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Supplemental Information

Marks the Spot: Supplemental Information

October 20, 2004

 

 

DOE downplays the risk from severe accidents and terrorist attacks

 

 

The Department of Energy and the state of Nevada have both conducted risk assessments to estimate the number of radiation-induced cancer deaths from accidents or sabotage of nuclear waste shipments. The predicted number of fatalities is quite different. DOE estimates 80 deaths from one year's exposure to radiation from a severe rail accident, whereas the state of Nevada estimates 450 to 2,900 latent cancer fatalities from a similar worst-case train wreck.

 

Neither of these estimates is "correct," but an assessment of the assumptions that underlie the calculations show that the Department of Energy consistently downplays the potential hazard of a nuclear waste radiation release by choosing data that is at the "low risk" end of the available science.

 

In their assessment of cancer deaths from a terrorist incident in an urban area, for example, DOE uses an outdated radiation potency number that assumes twice as much radiation is needed to cause a fatal cancer than more recent analyses by the National Academy of Sciences and others have shown. They also use one of the lowest available estimates of how much cesium gas would be released to the environment in a wreck (cesium gas is the most worrisome component of nuclear waste), and they assume that all waste shipped has been cooled for 15 years, but waste cooled for just 5 years, which is considerably more radioactive, will also be transported under their plan.

 

Some shortcomings apply to both assessments. Neither projects cancer deaths from an accident that happens near a school where children are disproportionately exposed. This is important because it takes only about one tenth the radiation to cause cancer if exposure occurs during childhood. And both analyses of terrorist attacks assume a hole in a nuclear waste shipment cask just 1.3 inches in diameter. A larger hole or a projectile that penetrates the cask in more than one place (entry and exit holes, or multiple explosives producing multiple holes) would release significantly more radiation.

 

Table 1: The Department of Energy Significantly Underestimates

Radiation Risks from a Transportation Incident

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assumptions

 

 

 

DOE [1]

 

 

 

Nevada [2]

 

 

 

Exposure Time

 

 

 

Estimates of lethal cancers assume people are exposed

to nuclear waste radiation for one year.

 

 

 

Calculates dose and cancer fatalities for 24-hour, 1-year

and 50-year periods of exposure.

 

 

 

Latent Cancer Fatalities (LCFs) per

Person-Rem of exposure

 

 

 

Assumes 2000 person-rems of exposure needed to produce

one lifetime cancer fatality. Does not account for the increased sensitivity

of children, who may need only 50 person-rems to contract cancer.

 

 

 

Assumes a range of 313 to 2000 person-rems of exposure

are needed to produce one lifetime cancer fatality, based on studies of

Hanford workers and Japanese bomb survivors.

 

 

 

Release Fraction: Cesium in

Fuel-Clad Gap

 

 

 

Assumes that 0.3% of cask inventory of cesium will be

released. This value, which determines the amount of cesium particulates

released to the air, is lower than those reported in most other studies

 

 

 

Assumes that 9.9% of the cask inventory of cesium will

be released, based on actual measured values of cesium by Gray and Wilson.

This value is less than values reported by Oak Ridge National Lab (20%)

and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (10-27%).

 

 

 

Damage to Cask

 

 

 

Assumes seal failure for Category 5 incident and puncture

for Category 6 incident.

 

 

 

Assumes seal failure for Category 5 incident and puncture

for Category 6 incident.

 

 

 

Contribution of

Non-Respirable Particulates to first responders

 

 

 

Assumes zero exposure from these particulates which

potentially understates first responder exposure significantly.

 

 

 

Assu

mes zero exposure but recognizes that this produces

an underestimate of dose to first-responders.

 

 

 

Cooling Time

 

 

 

Uses cooling time of 15 years after removal from reactor

to represent “average hazard” fuel. Cooling times of as little

as 5 years are permitted. Shorter cooling times mean higher radioactivity.

 

 

 

Uses 5-year cooling time to represent possibility of

shipment containing greater inventory of Cesium-137 particulates.

 

 

 

Meteorological conditions

 

 

 

Uses nationally averaged meteorological conditions.

 

 

 

Uses Nevada-specific average meteorological conditions.

 

 

 

Lifetime cancer deaths for accident

involving breach of cask in urban environment

 

 

 

One year of exposure:

Truck Cask - 4

Rail Cask - 80

 

 

 

24-hour exposure:

 

Truck Cask 0-3

Rail Cask 13-444

 

1-year exposure:

Truck Cask 15-94

Rail Cask 458-2931

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

1 - From Dept. of Energy, Final Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada (2002), unless otherwise noted.

 

 

2 - From Resnikoff et al., Worst Case Credible Nuclear Transportation Accidents: Analysis for Urban and Rural Nevada (2001), unless otherwise noted.

 

 

 

 

Table 2: The Department of Energy Significantly Underestimates

Radiation Risks from a Terrorist Incident


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assumptions

 

 

 

DOE

 

 

 

Nevada

 

 

 

 

Population Density

 

 

 

Uses average 1990 population densities

for 21 U.S. cities. This significantly underestimates the population during

the 38 years of the project 2010-2048.

