- March 6 - As currently proposed, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission’s (NRC) plan for testing nuclear waste transportation
containers is too little, too late. Limited, one-time tests are
planned to study how some – but not all – casks respond to accident
conditions (the "Package Performance Study"). These casks may
eventually be used to ship nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain in
Nevada and a Utah facility owned by the Private Fuel Storage consortium.
the agency does not conduct physical tests of the casks it licenses.
The new proposal makes some progress but is not enough. The agency
suggests subjecting just two cask designs to full-scale physical
tests, rather than making this a requirement for every cask design.
Also, the proposed study ignores important vulnerabilities. For
example, puncture, crushing force, submersion and explosive tests
are not planned.
study is not scheduled to be completed until 2005. But the NRC
is expected to rule this spring on a license application for the
Private Fuel Storage facility at Skull Valley, Utah, which would
initiate thousands of cross-country nuclear shipments. Is the
NRC serious? The agency really wants to start shipments before
testing to ensure the casks are safe?
Yucca Mountain repository as well as the Private Fuel Storage
facility would involve unprecedented high-level radioactive
waste shipments crisscrossing the country by train, truck and
barge. Public Citizen has grave concerns about the safety of
shipping high-level nuclear waste and about inadequate government
oversight of the shipping. We applaud the NRC’s recognition
of the need for full-scale, physical cask testing. However,
as currently proposed, the testing plan falls far short of addressing
public safety concerns. NRC licensing regulations should be
strengthened to require full-scale physical testing of every
cask design. The NRC also should close the loopholes in the
test protocol and withhold license approval of nuclear waste
transportation projects until the study is complete.