When, as here, a party seeks to add materials to the record that it does not contend the
agency actually reviewed, courts only permit such additional extra-record evidence in three
“unusual circumstances.” Am. Wildlands v. Kempthorne, 530 F.3d 991, 1002 (D.C. Cir. 2008).
These include: (1) when “the agency ‘deliberately or negligently excluded documents that may
have been adverse to its decision,’” (2) when “background information [is] needed ‘to determine
whether the agency considered all the relevant factors,’” and (3) when “the ‘agency failed to
explain administrative action so as to frustrate judicial review.’” City of Dania Beach v. F.A.A.,
628 F.3d 581, 590 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (quoting Am. Wildlands, 530 F.3d at 1002).
1. Plaintiffs’ Submitted Declarations
Plaintiffs first seek to supplement the record with two declarations that were not before
DOE during its decision-making process but which Plaintiffs feel should nonetheless be
considered by this court to demonstrate what Plaintiffs may have submitted if DOE engaged in a
public notice and comment process while preparing a supplemental EIS. Plaintiffs argue that
these declarations fall under the second Dania Beach factor, under which extra-record evidence
may be needed as background information. The Resnikoff and Edwards declarations, according
to Plaintiffs, expose factors that the DOE failed to consider in its decision not to prepare an EIS.
The two declarations challenge DOE’s conclusions as to the sufficiency of the casks used to
transport the target material and the risks from potential fires or accidents, including an accident
resulting in target material leaking into a reservoir, as well as the accuracy of DOE’s
In the court’s view, these two declarations are more akin to conflicting views of
specialists, for which the Supreme Court in Marsh stated the agency “must have discretion to
rely on the reasonable opinions of its own qualified experts.” 490 U.S. at 379. Because the
declarations do not point to materials or evidence that Plaintiffs allege DOE should have
considered and do not provide any background insight into the agency’s decision-making
process, the court will GRANT Defendants’ motion to strike these declarations and DENY
Plaintiffs’ request to supplement the record with them.
2. 1972 Atomic Energy Commission Report
Plaintiffs also seek to supplement the record with the December 1972 AEC report titled
“Environmental Survey of Transportation of Radioactive Materials to and from Nuclear Power
Plants.” This report is referenced in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s 1977 Environmental
Impact Statement, which is a part of the administrative record. Plaintiffs argue that the first two
Dania Beach factors weigh in favor of including this report in the record because it provides
background information and “is so fundamental a reference on the issue of radioactive materials
transportation . . . that DOE’s failure to review it can only be described as negligent.” (Pls. Rep.
at 17). Plaintiffs further state that “[t]he AEC Environmental Survey effectively repudiates
DOE’s assertion in the Supplement Analysis that the environmental difference between shipping
target material in solid and liquid form is negligible.” (Id. at 18).
Based on the two quoted passages from the 1972 Report in Plaintiff’s cross-motion,
Plaintiffs appear to overstate the conclusions of the forty-five-year-old report. The quoted
passages speak to the risk and safety of transporting solid nuclear material, but are silent as to
whether the environmental impacts of transporting liquid target material presents risks or
environmental impacts that differ in a significant way from the transport of solid target material.
It is not apparent from these passages why the 1972 Report would serve as crucial background
information or, given the report’s lack of specific analysis of target material in either solid or
liquid form, why its omission from the record is a sign of DOE’s negligence. The court finds
that neither of the Dania Beach circumstances are present here, and therefore Defendants’
motion to strike is GRANTED and Plaintiffs’ motion to supplement the record is DENIED.
Count II: DOE’s Decision Not to Prepare a Supplemental EIS
DOE must prepare a supplemental EIS if it makes “substantial changes in the proposed
action that are relevant to environmental concerns” or there is “significant” new information or
circumstances. 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9(c)(1). DOE’s own regulations contain an analogous
requirement, and further provide that “[w]hen it is unclear whether or not an EIS is required,
DOE shall prepare a Supplement Analysis,” which “shall discuss the circumstances that are
pertinent to deciding whether to prepare a supplemental EIS” and “shall contain sufficient
information to determine whether [a]n existing EIS should be supplemented.” 10 C.F.R.