 

 

 

Uses projected population densities

for year 2035.

 

 

 

Exposure Time

 

 

 

Estimates of lethal cancers assume people

are exposed to nuclear waste radiation for one year.

 

 

 

 

Estimates of lethal cancers assume people

are exposed to nuclear waste radiation for one year.

 

 

 

Latent Cancer Fatalities (LCFs) per

Person-Rem of exposure

 

 

 

Assumes 2000 person-rems of exposure

needed to produce one lifetime cancer fatality. Does not account for

the

increased sensitivity of children, who may need only 50 person-rems to

contract cancer.

 

 

 

Assumes 1000 person-rems of exposure

needed to produce one lifetime cancer fatality, based on recent work of

the National Academy of Sciences, Gofman, and Pierce et al. Does not account

for the increased sensitivity of children who may need only 50 person-rems

to contract cancer

 

 

 

 

 

Release Fraction: Cesium in Fuel-Clad

Gap

 

 

 

Assumes that 0.3% of cask inventory

of cesium will be released. This value, which determines the amount of

cesium particulates released to the air, is lower than those reported

in most other studies.

 

 

 

Assumes that 9.9% of the cask inventory

of cesium will be released, based on actual measured values of cesium

by Gray and Wilson. This value is less than values reported by Oak Ridge

National Lab (20%) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (10-27%).

 

 

 

Damage to Shipping Cask

 

 

 

Assumes full wall penetration, one wall,

1.3 inch hole.

 

 

 

Include scenarios for one and two wall

penetration, 1.3 inch hole.

 

 

 

Contribution of Non-Respirable Particulates

(e.g. Plutonium, Americium)

 

 

 

Assumes zero exposure from these particulates

which potentially understates first responder exposure significantly.

 

 

 

Assumes zero exposure but recognizes

that this produces an underestimate of dose to first-responders.

 

 

 

Release Height

 

 

 

Assumes 1-meter release height for both

rail and truck casks.

 

 

 

Uses more realistic values of 1.5 m

release height for truck casks, 2.1 release height for rail casks. This

low

ers estimated doses to exposed individuals.

 

 

 

Cooling Time

 

 

 

Uses cooling time of 15 years after

removal from reactor to represent “average hazard” fuel. Cooling

times of as little as 5 years are permitted. Shorter cooling times mean

higher radioactivity.

 

 

 

Uses 10-year cooling time to represent

possibility of shipment containing greater inventory of Cesium-137 particulates.

 

 

 

Meteorological conditions

 

 

 

Assumes average U.S. meteorological

conditions

 

 

 

Estimates both worst-case U.S. meteorological

conditions (95th percentile) and national average conditions.

 

 

 

Latent cancer deaths for truck sabotage

scenario – one year exposure

 

 

 

 

ss="tablebody" align="center">One year exposure:

One wall penetration 48

Two wall penetration: Not available

 

 

 

One year exposure:

One wall penetration: 1,820

Two wall penetration: 18,200

 

 

 

Selected Elements of High-Level Radioactive Waste

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Radionuclide

 

 

 

Half-Life (yrs)

 

 

 

Particle/Photon Type

 

 

 

Comparisons

 

 

 

Primary Health Risk

 

 

 

Properties

 

 

 

Krypton-85

 

 

 

10.7

 

 

 

Beta, Gamma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lung cancer from inhalation of radioactive gas

 

 

 

Krypton-85 is a radioactive gas. In a severe transportation

incident, it would be released into the atmosphere and inhaled by those

under the radioactive plume. It is estimated that within about 1-1/2 minutes,

a plume of Krypton-85 gas and Cesium particles would cause those within

a building 1/4 mile away to inhale 14,500 millirem of radiation, or about

1450 times the amount received during a normal chest x-ray. [2]

 

 

 

Cesium-137

 

 

 

30

 

 

 

Beta, Gamma

 

 

 

Each rail shipment could contain as much as 240 times

the Cesium released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb

 

 

 

Lung cancer from inhalation of radioactive particles

 

 

 

Cesium is a member of a very reactive group of metals

called alkali metals. Cesium burns spontaneously in air, and will explode

when exposed to water. In a severe transportation incident, isotopes of

Cesium would create a plume of radioactive particulates that would be

inhaled and ingested by those in the vicinity. In the body, Cesium compounds

collect in the gonads, breast milk and muscle tissue. Following an incident,

cesium particulates would also settle to the earth and expose residents

and cleanup personnel to external gamma radiation. The estimated dose

from inhalation of radiactive Cesium and Krypton gas, during the roughly

40-second interval during which a radioactive cloud would pass through

a neighborhood 1/4 mile away from the incident, would be 14,500 millirem,

or about 1450 times the amount received during a normal chest x-ray. As

a result of the Cesium particles' settling to the ground, the external

gamma dose would add an additional 2772 millirem per day of exposure,

or about 277 chest x-rays per day. [2]

 

 

 

Plutonium-241

 

 

 

14

 

 

 

Alpha, Beta, Gamma

 

 

 

One rail shipment contains three times the plutonium

released as fallout from all atmospheric nuclear bomb tests - worldwide

- combined.

