Stop Mobile Chernobyl--No Fukushima Freeways!
For 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.
In 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.”
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.
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
Get the Facts on Property Values and Nuclear Waste Transportation
Get the Facts about Yucca Mountain, Nevada and Nuclear Waste
Get the Facts on High-Level Radioactive Waste
Are Your Emergency Responders Prepared for a Nuclear Waste Accident?
Public Citizen Factsheet -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)
- Information on the
shipment of high-level radioactive waste through Takoma Park, Maryland,
December 15, 2004: The U.S. Department of Energy has targeted
Takoma Park as a transportation route for high-level radioactive waste
(HLRW) bound for its proposed national dump-site at Yucca Mountain,
Nevada. The CSX railway, immediately next to the Takoma Metro Station,
would carry up to nearly 2,000 “truck” containers (truck-sized
containers loaded “piggy-back” upon train cars) and/or over
300 much larger “train” containers, of HLRW through town.
A single accident or terrorist attack could release catastrophic amounts
of radioactivity. Because the waste is so radioactive, emanating gamma
radiation like a mobile x-ray machine that cannot be turned off, even
“routine,” accident-free shipments would still deliver a
potentially harmful radiation dose to innocent bystanders.
NIRS Southeast Office Local Nuclear Transport Factsheet -- model for
- Transcript of Southern Conversation
(on WNCW--Western North Carolina NPR affiliate) discussion of
nuclear shipments through Western North Carolina, Mary Olson & Dr.
Lew Patrie. October 2004.
if today’s train derailment in Detroit had involved high-level
radioactive waste? NIRS press release. October 25, 2004.
- NIRS factsheets on barge
shipments of deadly high-level radioactive waste on waterways by state
(September 28, 2004):
- MD - Chesapeake
- VA - James River
- DE - Delaware Bay
- NJ, NY, CT - Waters
Surrounding New York City
- MA - Cape Cod Bay,
Massachusetts Bay, and Boston Harbor
- IL, MI, WI - Lake
- LA, MS - Mississippi
- TN, AL - Tennessee
- NE, KS, MO -
- CA - California
- FL - Florida’s
- Summary of Oscar Shirani’s
Allegations of Quality Assurance Violations Against Holtec Storage/Transport
Casks. July 22, 2004.
- Dr. Ross Landsman, NRC dry cask inspector for the Midwest regional
office headquartered in Chicago, wrote this
memo to his superiors expressing his full support for whistleblower
Oscar Shirani’s quality assurance allegations against the Holtec
storage/transport casks (handwritten notes by Oscar Shirani, mentioning
the devious manner in which Exelon Nuclear orchestrated his firing and
defending itself against his wrongful termination lawsuit. .
- Great Lakes United Resolution Against
Barge Shipments of High-Level Radioactive Waste on the Great Lakes.
- Class action lawsuit against Burlington
Northern Santa Fe Railroad Company regarding dangers of hazardous and
radioactive waste transportation, May, 2004.
- NIRS comments on the U.S. Department
of Energy’s “Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental
Impact Statement (EIS) for the Alignment, Construction, and Operation
of a Rail Line to a Geologic Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nye County,
Nevada” [Federal Register,Vol. 69, No. 68, Thursday, April
8, 2004, pages 18565 to 18569], submitted June 1, 2004.
- Fact sheet handed to U.S. Senators as they walked through the U.S. Capitol lobby on their way to vote urging them to sustain the State of Nevada’s veto of the high-level radioactive waste dump targeted at Yucca Mountain, July 9, 2002
- NIRS letter sent to U.S. Senators from Great Lakes states on the day of the vote to sustain or override Nevada’s veto against the Yucca Mountain dump, July 9, 2002. (see also Great Lakes United Resolution on Yucca Mountain. June 2002.)
- The 2002 Radioactive Roads & Rails Wagon Train Tour is Underway!
NIRS has a wagon train of mock nuclear waste casks touring proposed U. S. Dept. of Energy high level atomic waste tranportation routes across America targeted for sending shipments to the Yucca Mountain dump in Nevada-
Press Release. June 2002.
- Bush Administration Stops One Dirty Bomber, But Targets U.S. Cities With Largest Dirty Bomb Program In History. NIRS Press Release. June 11, 2002.
- NIRS action alert in opposition to Mobile Chernobyl shipments through Michigan. June 26, 2002
- What if the Potterville, Michigan Train Derailment Had Involved High-Level Nuclear Waste?: Detroit Edison's Highly Radioactive Fermi Nuclear Plant Waste Could Travel Grand Trunk Western Railway. NIRS Press Release. May 29, 2002
- Barge rams bridge in deadly Oklahoma interstate highway disaster. But what if high-level radioactive waste had been involved? May 26, 2002
- NIRS Fact Sheets: A Brief History of Irradiated Nuclear Fuel Shipments: Atomic Waste Transport “Incidents” and Accidents the Nuclear Power Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know About, May 16, 2002 and Hot Cargo!- Nuclear Waste Transportation
- NIRS letter to the U.S. House of Representatives urging that Nevada’s veto against the Yucca dump be sustained. April 30, 2002.
- Security Breach on Nuclear Waste Train. NC WARN Press Release. April 30, 2002.
