WHAT IF HIGHLY RADIOACTIVE WASTE HAD BEEN INVOLVED?
A barge rammed a bridge support under Interstate-40 in Oklahoma on May 26, sending cars and trucks into the Arkansas River. Thirteen people died.
I-40 is targeted by the U.S. Department of Energy for 3,471 high-level radioactive waste truck shipments to the proposed national dumpsite at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. But the transport containers to be used are only designed to withstand 30 foot drops, not drops from a height of 75 feet like this bridge.
Other U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements for the casks are also woefully inadequate. A cask that has undergone a puncture “test” (a short drop from 3 feet 4 inches onto a 8 inch long steel spike) is required to withstand immersion under 3 feet of water for 8 hours. An undamaged cask must withstand submersion under 656 feet of water for 1 hour (if a cask were accidentally immersed under water, is it reasonable for NRC to assume no damage?).
But it took authorities not 1 hour or 8 hours but several days to reclaim submerged vehicles from the river after the bridge collapse. In addition, nuclear waste truck casks are extremely heavy – up to 25 tons, not including the weight of the truck – which would require special cranes to be brought in to lift them out of the river.
The dangers of nuclear waste cask submersion underwater are two fold. First, radioactivity could leak from the cask into the water. Given high-level wastes deadliness, leakage of even a fraction of a cask’s contents could spell unprecedented catastrophe. Second, enough fissile uranium-235 and plutonium is present in high-level atomic waste that water, with its neutron reflecting and moderating properties, could actually cause a nuclear chain reaction to take place within the cask. Such an inadvertent criticality event in Sept. 1999 at a nuclear fuel factory in Japan led to the deaths of two workers; many hundreds of nearby residents, including children, received radiation doses well above safety standards.
STOP THE ACCIDENT BEFORE IT HAPPENS!
URGE OK’S U.S. SENATORS TO OPPOSE “MOBILE CHERNOBYL” SHIPMENTS THROUGH YOUR STATE BY VOTING AGAINST SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION 34, THE IMMINENT YUCCA MOUNNTAIN BILL. CALL THEIR D.C. OFFICES VIA THE CAPITOL SWITCHBOARD (202.224.3121), OR CALL LOCALLY AT:
Sen. James Inhofe, Enid 580.234.5105, McAlester 918.426.0933, OK City 405.608.4381, Tulsa 918.748.5111.Sen. Don Nickles, Lawton 580.357.9878, OK City 405.231.4941, Ponca City 580.767.1270, Tulsa 918.581.7651.