Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Marks the Spot

We Can't Solve America's Nuclear Waste Problem if We Keep Making More

"You can't leave nuclear waste in Illinois and 38 other states where it's stored temporarily above ground next to schools, rivers, lakes and downtown metropolitan areas. It's just not the smart thing to do in the interest of national security and environmental protection."
— Energy Department spokesman Joe Davis, in the Chicago Tribune, June 11, 2002.

A little-noticed urge in relicensing of nuclear reactors over the past four years will add 9,000 metric tons to the nation's inventory of high-level nuclear waste, prolonging storage problems through the middle of the century at reactor sites across the country, effectively transforming over a dozen power plants into long term nuclear waste dumps.

These 20-year operating extensions mean that more waste will be stored on site at power plants for a longer period of time; about 30 years longer, or the length of the average home mortgage, at most reactor locations.

The promise of Yucca Mountain was that it would consolidate all the nuclear waste in the nation in one location. As Energy Secretary Abraham said in 2002:

"America's national, energy and homeland security, as well as environmental protection is well served by siting a single nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, rather than having nuclear waste stranded in temporary storage locations at 131 sites in 39 states."

— DOE Press Release May 8, 2002.

This claim was never true.

Even if no nuclear power plants received extended operating permits, Yucca Mountain could not hold all the waste that will be generated under current operating licenses without significant expansion of its capacity.

But nuclear power plant licenses are being extended, largely in response to the congressional approval of Yucca Mountain, and they are being extended for longer than DOE has ever predicted in any of their analyses of Yucca's overall capacity. {C}DOE's worst-case nuclear waste generation and shipment scenario in the Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement contemplates just 10 year operating extensions at the nation's nuclear power reactors. Twenty-four of 26 reactor operating extensions to date have been for 20 years. The other two extensions were for 18 and 19 years.

The rate of nuclear power plant relicensing doubled after Congress approved the nuclear waste dumpsite in Yucca Mountain, outside of Las Vegas, Nevada in July, 2002. From March, 2000 through June, 2002, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) extended the licenses at five power plants, beginning with the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Maryland. From July, 2002 through May, 2004, the NRC approved 10 similar license renewals.

This trend appears to be accelerating. When approved and currently pending relicensing applications are considered together more than three times as many reactors were relicensed or applied for relicensing after the July 2002 vote, than before — 34 versus 10.

Currently there are renewal applications pending for 18 reactors at nine power plants in seven states. No application to date has been denied, making it a virtual certainty that these pending applications will be approved.

Congressional approval of Yucca Mountain and the ensuing surge in relicensing amounts to a backdoor perpetuation of our nation's dependence on nuclear power. But using Yucca as the pretext for nuclear power expansion is an ill-considered strategy. Although approved by Congress in 2002, the Nevada waste site still lacks full funding for construction, and perhaps more importantly, a federal appeals court found that the impact of the project must be evaluated for longer than the 10,000 years currently considered. This decision could easily delay the opening of the repository, meaning that nuclear waste will be stored even longer at nuclear power plants nationwide.

Nuclear power is a vestige of the Cold War, and an extremely risky way to make electricity. Every day that reactors produce power, they make nearly 170 pounds of lethal nuclear waste that will remain deadly for the next 10,000 years. By granting 20-year operating extensions to these aging reactors, the NRC has substantially increased the very serious security and safety concerns inherent in dealing with this waste, from storing it on-site at reactors — many of which are near major cities — to shipping highly radioactive nuclear waste through communities to Nevada, and staging it and dumping it in Yucca Mountain.

Findings

A new EWG Action Fund analysis of these facilities found that the 26 reactors at 15 nuclear power plants relicensed since 2000] will produce an additional 9,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste over the 20-year period of their license extensions. Eighteen more reactors at nine power plants with license extensions pending would add another 6,600 metric tons of waste. This virtually guarantees that:

  • Nuclear power plants will be transformed into long-term nuclear waste dumps. The recent surge in reactor relicensing ensures that hundreds of metric tons of extremely hazardous, high-level nuclear waste will remain in place at reactors around the country, as more waste is produced long after Yucca Mountain is full.
  • The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump will have to be expanded. By law, Yucca Mountain is limited to 70,000 metric tons of nuclear waste, which is almost equal to the amount of nuclear waste that will be stored on-site at reactors around the country on the day the repository is opened in 2010. If the high-level nuclear waste generated by recent operating extensions is ultimately moved off reactor sites for disposal, it is extremely unlikely that it will end up anywhere else but Nevada.
  • Shipping the extra 9,000 metric tons of nuclear waste to Nevada will require nearly 6,000 additional truck shipments, or 1,050 rail shipments of high-level nuclear waste through communities nationwide. The security and health risks inherent in these shipments are enormous, and preparedness is minimal.