 

 

 

Leukemia from gamma radiation, and lung cancer from

inhalation of alpha emitters.

 

 

 

Plutonium is a transuranic radionuclide, which includes

those radionuclides whose atomic number is greater than that of uranium

(92). In terms of both quantity and degree of radioactivity, plutonium

is one of the most significant radionuclides that will be present in shipments

of radioactive waste. [4] In the case of a transportation incident involving

an explosion, plutonium particulates

would enter the air and potentially

be inhaled by first-responders. [2] Plutonium oxides are insoluble, and

are thus not quickly expelled from the lung. As alpha-emitters, plutonium

nuclides are particarly damaging to the lung, and are known to cause lung

cancer. [1]

 

 

 

Americium-241

 

 

 

430

 

 

 

Alpha, Gamma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leukemia and cancer caused by external gamma exposure,

especially to first-responders

 

 

 

Like Plutonium, Americium is a transuranic radionuclide

that decays by alpha particle emission. Americium also emits gamma rays

across a wide range of energies and intensities. [3] In a transportation

accident, gamma rays from Americium would penetrate virtually every type

of shielding and expose responders to high levels of external gamma radiation.

Americium would also present a risk of exposure as a result of inhaled

and ingested alpha-emitting particles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] John W. Gofman, M.D., Radiation and Human Health

(1981)

 

[2] Marvin Resnikoff, Ph.D., et al., Worst Case Credible

Nuclear Accidents: Analysis for Urban and Rural Nevada (2001)

 

[3] Brookhaven National Laboratory, Table of Nuclides,http://www2.bnl.gov/ton/index.html

(2002)

 

[4] Dept. of Energy, Envtl. Impact Statement for a

Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel & High-Level

Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, NV, App. A (2002)

 

 

 

 

 

Will Terrorists Target Nuclear Waste Shipments?

 

 

 

Within hours of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham issued three orders: shut down all nuclear power plants, ensure the security of nuclear fuel supplies, and stop all shipments of nuclear material. Nuclear power plants were soon allowed to resume operation, but Abraham said the transport of nuclear fuel and waste would remain halted until further announcement. [1]

 

A public announcement was never made. But sometime in the days after Sept. 11, the Department of Energy (DOE) allowed nuclear fuel and waste shipments to resume, only to again suspend them for fear of terrorist reprisals after the start of U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan. And on Oct. 17, about five weeks after the attacks, DOE canceled a scheduled rail shipment of spent nuclear fuel from New York to Idaho for reasons described as “in the best interest” of the country. [2]

 

At first, DOE did not make public the decision to cancel the shipment, then hotly denied it had anything to do with post-9/11 security. But many Americans living along the shipment route fear the government was trying to cover up the inherently high risks of nuclear transport in an age of terrorism. An Iowa man, referring to the casks used to carry the waste, said: “[T]here are people loose out there who can shoot holes in these things.”

 

Now DOE is asking America to believe that not just one cross-country shipment of nuclear waste would be safe from terrorists, but that shipping 77,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste through 45 states to Yucca Mountain over the next 40 years would not increase the likelihood of sabotage or attack. Why is it now in the best interest of the country to put thousands of poorly protected “mobile Chernobyls” on the nation’s main highways and rail lines?

 

DOE’s argument defies common sense. It ignores the facts about the known capabilities of the weapons readily available to terrorists on the international black market, and the documented vulnerabilites of the nuclear waste transport casks. What’s more, the most recent analyses by DOE and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of the terrorist threat to nuclear waste shipments are more than 20 years old. In calculating the harm of a radiation release, they significantly underestimate the health effects on front-line emergency personnel and completely ignore the increased risks to vulnerable populations including children, pregnant or nursing women, and the elderly. Simply put, America is not adequately prepared for a terrorist attack on a shipment of nuclear waste.

 

A study by the State of Nevada says the casks likely to be used at first for shipping the waste are shielded by less than five inches of stainless steel and depleted uranium. The next generation of cask designs have six to 11 inches of steel and either lead or depleted uranium. According to Wayne Hodges, NRC Deputy Director of Technical Review for Spent Nuclear Fuel: “These things are pretty strong. But you could always come up with a weapon that can put a hole in it.”

 

Indeed, terrorists could conceivably obtain any of dozens of powerful and portable anti-tank weapons. Portable anti-tank weapons have become more powerful, more reliable, and more available worldwide since the early 1980s. Many of these weapons are capable of penetrating 20 to 40 inches of armor plate steel. Commercial shaped charges and detonation systems developed for applications in the construction and petroleum industries are also widely available. Numerous military and commercial shaped explosive charges weighing around two pounds are capable of penetrating 10 to 20 inches of steel.