- NIRS mock “Mobile Chernobyl” circled U.S. Capitol on 16th anniversary of Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe to protest impending vote in U.S. House of Representatives on
Yucca Mountain dump and risky atomic waste transportation. April 25, 2002
- When It Comes To Atomic Waste Transportation, We All Live In Nevada. March 4, 2002.
- Note on the Difficulty of Obtaining Nuclear Waste Transport Route Maps from DOE, January 23, 2002
- Radioactive Roads and Rails, Part II will take place during 2001. Current plans are to visit 10 states. June 18th 2001 Nuclear Waste Cask Tour!You can get involved in the tour! Download and sign (and get your friends to sign) this petition opposing use of Native American lands in Utah for high-level atomic waste storage!
- Five Initial Observations by Gorleben International Peace Team on the human rights situation in Wendland, Germany during the transport of high-level radioactive waste, November 17, 2001. NIRS’ Kevin Kamps served as a GIPT human rights monitor. (for more on past activities at German waste transports, check here)
- Gorleben International Peace Team (GIPT) press release, “The Peaceful Atom? International Team Observes Human Rights Violations during Radioactive Waste Shipment to Gorleben,” November 17, 2001. NIRS’ Kevin Kamps served as a GIPT human rights monitor during the police crackdown on resistance against the shipment of high-level radioactive waste to Gorleben, Germany.
- Press release: U.S. atomic waste transport train postponed for security reasons, October 25, 2001
- Despite new fear of terrorism, DOE railroads Mobile Chernobyl decision toward approval. NIRS article on the terrorist threat to high-level radioactive waste shipments, September 20, 2001
- Nuclear waste train headed through Illinois, (Courier Press, August 6, 2001)
- Kevin Kamps is quoted in the July 30, 2001 Issue of Newsweek.
- What If Baltimore Train Tunnel Fire Had Involved High-Level Nuclear Waste? Press Release. July 21, 2001
- Press Release - Mock Radioactive Waste Cask Tour at West Valley - Learn the Lessons of West Valley and Idaho National Labs- Funds for Cleanup-Not more nuclear waste!(July 6, 2001)
- Protest Against Dumping Nuclear Wastes on Native American Lands Held at University of Michigan, NIRS press release, October 26, 2000.
- “Expedited motion” filed by a coalition of concerned citizens, environmental organizations, and Native American/First Nation tribes against U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson regarding the “Parallex” shipment of experimental weapons-grade plutonium mixed oxide fuel from Los Alamos Nuclear Lab in New Mexico, through Michigan, to Chalk River Nuclear Lab, Ontario, Canada, March, 2000.
- NIRS sponsored “People’s Hearing on High-Level Radioactive Waste Transportation,” held at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, January 29, 2000.
- Why Yucca Mountain Will Fail as a Nuclear Waste Repository. NIRS fact sheet (written by Mary Olson, NIRS Southeast), January 10, 2000.
- Concerned Citizens Protest Plans to Transport High-Level Nuclear Waste Through Utah, NIRS press release, January 7, 2000.
- Why We Call It Mobile Chernobyl. NIRS fact sheet, January 2000.
On July 3, 2000, NIRS and Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Project launched the Radioactive Roads and Rails Tour through the Heartland of America. From July 3 through August 6 (Hiroshima Day), NIRS drove a full-size mock atomic waste cask from Michigan to the proposed permanent nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Traveling along highways that will experience tens of thousands of real such casks, if nuclear industry-sponsored "Mobile Chernobyl" legislation becomes law, the tour brought attention to the very real public health and safety risks of such transport--and the fact that Yucca Mountain is an scientifically-inappropriate site fora nuclear waste dump in the first place. The tour also stopped in Utah,where a number of private nuclear utilities want to build a "temporary" site for their own atomic waste. The utilities are more aware than anyone of just how hazardous this material is: that's why they will stop at nothing to move it out of their own backyards--where they are responsible for it--and on to the highways and railways to an inadequate site: where taxpayers may be liable for the consequences. A second tour was held in 2001, and Public Citizen held press conferences, rallies and other activities in numerous states. The initial tour diary is below, along with lots of background information on radioactive waste transportation.
Tour Press Release
Tour schedule (1st leg, July 3-August 6)
Press release for Indiana stop of tour
July 3-4, 2000
July 5-12, 2000
Final diary entry, August 1-4, 2000
Photos from the Radioactive Roads and Rails Tour
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:
- Year 2000 Las Vegas, Nevada ordinance making it illegal to ship high-level radioactive waste through the city
- Great Lakes United Resolution Against Barge Shipments of High-Level Radioactive Waste on the Great Lakes;
- Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, and the city of Santa Barbara, CA;
- Denver, CO;
- St. Louis (1996), St.Louis (2000), St. Louis County Council (2000) and City of Kirkwood, MO;
- Philadelphia(11/30/1995), Philadelphia(01/26/1995), Bucks County, and Falls Township, PA;
- Mt. Rainier, Takoma Park and Greenbelt, MD;
- Marshall and Anson Counties and the town of Wadesboro, NC;
- Decatur, GA;
- Amherst, MA;
- City of Mesquite, NV;
- Fishkill, NY (3/11/1996) and East Fishkill, NY (2/9/1996);
- Wappinger, NY
- United Transportation Union (2/25/1999) ;
- Gary, IN 6/1/1999
- Beacon, and City of Port Jervis, NY and more.
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.