§ 1021.314(a), (c)(1), (2). Under this obligation, “only those changes that cause effects which
are significantly different from those already studied require supplementary consideration.”
Davis v. Latschar, 83 F. Supp. 2d 1, 9 (D.D.C. 1998). DOE’s decision whether to supplement an
EIS “is mitigated, however, by a ‘rule of reason.’” Blue Ridge Envtl. Def. League v. NRC, 716
F.3d 183, 189 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (quoting Deukmejian v. NRC, 751 F.3d 1287, 1300 (D.C. Cir.
1984)). As a result, the agency’s determination should be overturned only if the record reveals a
“clear error of judgment,” Marsh, 490 U.S. at 385, and the court is “obligated to ‘defer to the
wisdom of the agency, provided its decision is reasoned and rational,’” Blue Ridge, 716 F.3d at
195 (quoting Dillmon v. Nat’l Transp. Safety Bd., 588 F.3d 1085, 1089 (D.C. Cir. 2009)). Even
if DOE’s decision rests on “predictive judgements” and “incomplete data,” its determination is
still “entitled to deference.” New York v. NRC, 824 F.3d 1012, 1022 (D.C. Cir. 2016).
Pursuant to § 1021.314(c), DOE prepared two Supplement Analyses, in 2013 and 2015,
to consider whether to prepare a supplemental EIS based on two primary changes from the 1995,
1996, and 2000 EISs: first, the transportation of liquid target material instead of solid, and
second, the use of conventional processing at the Savannah River Site instead of melt-and-dilute
processing. (AR 0026364–72, AR 0027336–38). Plaintiffs focus specifically on the plan to
transport liquid target material, and the key—and really only—question in this case is whether
transportation of target material in liquid rather than solid form results in environmental impacts
that are significantly different than those already evaluated, such that the preparation of a
supplemental EIS is required. Whether there are significant new circumstances is not a legal
question, but a factual question for DOE to address. Marsh, 490 U.S. at 377.
DOE’s 2013 SA relies on the analysis and conclusions in the supporting Letter Report
titled “Evaluation of Human Health Effects From Transportation of Fissile Solution Storage
Tank Highly Enriched Uranium Solution.” The Letter Report, which focuses mostly on the use
of conventional processing and storage at the Savannah River Site, details DOE’s evaluation of
radiological and non-radiological impacts from the transportation of the liquid target material in
scenarios involving accidents or acts of sabotage or terrorism, or with no incidents at all. (AR
0026379–89). The evaluation “indicated that non-radiological accident risks, the potential for
fatalities as a direct result of traffic accidents, present the greatest risks related to transportation
of liquid HEU, but no traffic fatalities would be expected.” (AR 0026369–71). It determined
that the “overall impacts of transporting liquid HEU are very small and are less than those
described in the [1996 EIS],” which considered transport of solid target material. (AR 0026368).
After evaluating these risks and whether the differences between them and those
considered by prior ESIs were significant, DOE concluded that there was not a substantial or
significant difference between the environmental impacts here and those already considered by
the earlier EISs to warrant a supplemental or new EIS for the planned shipment. (AR 0026373).
In 2015, DOE again considered whether the effects of transporting liquid target material were
substantially different from those associated with solid, and evaluated the new developments
since its 2013 SA, including the certification of the NAC-LWT casks for transportation and the
analyses and approvals by the NRC, DOT, and CNSC. (AR 0027338–43). DOE also reviewed
and evaluated CNSC’s analysis as to the effects of land-based or aquatic accidents, compared
this analysis with its own 2013 SA, and determined that both agencies agreed that risks of harm
from the transportation were extremely low and not significantly different from the impacts
already evaluated and reported in the 1996 EIS. (AR 0027351–53).