 

One of the best known anti-tank weapons, the Milan missile, can penetrate 40 inches of armor, weighs less than 75 pounds, and is effective at distances up to 1.25 miles. Tens of thousands of Milan missiles have been produced and are in use by a number of European, Middle Eastern, and Asian armies.

 

Terrorists might obtain a TOW missile and a standard TOW tripod launcher or truck launcher. The TOW anti-tank missile was introduced for service in the U.S. Army in 1970. Current versions are capable of penetrating more than 30 inches of armor at a maximum range of 1.8 miles. It can be fired by infantrymen using a tripod, as well from vehicles and helicopters, and can launch three missiles in 90 seconds. The TOW is the most widely distributed anti-tank guided missile in the world with over 500,000 built and in service in the U.S. and 36 other countries.

 

At many gun shows, terrorists could obtain two or three smaller, cheaper, and easier-to-handle shoulder-carried missiles to disable the truck cab and the guard vehicles, if any. (DOE maintains that even in densely populated areas, it is not required to put armed guards in a separate vehicle behind the waste shipment.) Neither the shipment nor guard vehicles have any serious armor. Once those vehicles are captured, the cask isn’t going anywhere, leaving it vulnerable to a more focused assault by shaped charge explosives.

 

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, in just four years (1989-93) there were 167 thefts of such military explosives reported. But terrorists wouldn’t require access to stolen military firepower. Compared to military missiles, industrial explosives are smaller (making them easier to move, conceal and mount), are not subject to the same level of scrutiny or licensing as most military ordnance, and are much cheaper. Terrorists could obtain a pipe-penetrating industrial explosive commercially available in many states without need of a permit or subject to any tracking. Detonating charges on each side of the cask would hit the nuclear cargo in two places, possibly not just penetrating the cask but perforating it all the way through.

 

The blown-open casks would become “dirty bombs” – radioactive materials spread by a conventional explosive. The aim of dirty bombs is not so much the instantaneous death of thousands of people, but rather to kill smaller numbers and terrorize a large population with fear about the radiation, which would contaminate the area for decades if not cleaned up – what nuclear physicst Friedrich Steinhausler calls “weapons of mass disturbance.” After Sept. 11, Jim Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board in the Clinton Administration, said “One of the things that immediately got my attention . . . is the potential of each one of these (nuclear transport) casks to be a dirty bomb.”

 

“It would be irresponsible,” Hall said, “not to know in advance what would happen if someone were as lucky as the terrorists were on 9/11 to be able to hit one of these casks with a missile. We need to know that before we put one in somebody’s community or neighborhood.”

 

If the nuclear waste cask were pierced by a conventional bomb, the radioactive material could spread as a dust and could fall on a wide area. A Nevada-sponsored study concluded that an attack on a truck cask using a common military demolition device could cause 300 to 1,800 latent cancer fatalities, assuming 90 percent penetration by a single blast. Full perforation of the cask, likely to occur in an attack involving a state-of-the-art anti-tank weapon or multiple shaped charges, could cause 3,000 to 18,000 latent cancer fatalities. Cleanup and recovery costs would exceed $10 billion.

 

 

Have there been any incidents involving past shipments of high-level nuclear waste?

 

 

The safety record on past shipments of high level nuclear waste is mixed at best. While no disasters have yet occurred in the U.S., there have been many foul-ups and accidents that make it clear that the incident rate will skyrocket if the annual shipment rate increases 27 fold, as proposed.

 

LINK: Brief descriptions of the 72 documented incidents involving nuclear waste shipments from 1979 through 1996

 

 

In the past 18 months there have been three major foul–ups involving the transport of nuclear waste.

 

 

November 21, 2000 – Shortly before Thanksgiving weekend, the very first shipment of waste bound for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico went awry. This shipment, originating in Idaho, had been highly touted as a model by the Department of Energy due to the use of a new satellite tracking system designed to monitor the truck, yet in an embarrassing moment for the Energy Department, the truck missed a key turn and traveled 27 miles in the wrong direction before being discovered, not by the satellite patrol team, but by a local police dispatcher monitoring the truck for the State. The dispatcher hurriedly sent a single cruiser out to chase down the truck and turn it around. The shipment of three casks containing plutonium-contaminated (radioactive) waste on a single tractor trailer truck, was headed straight for downtown Albuquerque on Interstate 25, which was undergoing a massive reconstruction project at the time. The public didn’t learn of this incident until a full week later, when an Associated Press reporter received a tip about the mishap. (Albuquerque Tribune, 11/28/00, New Mexico Current-Argus 12/2/00, also The Santa Fe New Mexican, December 1, 2000)

 

