Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs Reactors' Highly Radioactive Waste Could Travel Baltimore CSX Line
Baltimore, MD- According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), highly radioactive nuclear fuel rods could travel the same CSX railway that experienced the train tunnel fire in Baltimore on July 18th. The DOE's high-level nuclear waste transportation route maps were released in January, 2000 as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository at Yucca Mountain. Irradiated nuclear fuel from Constellation Energy Group's (formerly Baltimore Gas & Electric's) Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant located on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County, Maryland could be carried by heavy haul truck to the nearest CSX railhead at Chalk Point (about 67 miles from Baltimore), then transported by train through Baltimore.
The DOE route map for Maryland can be viewed on the Internet at: http://www.ymp.gov/timeline/eis/routes/routemaps.htm
The DOE map does not estimate how many containers of high-level nuclear waste would travel through Baltimore on the CSX. In a 1995 report, the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects identified the same railway through Baltimore as a potential high-level nuclear waste transport route from Calvert Cliffs' twin reactors. The 1995 Nevada report identified the rail route as belonging to Conrail: Conrail then merged with CSX in 1997. The Nevada study, High-Level Nuclear Waste Shipping Route Maps to Yucca Mountain and Shipment Number Estimates, reported that 180 rail casks from Calvert Cliffs could travel the CSX line through Baltimore and numerous States westward on its way to Yucca Mountain, Nevada. This map can be viewed on the Internet at http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/states/maryland.htm It is very disturbing to think what might have happened had high-level atomic waste been aboard the train that caught on fire in the Howard Street Tunnel, said Kevin Kamps, nuclear waste specialist at Nuclear Information & Resource Service. Each of the 180 rail containers of atomic waste from Calvert Cliffs could hold one hundred times the long-lasting radiation released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Irradiated nuclear fuel, even decades after removal from the reactor, can deliver a lethal dose of radiation in a few minutes time, Kamps said. The only thing standing between people and deadly radiation is the nuclear waste transport container, which can be breached and release radiation in a severe accident.
The Baltimore Sun has reported that the fire in the train tunnel reached temperatures as high as 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The fire, apparently fed by flammable chemicals in the train cargo, burned out of control all day long, overnight, and well into the next day. The inadequate U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission design criteria for high-level nuclear waste containers only calls for casks to be able to withstand a 1,475 degree fire for 30 minutes. Obviously, this real life accident in Baltimore surpassed the NRC's design criteria for containers that would hold deadly atomic waste. This outdated NRC criteria dates back to 1947, and hasn't been updated since, despite combustibles on the roads and rails today that burn at much higher temperatures. Calculations performed by Dr. Marvin Resnikoff of Radioactive Waste Management Associates in New York City show that a severe high-level radioactive waste transport accident releasing radiation in an urban area could cost tens or hundreds of billions of dollars to clean up and could cause 115 latent cancer fatalities. Dr. Resnikoff used the DOE's own computer models to arrive at these figures. In its Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement, the DOE identified different categories of economic impact — such as evacuation, decontamination, loss of business, and lingering stigma effects – but did not calculate dollar values for losses.
The Baltimore Sun quoted a firefighter as saying all he could see inside the tunnel was the glowing metal of train tanker cars. It was a deep orange, like a horseshoe just pulled out of the oven.
The big question is, could high-level atomic waste containers survive such severe accident conditions, said Kamps. If not, it could mean a Mobile Chernobyl catastrophe, with emergency responders and residents living downwind suffering the health damage and property loss."