In their Complaint, Plaintiffs assert that DOE failed to adequately consider numerous
factors or issues: the “lack of viability for federal regulations” in the case of an extreme fire; the
risk of transportation routes near water and elevated highways; the seriousness of accident
scenarios; alternative options; the adequacy of the cask design; the potential for terrorist acts; the
provisions for storage of the target material at the Savannah River Site; the historical problems
with storage at the site; the details of processing; accidents at the Savannah River Site; exposure
by transport workers and the public; new waste streams in the tank systems; the consequences of
using the target material post-processing; and any unidentified or undisclosed costs involved.
(Compl. ¶ 76). Plaintiffs argue that DOE’s analysis on this wide-ranging list of issues is
insufficient primarily because of what Plaintiffs see as the “obvious difference” between liquid
and solid target material. (Compl. ¶ 55). To Plaintiffs, the potential impacts of transportation of
liquid target material must be significantly different than for solid material, requiring a
supplemental EIS. However, DOE has clarified that the “solid” target material that was
evaluated in the 1995, 1996, and 2000 EISs was in the form of calcine or oxide powder,
diminishing any “obvious” difference due to their similar risks of dispersal. DOE contends that
the agency in fact did analyze all the relevant factors, including exposure risks, accidents,
terrorism or sabotage, and storage, in the 1995, 1996, and 2000 environmental impact statements,
and the Supplement Analyses it performed in 2013 and 2015 informed its factual determination
that the risks and impacts would not be significant different from those already considered for
the transportation of solid target material.
Plaintiffs also argue in their cross-motion that there is a “well-established and
longstanding environmental conclusion and policy” that the transportation of liquid target
material is too dangerous, such that DOE’s planned transportation here warrants a supplemental
EIS. (Pl. Mem. at 2, 11, 21, 23). As DOE counters, and as is evident by the documents Plaintiffs
cite, no such policy exists. In support, Plaintiffs rely exclusively on a single document it
contends DOE should have given far more weight: a 1977 environmental impact statement
prepared by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. While Plaintiffs concede that this EIS “did not
compare the relative risks of shipping spent fuel and radioactive waste in solid and liquid form,”
they assert that the NRC still “deemed that shipping these materials in solid form was essential
for minimizing environmental impacts,” and that therefore shipping liquid material would be
more dangerous. (Pl. Mem. at 10). Fatal to Plaintiffs’ reliance on the 1977 EIS is that it did not
evaluate target material at all, but rather more generally “the environmental impact of radioactive
material shipments in all modes of transport.” (AR 0000001-0008). The EIS does mention that
potential consequences following an accident would be limited by the “nondispersible form” of
radioactive material. (AR 0000001-0009). However, this stray conclusion, not specific to target
material, is not evidence of a decades-long “policy,” particularly in light of DOE’s far more
recent 1995, 1996, and 2000 environmental impact statements that evaluated and approved the
transport of target material in powder form, which itself is also potentially dispersible. This
1977 EIS is therefore not relevant to the factual question of whether the environmental impact of
transporting liquid HEU instead of solid creates a significant difference or substantial change. 2
Plaintiffs also rely on the 1972 AEC Report to argue for the existence of this long-standing
policy, but for the reasons stated above, this report will not be considered by the court.
This court will only overturn DOE’s decision not to prepare a supplemental EIS if the
record shows a clear error of judgment or that DOE did not give the relevant evidence and
factors a “hard look.” Marsh, 490 U.S. at 378. A review of DOE’s two Supplement Analyses
shows that the agency did, in fact, give a hard look to a wide range of factors, evidence, and
statistical analyses regarding environmental impacts in numerous different scenarios, which
allowed DOE to come to the conclusion that the environmental impacts were not significantly
different from those already considered in its past environmental impact statements. Plaintiffs
disagree with DOE’s conclusions and challenge the sufficiency and depth of its analyses, leading
the court to view this case as akin to that considered by the Supreme Court in Marsh: “a factual
dispute the resolution of which implicates substantial expertise . . . [and] [b]ecause analysis of
the relevant documents ‘requires a high level of technical expertise,’ we must defer to ‘the
informed discretion of the responsible federal agencies.’” 490 U.S. at 377 (quoting Kleppe, 427
U.S. at 412); see also Blue Ridge, 716 F.3d at 197. The court therefore concludes that DOE has
not acted arbitrarily or capriciously or made a clear error in judgment by deciding that its
planned transport of highly-enriched uranyl nitrate liquid was not a substantial change from the
actions evaluated by past environmental impact statements. Defendants’ motion is GRANTED
as to Count II, and Plaintiffs’ cross-motion is DENIED.