June 28, 2000 – After months of extensive planning and coordination between state and federal officials, a convoy of three trucks carrying highly radioactive waste that originated in Germany, arrived at the Illinois/Missouri border on I-64 at the beginning of the afternoon rush hour. The governor of Missouri, Bob Holden, had been promised by the Energy Department in writing that any shipments of radioactive waste through the state would comply with three simple rules: avoid rush hour traffic, avoid major public events, and designate parking stops along the route carefully. When the convoy actually arrived, none of the three conditions were met. Not only had the convoy arrived at the beginning of rush hour, if it had not been stopped it would have passed by Kauffman Stadium where the Kansas City Royals were playing the Detroit Tigers in front of a crowd of 15,207. No safe stopping places were designated despite the agreement with the Energy Department. The governor stopped the convoy at the border, where it sat for five hours before proceeding along the route. Ultimately, the convoy traveled through severe thunderstorms with winds over 50 mph that dumped four inches of rain on the area. (St. Louis Post Dispatch 11/1/01)

 

December 29, 2001 – A drum mistakenly thought to contain low level waste was sent from Sweden to New Orleans via Paris and Memphis on regular Federal Express trucks and airplanes. The drum was known to contain radioactive waste, but only after arrival and storage in New Orleans were the 1000 radioactive iridium-192 pellets inside it discovered to be far more radioactive than originally thought. For much of the trip, the carrier was Federal Express, and workers took no special precautions to handle the cargo. When the recipient (Source Production and Equipment Co. Inc.) arrived at the Fed Ex warehouse and conducted a routine radiation check, the meter went off the scale, registering potentially lethal levels of radiation. According to Ulf Baeverstam, deputy director of the Swedish radiation protection authority SSI, in Nucleonics Week 10 January, "If you were at a distance of one meter, you would get a fatal dose in a short time." A Fed Ex employee estimated that about 60 people could have been in contact with the container. (Nuclear Monitor, January 11, 2002, http://nirs.org)

 

LINK: More stories about radioactive waste shipment incidents

 

 

 

Other incidents where detailed information is not readily available are:

 

 

December 14, 1995 – In North Carolina, a train carrying empty casks derailed. The casks were not damaged. (Department of Energy)

 

January 9, 1988 – In Nebraska, a train carrying an empty cask derailed. The cask was not damaged. (Department of Energy)

 

March 24, 1987 – In St. Louis, a train carrying two casks of Three Mile Island reactor core debris collided with a car at a railroad crossing. The cask was not damaged, and no material leaked. (http://cnie.org/NLE/CRSreports/energy/eng-34.cfm, and Department of Energy)

 

December 9, 1983 - A trailer carrying a spent fuel cask containing seven fuel assemblies separated from the tractor hauling it. When the electrical and air lines were disconnected suddenly, the brakes on the trailer locked, bringing the trailer and cask to a rapid stop on the highway. There was no damage to the cask and no release of radiation. (http://ntl.bts.gov/data/OTA/8636/863603.pdf - size 1917.9K - U.S. Department of Transportation paper “Transportation of Hazardous Materials” pg. 107)

 

August 3, 1978 – An empty cask being loaded onto a trailer broke through the trailer bed, causing minor damage to the impact limiter (the shock absorber on the end of the cask) and the cask base plate. No radioactive material was leaked. (http://ntl.bts.gov/data/OTA/8636/863603.pdf - size 1917.9K - U.S. Department of Transportation paper “Transportation of Hazardous Materials” pg. 107)

 

February 9, 1978 – Shortly after leaving its point of origin, a trailer c

arrying a cask containing six fuel elements, buckled from the weight. The c

ask was not damaged and there was no leaked material. (http://ntl.bts.gov/data/OTA/8636/863603.pdf - size 1917.9K - U.S. Department of Transportation paper “Transportation of Hazardous Materials” pg. 107)

 

March 29, 1974 – In a North Carolina rail yard, a train derailed and struck another train carrying an empty cask designed to carry nuclear fuel. Damage to the cask was minor. (Department of Energy)

 

December 8, 1971 – A tractor trailer rig carrying a spent fuel cask with one fuel element in a rainstorm left the highway to avoid a head-on collision. The truck rolled over and the cask was thrown off. The driver died of injuries. The cask sustained some damage but did not leak any of its contents. (http://ntl.bts.gov/data/OTA/8636/863603.pdf - size 1917.9K - U.S. Department of Transportation paper “Transportation of Hazardous Materials”)

 

The Department of Energy Significantly Underestimates

 

Radiation Risks from a Transportation Incident

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assumptions

 

 

 

DOE

 

 

 

Nevada

 

 

 

Population Density

 

 

 

Uses average 1990 population densities for 21 U.S. cities.

This significantly underestimates the population during the 38 years of

the project 2010-2048.

 

 

 

Uses year 2000 census data for Las Vegas.

 

 

 

Exposure Time

 

 

 

Estimates of lethal cancers assume people are exposed

to nuclear waste radiation for one year.

 

 

 

Calculates dose and cancer fatalities for 24-hour, 1-year

and 50-year periods of exposure.

