New Proposal to Test Safety of Nuclear Waste
Transportation Containers Meets with Skepticism;
Groups Urge NRC to Strengthen Cask Testing Program
ILL. - March 18 - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s)
proposal for limited testing of nuclear waste transportation casks
does not go far enough, public interest organizations said today.
The groups held a press conference today in downtown Chicago and
will deliver comments Wednesday at an NRC meeting in Rosemont.
"Tens of thousands
of deadly high-level radioactive waste shipments could pass through
Chicago en route to the proposed nuclear waste dump at Nevada’s
Yucca Mountain and ‘Private Fuel Storage’ facility at Skull Valley,
Utah," said Bruch Reed, board member of the Nuclear Energy Information
Service. "We need the NRC to take our safety concerns seriously
and institute a more rigorous program for testing nuclear waste
The NRC is
responsible for evaluating license applications for the Yucca
Mountain dump and the Private Fuel Storage project (a nuclear
waste facility proposed by a private consortium), as well as the
casks used to transport high-level nuclear waste to the dumps.
Current NRC regulations do not require casks to be physically
tested. The agency relies mainly on computer modeling in its licensing
process. The new proposal, called the Package Performance Study,
would subject just two of the 16 licensed designs to crash tests
and fire tests.
"It is encouraging
that the NRC has finally recognized the need for physical testing
of nuclear waste transportation casks, but the NRC testing proposal
fails to actually demonstrate cask safety," said Bob Halstead,
of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects. "The NRC’s primary
concern is testing casks to demonstrate the accuracy of their
computer models. Instead, they should be testing every cask design
to demonstrate compliance with safety regulations. Beyond that,
the agency should test casks to failure, to determine the adequacy
of safety regulations."
the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) environmental impact statement,
Illinois will be heavily impacted by transportation of spent nuclear
fuel and high-level radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain. In addition
to shipments from Illinois reactors, the state would be traversed
by shipments from almost all the commercial reactors east of the
Mississippi River, plus shipments from DOE facilities in New York
and South Carolina.
first 24 years of Yucca Mountain’s operations, the DOE would make
either 8,000 rail and truck shipments or 39,000 truck shipments
through Illinois. Over 38 years, the DOE could make either 16,000
rail and truck shipments or more than 69,000 truck shipments,
through the state.
The DOE’s proposal
to ship spent fuel by barge on Lake Michigan also would affect
Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. Because the Kewaunee, Point
Beach and Palisades reactor sites lack rail access, DOE has proposed
shipping large rail casks by barge from these sites into the Ports
of Milwaukee and Muskegon. After being transferred to rail cars,
these casks would travel through Illinois by train. The DOE could
make up to 431 barge shipments on Lake Michigan over 38 years.
that the NRC has not included submersion testing in its proposal,
given that the Department of Energy is considering hundreds of
barge shipments on the Great Lakes if the Yucca Mountain Project
moves forward," said Kevin Kamps, nuclear waste specialist with
Nuclear Information and Resource Service. "Moreover, the NRC’s
study would also ignore cask vulnerabilities to a terrorist attack."
analyses have indicated that an attack on a nuclear waste convoy
could release lethal doses of radiation.
Mountain and Private Fuel Storage projects would involve unprecedented
nuclear shipping campaigns. How can the NRC consider licensing
these projects without thoroughly evaluating the vulnerabilities
of nuclear waste transportation casks?" asked Lisa Gue, senior
energy analyst with Public Citizen. "The proposed study does not
go nearly far enough to address the concerns of communities along
transportation routes," she concluded.
these issues further, the groups will host a public workshop and
forum tonight, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the offices of Nuclear Energy
Information Service, at 845 Chicago, Suite 207, Evanston, Ill.,
across from the Main St. Station on the CTA Purple Line.
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