Recommendations

Nuclear power is an outmoded, heavily subsidized, high-risk relic of the Cold War that presents far too many serious hazards to justify its continuation. From terrorist strikes, to transportation of waste, to the constant risks presented by operating the plants themselves, nuclear power is, by any rational measure, far more risky than it is worth.

Yet as a nation, we rely on nuclear power for 20 percent of our electricity. The time is now, for the United States to begin to cut our dependence on nuclear power, and seriously fund alternative energy sources that are far less risky to our health, our environment, and our national security.

An excellent way to begin this transition is to halt the knee-jerk relicensing of nuclear power plants, and to take the time we have left under current operating licenses to move the nation to cleaner, safer transitional energies like natural gas and cleaner coal, and ultimately to renewable energies such as solar and wind combined with a serious commitment to energy efficiency. If these alternatives were subsidized at amounts equal to the subsidies granted the nuclear industry, there is no doubt that a transition to a nuclear-free future could be achieved over the next 20 years.

Relicensing Will Leave Hundreds of Metric Tons of Highly Radioactive Nuclear Waste Stranded at Power Plants

The power plants with the most nuclear waste on site due to license extensions are McGuire in North Carolina, Catawba in South Carolina, and Edwin Hatch in Georgia, with 1,416, 1,409 and 1,103 metric tons of waste respectively left on site at the end of their operating life. The states with the most nuclear waste generated as a result of relicensing are South Carolina, Virginia, and Florida.

Nuclear Plants Where Reactor Licenses Have Been Extended

Nuclear Plant State Number of Reactors Waste on-site now
(metric tons)
Waste generated from relicensing
(metric tons)
Waste on-site after license extension expires
(metric tons)
McGuire NC 2 1,122 906 1,416
Catawba SC 2 849 790 1,409
Edwin I. Hatch GA 2 1,144 865 1,103
Oconee SC 3 1,529 959 1,095
North Anna VA 2 915 766 1,082
Peach Bottom PA 2 1,271 806 927
Calvert Cliffs MD 2 923 626 767
St. Lucie FL 2 837 524 746
Surry VA 2 960 668 726
Turkey Point FL 2 874 573 623
Summer SC 1 394 376 593
Arkansas Nuclear One * AR 1 905 291 451
H. B. Robinson SC 1 279 299 291
Fort Calhoun NE 1 310 196 221
Ginna NY 1 383 225 214
Total 8,870 11,663

* The 905 metric tons currently on site include the waste generated by both of Arkansas Nuclear One's reactors. The 291 metric tons of waste generated from relicensing include waste generated only from the one reactor that has been relicensed. The 451 metric tons of waste on-site after the license extension expires does not include waste generated by the second reactor's pending relicense period.

Nuclear Plants with Reactor License Extensions Pending

Nuclear Plant State Number of Reactors Waste on-site now
(metric tons)
Waste generated from relicensing
(metric tons)
Waste on-site after license extension expires
(metric tons)
Browns Ferry AL 3 1,454 1,365 1,442
Millstone CT 2 1,380 936 1,393
D. C. Cook MI 2 1,146 820 1,107
Joseph M. Farley AL 2 942 663 936
James FitzPatrick/Nine Mile Point NY 2 1,405 775 746
Arkansas Nuclear One * AR 1 905 291 743
Dresden IL 2 1,889 738 719
Quad Cities IL 2 1,074 580 638
Point Beach WI 2 724 434 461
Total 6,601 8,184

* The 905 metric tons currently on-site include the waste generated by both of Arkansas Nuclear One's reactors. The 291 metric tons of waste generated from relicensing include waste generated only from the one reactor that has a pending application for relicensing, not the reactor that has already been relicensed. The 743 metric tons of waste left on-site after the license extension expires include waste generated by both the reactor that has already been relicensed and the reactor with a pending application to be relicensed.