 

 

 

Latent Cancer Fatalities (LCFs) per

Person-Rem of exposure

 

 

 

Assumes 2000 person-rems of exposure needed to produce

one lifetime cancer fatality. Does not account for the increased sensitivity

of children, who may need only 50 person-rems to contract cancer.

 

 

 

Assumes a range of 313 to 2000 person-rems of exposure

are needed to produce one lifetime cancer fatality, based on studies of

Hanford workers and Japanese bomb survivors.

 

 

 

Release Fraction: Cesium in

Fuel-Clad Gap

 

 

 

Assumes that 0.3% of cask inventory of cesium will be

released. This value, which determines the amount of cesium particulates

released to the air, is lower than those reported in most other studies

 

 

 

Assumes that 9.9% of the cask inventory of cesium will

be released, based on actual measured values of cesium by Gray and Wilson.

This value is less than values reported by Oak Ridge National Lab (20%)

and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (10-27%).

 

 

 

Damage to Cask

 

 

 

Assumes seal failure for Category 5 incident and puncture

for Category 6 incident.

 

 

 

Assumes seal failure for Category 5 incident and puncture

for Category 6 incident.

 

 

 

Contribution of

Non-Respirable Particulates to first responders

 

 

 

Assumes zero exposure from these particulates which

potentially understates first responder exposure significantly.

 

 

 

Assumes zero exposure but recognizes that this produces

an underestimate of dose to first-responders.

 

 

 

Cooling Time

 

 

 

Uses cooling time of 15 years after removal from reactor

to represent “average hazard” fuel. Cooling times of as little

as 5 years are permitted. Shorter cooling times mean higher radioactivity.

 

 

 

Uses 5-year cooling time to represent possibility of

shipment containing greater inventory of Cesium-137 particulates.

 

 

 

Meteorological conditions

 

 

 

Uses nationally averaged meteorological conditions.

 

 

 

Uses Nevada-specific average meteorological conditions.

 

 

 

Lifetime cancer deaths for accident

involving breach of cask in urban environment

 

 

 

One year of exposure:

Truck Cask 5

Rail Cask 31

 

 

 

24-hour exposure:

Truck Cask 0-3

Rail Cask 13-444

 

1-year exposure:

Truck Cask 15-94

Rail Cask 458-2931

 

 

 

The Department of Energy Significantly Underestimates

 

Radiation Risks from a Terrorist Incident


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assumptions

 

 

 

DOE

 

 

 

Nevada

 

 

 

Population Density

 

 

 

Uses average 1990 population densities

for 21 U.S. cities. This significantly underestimates the population during

the 38 years of the project 2010-2048.

 

 

 

Uses projected population densities

for year 2035.

 

 

 

Exposure Time

 

 

 

Estimates of lethal cancers assume people

are exposed to nuclear waste radiation for one year.

 

 

 

 

Estimates of lethal cancers assume people

are exposed to nuclear waste radiation for one year.

 

 

 

Latent Cancer Fatalities (LCFs) per

Person-Rem of exposure

 

 

 

Assumes 2000 person-rems of exposure

needed to produce one lifetime cancer fatality. Does not account for the

increased sensitivity of children, who may need only 50 person-rems to

contract cancer.

 

 

 

Assumes 1000 person-rems of exposure

needed to produce one lifetime cancer fatality, based on recent work of

the National Academy of Sciences, Gofman, and Pierce et al. Does not account

for the increased sensitivity of children who may need only 50 person-rems

to contract cancer

 

 

 

 

 

Release Fraction: Cesium in Fuel-Clad

Gap

 

 

 

Assumes that 0.3% of cask inventory

of cesium will be released. This value, which determines the amount of

cesium particulates released to the air, is lower than those reported

in most other studies.

 

 

 

Assumes that 9.9% of the cask inventory

of cesium will be released, based on actual measured values of cesium

by Gray and Wilson. This value is less than values reported by Oak Ridge

National Lab (20%) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (10-27%).

 

 

 

Damage to Shipping Cask

 

 

 

Assumes full wall penetration, one wall,

1.3 inch hole.

 

 

 

Include scenarios for one and two wall

penetration, 1.3 inch hole.

 

 

 

Contribution of Non-Respirable Particulates

(e.g. Plutonium, Americium)

 

 

 

Assumes zero exposure from these particulates

which potentially understates first responder exposure significantly.

 

 

 

Assumes zero exposure but recognizes

that this produces an underestimate of dose to first-responders.

 

 

 

Release Height

 

 

 

Assumes 1-meter release height for both

rail and truck casks.

 

 

 

Uses more realistic values of 1.5 m

release height for truck casks, 2.1 release height for rail casks. This

lowers estimated doses to exposed individuals.

 

 

 

Cooling Time

 

 

 

Uses cooling time of 15 years after

removal from reactor to represent “average hazard” fuel. Cooling

times of as little as 5 years are permitted. Shorter cooling times mean

higher radioactivity.

 

 

 

Uses 10-year cooling time to represent

possibility of shipment containing greater inventory of Cesium-137 particulates.

