Colorful full-size replicas of high-level nuclear waste truck casks (dumb-bell shaped cylinders, 20 feet long, 7 feet tall) on trailers, driving the actual routes all across America that are targeted by the U.S. Dept. of Energy for shipments to the proposed national dump at Yucca Mtn., Nevada.
Washington, D.C. — Like a Paul Revere ride of the Atomic Age, "Radioactive Roads and Rails" tours will kick-off in New England, Washington, D.C., the Midwest, the Southeast, the Southwest, and the Northwest on June 6th to warn Americans that "Atomic trains are coming! Atomic trucks are coming!" unless their U.S. Senators stop the "Mobile Chernobyl" in its tracks on Capitol Hill. Mock casks will travel along interstates targeted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as high-level atomic waste transport routes to Yucca Mountain, Nevada — the proposed national dump, up for a Senate vote in coming weeks. The educational tours are intended to raise awareness about the risks of radioactive waste transportation, as well as the unsuitability of the Yucca Mountain site. Three casks will converge at the St. Louis Arch on June 12th, then will join three more casks to convoy together to Washington, D.C. for an event on June 18th, before returning to their own regions of the country to continue the tour right up until the Senate vote, expected between late June and mid July.
"When it comes to nuclear waste transportation, we all live in Nevada," said Kevin Kamps of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, a tour organizer. According to a Feb. 2002 DOE report, Yucca Mountain road, rail, and barge routes crisscross 46 states and the District of Columbia.
"The main goal of these tours is to get citizens to phone, fax, write, and email their U.S. Senators urging them to vote against the Yucca Mountain dump," Kamps said.
"Comparing these high-level atomic waste shipments to the Hiroshima bomb gives an idea of just how much harmful radioactivity is inside," said Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, a nuclear physicist and adviser to NIRS, one of the groups organizing the tours. "Each truck cask would hold up to 40 times the long-lasting, deadly radiation that was released by the Hiroshima bomb; each train cask would hold up to 240 times what was released at Hiroshima."
"The government's regulations for nuclear waste shipping containers are woefully inadequate," said Kamps. "Real life accidents, such as the recent bridge collapse into the Arkansas River on I-40 in Oklahoma and last summer's train tunnel fire beneath downtown Baltimore, surpass cask design criteria and beg the question: What if nuclear waste had been involved?" Kamps said. Both those routes have been identified in DOE documents as potential high-level nuclear waste shipping routes to Yucca Mountain.
"These transport containers are vulnerable to terrorist attack," said Kamps. "Over 50,000 truck shipments, 3,000 barge shipments, or nearly 10,000 train shipments traveling through major cities within a half mile of 50 million Americans would represent catastrophic terrorist targets, dirty radiological bombs on wheels rolling right through our communities," Kamps said.
"For the Senate to approve shipping 77,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste through 46 states without addressing the terrorist threat beforehand is like playing radioactive Russian roulette on our country's roads, rails, and rivers," said Kamps.
"Nevada is not a wasteland," said Kalynda Tilges of Citizen Alert, a grassroots environmental group based in Las Vegas. "Nevadans have borne the brunt of radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons testing, and are adamantly opposed to becoming the country's nuclear sacrifice zone," Tilges said.
"President Bush lied to the people of Nevada when he promised during the 2000 campaign that as president he would not approve Yucca unless it could be proven scientifically safe," said John Hadder, science specialist at Citizen Alert.
Bush approved Yucca on Feb. 15th, despite a Dec. 2001 U.S. General Accounting Office report that cited 293 incomplete technical studies and a Jan. 2002 U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board report that DOE's scientific evidence supporting Yucca was "weak to moderate."
"In addition to the site's geologic unsuitability, Yucca Mountain belongs to the Western Shoshone Indian Nation according to the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley signed by the U.S. government," Kamps said. "Targeting Native American lands for radioactive waste dumps is blatant environmental racism," said Kamps.
"Since the waiting list to ship waste to Yucca would be 24 to 38 years long, high-level nuclear waste would remain on reactor sites across the U.S. for many decades into the future," said Kamps. "Besides, whatever gets shipped away would quickly be replaced by newly generated waste at operating reactors, wastes that would have to be stored on-site for a minimum five year cool down period. Energy Secretary Spence Abraham's argument that Yucca would consolidate America's nuclear waste at one site is false," Kamps.
On May 16, Abraham admitted that Yucca would not be large enough to accommodate all the nuclear waste that would be generated at US nuclear reactors in the years to come. In fact, DOE's acting director of the Yucca Mountain Project told a congressional committee in March that even if Yucca were to open and fill up, in the year 2036 there would still be nearly as much nuclear waste stored on site at reactors across the US as there is today.
A day by day schedule for the six casks' tours is available at www.nirs.org or by calling Kevin Kamps at Nuclear Information & Resource Service. Each cask tour crew has a cell phone and is available for on-the-road interviews. Reporters, photographers, and videographers are welcome to ride along with casks on legs of the journey.