Source: EWG Action Fund analysis of the DOE Yucca EIS, Appendix A. "Currently on-site" is calculated by taking DOE's figure for actual waste on-site in 1995 and adding the amount of waste DOE reports will be generated by each reactor between 1996 and 2011. "Current license waste generated" is calculated by taking each plant's actual waste on-site in 1995 and adding the following product: the plant's yearly rate of waste generation from 1996 to 2011, as reported by DOE, multiplied by the the number of years the plant will operate past 1995 under its current license. "License extension waste generated" adds "current license waste generated" to the product of waste generated per year and the number of years for which the plant has been, or will be, relicensed.

 

Map of Nuclear Power Plant Relicensing

Congressional Approval of Yucca Mountain Caused a Surge of Nuclear Power Plant Relicensing

U.S. Map

 

Relicensing Aggravates Nuclear Waste Storage Problem

As EWG Action Fund first noted in 2002, shipping nuclear waste across the country for disposal in Nevada does not get rid of nuclear waste at a single operating power plant anywhere in the United States.

This is because every reactor at each of these plants will continue to generate 10 to 25 metric tons of nuclear waste per year, every year that they are operational. As Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham was forced to admit under questioning at a Senate hearing in April, 2002, if all the nuclear reactors in the nation shut down the day Yucca Mountain opened, their waste would fill the entire repository.

But of course, these power plants are not going to shut down, as the recent surge in relicensing amply shows. Instead nuclear power plants all across the country are applying for operating extensions that will guarantee major nuclear waste problems in the future, either at these reactor sites, in Nevada, or on the highways in-between.

Since 2000, 26 nuclear reactors at 15 power plant locations have received 20- year operating extensions from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Not a single relicensing application has been denied. License extensions are pending for 18 reactors at nine power plants.

Relicensing Reactors Will Produce Thousands of Metric Tons of New Nuclear Waste

State Metric Tons of
Additional Waste
Resulting from
Relicensing
South Carolina 2,423
Virginia 1,434
Florida 1,096
North Carolina 906
Georgia 865
Pennsylvania 806
Maryland 626
Arkansas 291
New York 225
Nebraska 196
Total 8,870

South Carolina, Virginia, and Florida lead the nation in nuclear waste that will be produced as a result of current nuclear reactor relicensing, with 2,400, 1,400, and 1,100 metric tons of new nuclear waste respectively.

In total, these extensions will produce an additional 9,000 metric tons of high level nuclear waste, almost all of which will remain on site for decades at the reactors where it was produced. Virtually none of this newly-generated waste can be shipped to Yucca Mountain without a formal, legal, expansion of the repository.

The power plants with the most nuclear waste on-site due to license extensions are McGuire in North Carolina, Catawba in South Carolina, and Edwin Hatch in Georgia, with 1,416, 1,409 and 1,103 metric tons of waste respectively left on site at the end of their operating life. Some of this waste will be generated before the current license expires and would have remained on site even if the plant were not relicensed. But the majority of waste on site at these reactors at the end of their current operating extensions, will be produced during the new 20-year extended period of operation.

There are an additional 18 reactors at 9 nuclear facilities with operating extension applications pending before the NRC. Plants with pending renewals will produce another 6,600 metric tons of nuclear waste that will be stored on- site before it is ultimately moved to Nevada.

 

Nuclear Waste Transport 101

The government's worst-case estimate of the total amount of nuclear waste that will be sent to Yucca Mountain in Nevada falls far short of the actual amount of waste that will be dumped at Yucca Mountain based on recent and projected license extensions at the nation's nuclear power reactors.

graphic: relicensing means more shipments of more nuclear waste for more time

 

EWG Action Fund analysis of the DOE Yucca EIS, Summary and Appendix A. "Yucca Mountain Statutory Capacity" is capped at 70,000 metric tons. "DOE worst-case waste scenario" assumes that commercial reactors will be relicensed for 10 years each and will produce 105,000 metric tons of waste. This scenario also includes 2,500 metric tons of DOE spent nuclear fuel and 11,500 metric tons of DOE high-level radioactive waste. In addition, DOE estimates that this scenario will include 2,000 cubic meters of Greater-Than-Class-C (GTCC) waste and 4,000 cubic meters of Special-Performance-Assessment- Required (SPAR) waste. "Total waste with full 20-year relicensing" includes 120,000 metric tons of waste generated by commercial reactors assuming customary, 20-year license extensions. The total also includes the DOE spent nuclear fuel, DOE high-level radioactive waste, the GTCC and SPAR waste.