In their Complaint, Plaintiffs pleaded four additional claims. These included allegations
that DOE improperly failed to prepare an environmental assessment (“EA) in violation of NEPA
(Count I); that DOE failed to prepare a programmatic EIS regarding repatriation of nuclear
material from various countries, including Canada, Germany, and Indonesia, in violation of
NEPA (Count III); that DOE’s failure to publish an EA or supplemental EIS further violated the
Atomic Energy Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2011 et seq., and Department of Energy Organization Act, 42
U.S.C. § 7112 (Count IV) 3; and that this failure also violated the Administrative Procedure Act
(Count V). (Compl. ¶¶ 61–68, 79–93). In their cross-motion, Plaintiffs do not specifically
address any of these claims, and therefore DOE argues in its Reply that the court should treat
them as conceded. Plaintiffs clarify in their own Reply that it has not conceded these claims, but
rather these claims are inter-related and require no additional analysis, as the court’s conclusions
with respect to Count II carry its conclusions as to the remaining claims. (Pls. Rep. at 24–25).
Plaintiffs’ Count III, alleging that DOE violated NEPA by failing to prepare a
programmatic EIS, is tethered to Count II because the supplemental EIS Plaintiffs demand would
be a supplement to the 1996 EIS, which was a programmatic EIS. Similarly, Count IV alleges
only that DOE has violated the Atomic Energy Act and the Department of Energy Organization
Act “[b]y failing to comply with NEPA as alleged above” in Count II. (Compl. ¶ 88). Plaintiffs’
APA claim in Count V also argues that DOE’s alleged NEPA violation in Count II was arbitrary
and capricious. Because these claims rise and fall with the outcome of Count II, and the court
granted summary judgment to DOE on this claim, then the court must conclude that DOE also
prevails on Counts III, IV, and V, and summary judgment is granted in its favor on those claims.
With respect to Count I, alleging that DOE violated NEPA by failing to prepare an
environmental assessment, DOE argued in its motion that it was not required to prepare an EA to
determine whether to supplement an EIS, and it acted lawfully by instead following its own
The Atomic Energy Act authorizes DOE to regulate the possession and use of nuclear
materials “to protect health or to minimize danger to life or property,” 42 U.S.C. § 2201(b), and
the Department of Energy Organization Act requires DOE to “assure incorporation of national
environmental protection goals in the formulation and implementation of energy programs, and
to advance the goals of restoring, protecting, and enhancing environmental quality, and assuring
public health and safety,” 42 U.S.C. § 7112(13).
regulations by preparing two Supplement Analyses. Plaintiffs did not respond to this argument
in their cross-motion or Reply, and the court agrees with DOE that as a result Plaintiffs have
conceded this claim. However, Plaintiffs’ claim would nonetheless also fail as a matter of law.
The CEQ’s regulations state that “In determining whether to prepare an [EIS] the Federal agency
shall (a) Determine under its procedures supplementing these regulations . . . whether the
proposal is one which: (1) Normally requires an [ESI], or . . . (b) If the proposed action is not
covered by paragraph (a) of this section, prepare an [EA].” 40 C.F.R. § 1501.4. The court does
not read this regulation to require an agency to prepare an EA to determine whether to
supplement an EIS, but instead merely requires agencies to follow their own procedures to make
this determination, and in the absence of such procedures, to then prepare an EA. Because DOE
followed its own regulation, which require a Supplement Analysis to make the determination
whether to prepare a supplemental EIS, it did not violate any requirement under the CEQ’s
NEPA regulations. The court therefore GRANTS DOE’s motion as to Count I and DENIES
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is GRANTED in
full and Plaintiffs’ cross-motion is DENIED in full.
Date: February 2, 2017
Tanya S. Chutkan
TANYA S. CHUTKAN
United States District Judge
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