 

 

 

Meteorological conditions

 

 

 

Assumes average U.S. meteorological

conditions

 

 

 

Estimates both worst-case U.S. meteorological

conditions (95th percentile) and national average conditions.

 

 

 

Latent cancer deaths for truck sabotage

scenario – one year exposure

 

 

 

One year exposure:

One wall penetration 48

Two wall penetration: Not available

 

 

 

One year exposure:

One wall penetration: 1,820

Two wall penetration: 18,200

 

 

 

 

 

Terror Warning Issued for Rail, Transit

 

 

By Deborah Charles

Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (May 23) - The Department of Transportation has issued a warning about possible attacks on rail and transit systems across the country, law enforcement officials said on Thursday.

 

The department’s warning was sent out on Wednesday and was based on unconfirmed and uncorroborated information, one law enforcement official said.

 

"It involves rail and transit systems ... and is about possible attacks," he said.

 

The Department of Transportation consulted the FBI before issuing the warning, but the FBI did not put out a matching alert or advisory to law enforcement officials across the country, the official said.

 

He did not have details on how many cities’ transit systems were being put on alert.

 

Transportation Department spokesman Chet Lunner said that although the general threat was made against subway systems and no particular cities were targeted, the department decided to expand its advisory to include rail systems across the country as well.

 

The department is not advising the rail and transit systems to take any special precautions as part of its warning other than to maintain heightened awareness, Lunner said.

 

This is the latest of a series of warnings eight months after hijacked airplanes slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, killing about 3,000 people.

 

Over the past week, a host of top U.S. officials have issued a series of warnings of possible fresh attacks on the United States.

 

Vice President Dick Cheney warned over the weekend about the probability that extremists could launch fresh attacks. FBI Director Robert Mueller said on Monday another attack was "inevitable," and told President George W. Bush this week that it would be difficult to stop another attack.

 

Officials said there has been a lot of intelligence coming in over the past few weeks warning of a possible attack, but they said it varied in terms of specificity and reliability.

 

The FBI already warned this week of possible general threats against landmarks in New York City, including the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge.

 

The United States blames Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network for the Sept. 11 attacks, and a detained member of bin Laden’s inner circle has been the source of many of the recent warnings.

 

Senior al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah, who was captured in Pakistan in March, has provided information recently that has led to alerts about possible threats to the landmarks in New York, apartment buildings, banks in northeastern U.S. states, supermarkets and shopping malls.

 

Officials acknowledge Zubaydah may not be telling the whole truth, but officials are erring on the sign of caution as they issue warnings.

 

The law enforcement official did not know the source of the information for the warning on transit and rail systems.

 

But another U.S. official said it was not believed to be linked to Zubaydah.

 

05/23/02 22:36 ET

 

 

 

 

What exactly are Alpha and Beta particles?

 

 

Alpha particles are high energy, large subatomic structures. They can’t travel very far and can be stopped by a piece of paper or skin. However, alpha particles hit hard and can do a great deal of damage to the cells they rip through. Plutonium is an alpha emitter. Once inhaled, ingested or otherwise taken inside the body (as through a cut in the skin or through the lungs), they have the power to tear through cells in organs or blood, releasing their energy to surrounding tissue and leaving extensive damage in their wake. A single track of a single alpha particle can deliver a large dose of radiation to a cell. Other alpha emitters include radon gas, uranium, and americium.

 

Beta particles are electrons. They are a fraction of the size of alpha particles, can travel farther and are more penetrating. Betas pose a risk both outside and inside the body, depending on their energy level. External exposure can result in beta penetration through the surface to the most sensitive layers of skin. Inhalation or ingestion of a beta-emitting radionuclide poses the greatest risk. Externally, a half-inch of Plexiglas or water shielding can generally stop a beta. Strontium-90 and tritium are two beta-emitting radionuclides routinely released from nuclear power reactors during normal operation. Our bodies often mistake strontium-90 for calcium, collecting it in our bones that make our new blood cells. Once there, it increases our risk of bone and blood cancers like leukemia. Every one of us has strontium-90 in our bodies as a result of nuclear bomb testing. Tritium is radioactive hydrogen, which binds where normal hydrogen does. Hydrogen is the most abundant element on the earth, and is a component of water, which cushions our genetic material (DNA). Tritium can bond in this water, irradiating our DNA at very close range.

 

Gamma rays are the most penetrating type of radiation and can be stopped only by thick lead blocking their path. Cesium-137 is a gamma emitter often released from nuclear reactors. It is a major component of the spent nuclear fuel that is proposed to travel to Yucca Mountain. Cesium – 137 mimics potassium, collecting in muscle. Iodine-131and Iodine-129 are also gamma-emitters released through bomb testing and at nuclear reactors. Radioactive iodines collect in the thyroid gland, emitting both beta and gamma ionizing radiation to the surrounding tissue.