The Department of Energy's worst-case waste transport estimate predicts more than 119,000 metric tons of waste will be delivered to Nevada over a 38-year period from 2010 through 2048. This estimate is based on the unrealistic assumption that reactors will receive just 10-year operating extensions, when in fact the average extension for 26 reactors over the past four years has been twice that.

A more realistic estimate based on the 20-year average license extensions being granted, means that at over 18,000 more metric tons of nuclear waste will cross the country to Nevada for disposal than estimated by the DOE. To accommodate all this high-level nuclear waste, Yucca Mountain will have to be expanded, and getting it there, by whatever means, will take decades longer than even the government's longest predictions.

Under the DOE's "proposed action" for Yucca Mountain, the DOE would transport 70,000 metric tons of heavy metal (MTHM) of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to the Yucca site over 24 years (2010-2033) (DOE EIS, A-1, J-16; Halstead Testimony 2002). Federal law places a limit of 70,000 MTHM on the amount of waste stored in Yucca Mountain until a second nuclear repository is operational (USCS Nuclear Repository 2004).

The 70,000 MTHM would include 63,000 MTHM of spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear power plants, 2,333 MTHM of DOE spent nuclear fuel and about 4,667 MTHM of DOE high-level nuclear waste (DOE Yucca EIS, p. S-78). The 63,000-ton estimate represents essentially all of the nuclear waste present at domestic nuclear power plants the day that Yucca is expected to be opened in 2010.

In addition, under the proposed action scenario, Yucca would not have room to accept other nuclear waste known as "greater-than-class-C"(GTCC) waste and DOE "Special-Performance Assessment-Required"(SPAR) waste that by federal regulation is generally too radioactive to store near the surface of the earth (Halstead 2002, Yucca EIS, A-1). All of the projected GTCC and SPAR wastes would still be stored at 63 commercial sites and four DOE sites in 32 states when Yucca is full in 2034 (Halstead 2002).

The DOE estimated that the proposed action would require more than 53,000 truck shipments to Yucca over 24 years or about 2,200 per year. If rail is the primary means of transporting the waste — and DOE has stated that it prefers rail — the proposed action would require more than 10,700 cross-country shipments over 24 years, or about 450 per year (Halstead 2002).

DOE's worst-case waste estimate for the nation's nuclear power plants, known as "Module 2," assumes 10-year license extensions at all reactors. This scenario predicts a total of 105,000 metric tons of nuclear waste produced by the nation's power plants by the year 2046. It also assumes that the nation will have to dispose of 2,500 metric tons of DOE spent nuclear fuel, 11,500 metric tons of DOE high-level radioactive waste, 2,000 cubic meters of GTCC waste and 4,000 cubic meters of SPAR waste (DOE Yucca EIS, p. S-78).

The DOE's 10-year extensions would leave about 42,000 MTHM of commercial spent nuclear fuel stored at 63 nuclear power plants in 31 states after Yucca reaches its current capacity, plus 167 MTHM of DOE spent nuclear fuel stored at DOE sites in 4 states, and about 6,833 MTHM of DOE high-level waste stored at DOE sites in 3 states, according to DOE's estimate (Halstead 2002).

But the NRC is not granting 10-year extensions to commercial reactors as the worst-case scenario assumes. To date, 24 out of 26 reactor operating extensions have been for 20 years. The other two were for 18 and 19 years.

If all reactors receive 20-year as opposed to 10-year extensions, the amount of waste generated will increase by over 18,000 metric tons.

Those 18,000 metric tons would mean even more cross-country shipments of nuclear waste than are projected for DOE's worst-case scenario. In that worst-case scenario, based on 10-year license extensions, transporting our nuclear waste would require about 108,900 truck shipments over 38 years, or about 2,870 per year. If rail is the primary means of transporting the waste, the 10-year license extension scenario would require more than 22,000 cross-country rail shipments, or about 580 per year (Halstead 2002).

The rail transport scenario does not include barge and heavy haul truck shipments from 24 nuclear reactors that lack rail access. Thousands of such shipments would be required under either the proposed action or the expanded scenario. In addition, the DOE analysis does not include the heavy haul truck shipments required within Nevada if there is no rail spur to connect to Yucca Mountain. Almost 10,000 additional shipments would be required under the proposed action and close to 19,000 such shipments would be required under the expanded scenario (Halstead 2002).

