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Stop Mobile Chernobyl--No Fukushima Freeways!

transportwarningFor more than twenty years, the nuclear power industry has had a singular goal for high-level radioactive waste: get it off their property and ship it to someone else's.

Why? Because as long as this waste--the same toxic stew of irradiated nuclear fuel that spread across the globe from Fukushima and Chernobyl--remains at their reactor sites, the nuclear utilities are liable for any damages. Once the waste is moved from their property lines, we, the taxpayers, become liable for the devastation a nuclear waste accident could cause.

The nuclear industry's primary aim has not been establishment of a scientifically-sound, publicly-defensible permanent solution for radioactive waste, but rather institution of a "centralized interim storage" site. In other words, one or more "temporary" places to stash thousands of casks of lethal high-level waste, regardless of whether the site is suitable for long-term storage.

And, for more than twenty years, a loud voice of public opposition has stopped the industry in its tracks. In the 1990s, Congress approved a bill to establish such an "interim" site, but President Clinton listened to the public and vetoed the measure, a veto that was upheld by the Senate. In the 2000s, the industry tried to set up a "private" interim dump on Skull Valley Goshute land in Utah, but that deal fell apart.

baltimoretrainwreck52813In 2013, with the failed Yucca Mountain, Nevada dumpsite off the table, four members of the Senate Energy Committee introduced legislation (S. 1240) that would have been the first major overhaul of U.S. radioactive waste policy in a generation. And the nuclear industry's top priority for this overhaul? Centralized interim storage (Nuclear Energy Institute policy brief). But the bill never made it out of committee.

In 2015, with a new Republican majority in the Senate, the nuclear industry and its backers are trying again, with a virtually identical bill. This year, the bill number is S. 854.

An "interim" storage site would begin the transport of tens of thousands of casks of lethal high-level nuclear waste across the entire United States, potentially affecting 100 million Americans who live within a mile or two of likely transport routes--our nation's roads and railways.

Each truck-sized container would hold up to 40 times the long-lasting radioactivity released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The much larger train/barge containers would each hold over 200 times Hiroshima’s long-lasting radioactivity. These shipping containers are vulnerable to severe accidents. Even a fraction of a single shipping container’s radioactive cargo escaping into the environment could prove catastrophic for an entire area downwind and downstream. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not even require them to undergo full-scale physical safety testing! The containers are also vulnerable to terrorist attack, making them massive “dirty bombs on wheels.” dontwasteamerica

NIRS and its grassroots allies across the country have won tremendous victories in keeping these unprecedented numbers of high-level radioactive waste shipments off the roads, rails, and waterways thus far.

But the nuclear establishment is pushing harder than ever to launch these "Mobile Chernobyls" through our communities, and we need YOUR help in stopping them dead in their tracks.

U.S. radwaste transport map

Above is a 2015 map showing likely radwaste transport maps if an "interim" high-level radioactive waste storage facility were built in Texas, as proposed by Waste Control Specialist in that state. The routes would differ somewhat if the site were Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

October 30, 2013. NIRS delivers signatures of 42,000+ people urging stop to Mobile Chernobyl bill (S. 1240) to Senate Energy Committee. Press release.

July 30, 2013. Testimony of Geoff Fettus, NRDC, on S. 1240, Senate Energy committee radwaste bill.

July 30, 2013. Testimony of David Lochbaum, UCS, on S. 1240, Senate Energy Committee radwaste bill.

June 27, 2013. Senate Gang of 4 releases waste bill encouraging "interim" storage. Bill text and other documents.

June 7, 2013. The Senate Energy Committee has posted all of the comments (more than 3,000) it received on its draft radwaste bill.

May 24, 2013. Comments from 100 environmental/clean energy organizations in opposition to "consolidated interim storage" provisions in Senate Energy Committee discussion draft legislation on high-level radioactive waste. Press Release.