 

X-rays are much like gamma rays except they are most often generated electrically by a machine (rather than a radionuclide), usually for medical diagnostic procedures. X-rays also require lead shielding. When generated by medical equipment, their production does not create nuclear waste.

 

Half lives and Decay Chains

 

 

Different radionuclides have different half-lives. Half-life is the time it takes for one-half of a radioactive element to decay the next step toward stability. Some radionuclides decay to a stable element in a single step. For others, like uranium, the movement toward stability may be a long, complex process. Uranium-238 has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, about the age of the Earth. All told, it has 17 decay steps before reaching a final, stable form of lead. Half-lives can range from fractions of seconds (Polonium-214, .00016 seconds), to days (Iodine-131, 8.04 days) to decades (Cesium-137, 30 years), to billions of years (Uranium-238, 4.5 billion years). A radionuclide may also decay to another radioactive element that has a longer half-life and is more biologically active than the original radionuclide. For instance, xenon-135 (9-hour half-life) decays to cesium-135 with a half-life of 3 million years. Cesium mimics potassium and collects in muscle in the body. Xenon-135 is released regularly by nuclear reactors.

 

Some radioactive atoms give off more than one type of radiation. For instance, radium, which humans collect and concentrate from an ore called pitchblende, gives off gamma and alpha radiation. Shortly after the Curies (research physicists in France) discovered radium, when its harmful effects were not known or believed, it was widely used, especially among the wealthy. Exposure to radium, ingested in water, painted on watch faces and carried in pockets, caused many debilitating illnesses and excruciating deaths. Marie Curie died of aplastic anemia (leukemia) most likely caused from her exposure to radium through the extraction process she used to concentrate it. To this day, her notebooks are dangerously radioactive.

 

Nuclear power, bomb production and weapons testing have created and released man-made radioactive elements (radionuclides) that were previously unknown in the environment. Naturally radioactive elements like uranium and thorium have also been released to the environment and natural systems through mining and industrial processes. These substances were, with few exceptions, geologically isolated from the environment under layers of shale and quartz before human beings dug them up by the ton and contaminated the biosphere.

 

Adapted from NIRS Fact Sheet

 

 

Errant nuke truck is silly-sign reminder

 

 

The Santa Fe New Mexican, December 1, 2000

 

Once again, someone has taken a wrong turn on a New Mexico road.

 

This time, the errant driver was at the wheel of a radioactive-trash truck, on the way to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant down near Carlsbad. Instead of turning south on U.S. 285, the truck stayed on Interstate 25 and was 27 miles toward Albuquerque when the folks minding the WIPP system’s tracking computers noticed anything was amiss and dispatchers ordered the truck back on track. Not that the special TruPact rigs pose half the hazard of chemical-tank trucks careening along America’s freeways. Still, for the sake of those made nervous by low-level contamination, WIPP’s promoters have made a big deal of waste-shipment safety -- so last week’s foul-up, besides demonstrating that the system works, mas o menos, also showed that it isn’t goof-proof. Presumably, the contractors in charge have taken steps necessary to put the public’s mind at ease.

 

The incident, however, serves as a reminder of an ongoing, long-ignored problem: inadequate road signs.

 

The WIPP project has served to focus New Mexicans’ attention on confusing signage. From the I-25 interchange with the WIPP Bypass -- also known as the Santa Fe Bypass, the Santa Fe Relief Route, the Veterans Memorial Highway and N.M. Highway 599 -- on Santa Fe’s south side to its interchange with U.S. 84-285 north of town, motorists are as often mystified as gratified by the green-and-white metal markings guiding them up and down the road.

 

On the south, the proximity of the bypass exit to the N.M. 14 exit, and some packed-together "next exit" warnings, have prompted many a wrong turn.

 

Up north, signs speak of the "Santa Fe Relief Route" and "Veterans Memorial Highway," as if they’re two separate routes. Then there’s that ambiguous sign saying "Santa Fe" on one line, "Relief Route" on the other. Frustrated Santa Fe-bound visitors find themselves shunted in the direction of Albuquerque.

 

Even though the bypass, finally completed, is the quickest route from the north end of Santa Fe to Albuquerque, there’s no mention of that fact; nor are motorists northbound on I-25 told, as they approach Santa Fe, that 599 is the way around Santa Fe to Espanola and Los Alamos.

 

Lest the WIPP driver or anyone else feel foolish about being misled, here’s comfort: During a recent visit, a group of Princeton geologists, experienced in map-reading and navigation, were driven to distraction by our silly signs.

 

And this is just the area of our state capital. Imagine trying to figure out road signs out in New Mexico’s numerous boondocks.

 

We’ve suggested it before; we do so again: New Mexico’s Highway and Transportation secretary, Pete Rahn, should ask some out-of-staters to tour New Mexico without benefit of advance warnings -- then report to him how many times they were misled, or, better yet, suggest some signage that would guide them errorlessly from Rodeo to Raton by the scenic route.

 

Copyright 2000 New Mexican, Inc.