DOE has stated that under the worst-case scenario, "[t]he present 70,000-MTHM limit on waste at the Yucca Mountain Repository could have to be addressed either by legislation or by opening a second licensed repository" (Yucca EIS, A-1).

References

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE Yucca EIS Table A-7). 2002. 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, Appendix A, Table A-7. February 2002.

U.S. Code Service (USCS Nuclear Repository). 2004, 42 USCS ¤ 10134(d) (2004).

Testimony of Robert Halstead, Transportation Advisor, Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects (Halstead Testimony). 2002. Testimony Before U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, May 22, 2002.

 

Nuclear Waste Transport Risks Increased

Prior to recent license extensions, the Department of Energy estimated that it would take between 10,000 rail shipments and 50,000 truck shipments of nuclear waste to fill the nuclear power industry's share of Yucca Mountain, or about 90 percent of its capacity. Relicensing to date has added about 5,700 more truck shipments, or 1,050 rail shipments to that total. It will require a formal expansion of the Yucca repository to dump this nuclear waste in Nevada.

The Department of Energy declared in April 2004 that rail shipment to Nevada is the preferred mode of transportation for high level nuclear waste, even though 37 reactors at 24 plants lack rail access (DOE Rail Decision 2004, DOE Yucca EIS, J-29). Of the reactors that have been relicensed or have license extensions pending, 20 of 44 reactors at 10 plants lack rail access. For these reactors, first, waste would need to cool on site for 10 years. Then it would have to be loaded onto trucks and transported to railyards, where it would be loaded onto railcars for shipment to Nevada. Each step in this process is essentially untested, and presents significant security and safety concerns. The American Association of Railroads opposes this plan on safety and security grounds and is calling for dedicated nuclear waste transport trains if nuclear waste is to be shipped by rail.

Many Relicensed Reactors Have No Rail Access, Yet DOE Chose Rail as The Preferred Shipment Mode

Reactor Without Rail Access Metric Tons of Additional Waste
Resulting from Relicensing
Oconee, SC 958.8
Peach Bottom, PA 806.3
Catawba, SC 789.7
Surry, VA 667.5
Calvert Cliffs, MD 626.3
Turkey Point, FL 572.5
St. Lucie, FL 523.8
Ginna, NY 225.0

But the most basic problem with the rail shipment theory is that there is no rail line to the Yucca Mountain waste dump in Nevada. To address this issue, the DOE has proposed the construction of a 318-to-344-mile-long rail line from Caliente, Nevada, in the southeastern portion of the state, around an old nuclear test site to Yucca Mountain (DOE Rail Decision 2004). If built, this would be the largest rail construction project in the past 80 years.

It is not clear, however, that this rail line will be built on-time, or at all. The state of Nevada has filed suit in federal court challenging the entire project. For the past 20 years, the DOE has a long record of cost overruns and delays relating to the Yucca repository, and it is not apparent why construction of this rail line will be any different.

If a proposed rail line to Yucca Mountain is not built by 2010, when the first shipments of waste are due to arrive (based on DOE contracts with utilities), then waste will either begin to pile up above ground in the tiny eastern Nevada town of Caliente, or be shipped through Las Vegas on the back of semi trailers at a rate of about 2,200 shipments per year for at least 24 years.

The 26 reactors relicensed to date add 5,700 shipments of high-level nuclear waste to the current total, and extend the length of time when nuclear waste is on Las Vegas highways for another 8 to 10 years.

 

Ongoing Legislative and Legal Issues

The State of Nevada, Clark County, the City of Las Vegas, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), a nuclear energy lobbying firm, and environmental groups challenged the Yucca Mountain siting in lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Department of Energy (DOE), which were consolidated into one case, Nuclear Energy Institute, Inc. v. EPA, et al. While the DC federal court of appeals rejected most of the claims in the case, it upheld Nevada's challenge to the EPA's 10,000-year radiation containment standard and determined that the State could challenge DOE or NRC's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Yucca Mountain in a July ruling. The Energy Policy Act requires EPA to promulgate site-specific standards for Yucca Mountain that are based upon and consistent with the findings and recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). In a study of the Yucca Mountain plan, NAS found no scientific basis for a 10,000-year compliance period or any other value.