April 25, 2013. Four Senators (Senate Energy Committee Chair Wyden, Feinstein, Alexander and Murkowski) introduce "discussion draft" of major high-level radioactive waste bill. Includes "interim" storage which would unleash massive transport of radwaste across the country. The Senators also ask several questions for further discussion, and two (Alexander & Feinstein) propose accelerated "interim" storage. Link is to Senate Energy Committee site with draft and several related documents.


NEW: Dry-Store High-Level Radioactive Waste Where It Is:  Moving It Now Would be a Mobile Chernobyl x 2. NIRS briefing sheet, April 2013.

NEW: Hot Cargo: Radioactive Waste Transportation. Fact sheet updated by NIRS, March 2013.

NEW: High-Level Radioactive Waste, Seventy Years On.... new fact sheet prepared by NIRS, March 2013

If the environmental/clean energy community does not support "centralized interim storage," then what DO we support? Here is the answer: a position paper advocating the HOSS (Hardened OnSite Storage) concept developed and signed by some 200 national, regional and local organizations.

Where would these "centralized interim" storage sites be located? That's not yet clear, and may depend on legislation. In the past, DOE has focused much of its effort on Native American lands, but existing nuclear weapons sites like Savannah River Site in South Carolina may be more likely targets this time around. Still, nearly the entire country is a potential option: this report, prepared by DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, includes numerous maps showing potential sites and related transportation routes. For example, the map below shows possible siting based on five "interim" storage sites chosen for least potential population exposure. 108 pages, pdf.


Nuclear Waste Transportation Route Maps - Will high-level nuclear waste be on the roads and rails near your home? Note: These maps were based on shipments to Yucca Mountain, Nevada; actual routes will depend on where one or more "centralized interim storage" sites are located.

State of Nevada's website for their Nuclear Waste Project Office.

The State of Nevada has a list of reported incidents involving Spent Nuclear Fuel Shipments from 1949 to 1996.

Below are a large number of resources NIRS and our allies have produced over the past 20 years on radioactive waste transportation.

Fact Sheets (prepared by NIRS and Critical Mass):
Get the Facts on Nuclear Waste Transportation PDF
Get the Facts on Property Values and Nuclear Waste Transportation PDF
Get the Facts about Yucca Mountain, Nevada and Nuclear Waste PDF
Get the Facts on High-Level Radioactive Waste PDF
Are Your Emergency Responders Prepared for a Nuclear Waste Accident? PDF

Public Citizen Factsheet PDF -The nuclear industry wants you to believe that shipping nuclear waste to a dump at Yucca Mountain is safe.  But current nuclear waste transport casks have never been physically tested! The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s performance requirements are outdated and dangerously underestimate today’s worst-case accident scenarios. (2002)









You can find background materials on previous versions of the Mobile Chernobyl legislation here.

Get your local community to pass a resolution opposing nuclear waste shipments through it! - Sample Resolution

Several jurisdictions have passed resolutions or taken other action against dangerous and unnecessary radioactive waste transportation based on the sample below. These include:

If you know of others which already have taken action, let us know. Join the fun, get your local government to pass a resolution too.

Image: British Nuclear Group America (formerly British Nuclear Fuels, Ltd., BNFL) designed this 25 foot by 13 foot “Type B” transport container for the Big Rock Point reactor vessel in 2002, and had it shipped from the manufacturer in Pennsylvania to Michigan on a 205-foot trailer. The reactor vessel was loaded into this shipping container intact, as it was highly radioactively contaminated from the experimental uses and broken fuel rods that happened inside it in Big Rock’s early days. Keeping the reactor vessel intact was a safety measure deemed “vital” to protect decommissioning workers and the environment from even worse radiation doses that could have occurred if the reactor vessel had been chopped up into smaller pieces, to be shipped in smaller transport containers.

See the year 2003 entries about the troubled shipment of the reactor pressure vessel from Big Rock to the Barnwell, SC dump, below.