Finding that EPA's standard was inconsistent with these findings, the Court vacated all EPA and NRC regulations that were based on the 10,000-year standard. EPA has said it will not appeal the ruling, and that it will address the matter through regulatory channels. Spencer Abraham stated in a press release that DOE will work with Congress to address the issues raised in the ruling. The parties have until the end of November to seek Supreme Court review of the Appeals Court decision. In an October 8, 2004 ruling, however, the DC federal appeals court rejected NEI's petition to delay the implementation of regulatory changes pending the outcome of a Supreme Court decision on the standard.

The proposed Yucca site has faced numerous additional legal challenges that are currently pending. These include the State of Nevada's lawsuit against DOE challenging the proposed rail line, the State of Nevada's challenge before the NRC seeking de-certification of DOE's public Yucca document database, a worker lawsuit against the contractor hired to study the safety of the Yucca project, and the State of Nevada's challenge to DOE's decisions regarding the state's access to federal funding to monitor the proposed repository.

The DC Court of Appeals ruling as well as the outstanding legal challenges may affect future Congressional action on the proposed Yucca repository. For instance, the Congress could amend the Energy Policy Act to change NAS-contingent safety standard or to specifically allow a 10,000 year standard, Congress may enact new laws to address the recently struck-down regulations, Congress may legislatively determine the question of Nevada's access to federal funds to monitor Yucca, and it must approve overall funding for the project to proceed to completion.

References:

  1. Nuclear Energy Institute, Inc. v. EPA, et al., 373 F.3d 1251 (D.C. Cir. 2004). PDF
  2. Nuclear Energy Institute, Inc. v. EPA, et al., 01-1258, October 8, 2004 Order (Edwards, Henderson and Tatel, Circuit Judges).
  3. Benjamin Grove, Las Vegas Sun, "EPA Won't Appeal Radiation Standard," September 9, 2004.
  4. U.S. Department of Energy, "DOE Statement on U.S. Court of Appeals Decision Regarding Yucca Mountain," July 9, 2004.

 

Accident Scenarios

Everyone agrees that there will be accidents if nuclear waste is transported by train and truck through 45 states for 38 years to the repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The Department of Energy (DOE) predicts that there will be about 100 accidents over the life of the project. The State of Nevada predicts about 400 accidents during the same time period.

To date, however, the public has not been provided meaningful information about the potential effects of a serious nuclear waste accident in any of the heavily-populated metropolitan areas through which Nevada-bound radioactive waste would travel. This report is the first attempt to utilize government data and computer models in order to describe the consequences of a serious, but plausible accident involving the release of high-level radioactive waste in major cities along the DOE-proposed nuclear waste transport routes.

For people living along the Department of Energy’s proposed nuclear waste transport routes, the question is: What if there is a nuclear waste accident in my community that involves the release of radiation?

The maps presented here by EWG Action Fund are the first attempt to provide the public with answers to this question. We use government models and government assumptions as presented in more detail below. The maps describe the consequences of an accident of moderate severity, not a worst case scenario. We did not model the impact of an attack on a nuclear waste shipment that penetrates or explodes the cask, or results in a severe long-term fire, like the Baltimore Tunnel fire, dispersing a far greater amount of radiation into the surrounding community.

The DOE has not published a detailed analysis of the impact of a terrorist attack on a nuclear waste shipment. Instead, the DOE has produced a generic, one-size-fits-all estimate of the number of fatalities from a serious accident, and conducted complex and lengthy probability analyses designed to show that such an accident is very unlikely to occur. The DOE analysis was an abstract exercise. It did not situate the modeled event in any actual community.

Given the unanimous agreement that train or truck accidents are inevitable during the tens of thousands of radioactive waste shipments to Yucca Mountain, we believe people have a right to know what would happen if one of those accidents led to a release of radioactive materials in their town.

Read more: download Adobe Acrobat versions of this report

 

Things You Should Know

 

  1. What is high-level nuclear waste?
  2. How are we going to ship it?
  3. What happens if there is a wreck?
  4. What are the risks to first responders?
  5. What are the health effects of radiation?
  6. Will Yucca Mountain get rid of nuclear waste in my state?
  7. Is there a nuclear waste storage crisis?
  8. What is the transportation safety plan?
  9. What is the past safety record of nuclear waste shipments?
  10. Is there a terrorist threat?
  11. Will my governor set the routes?
  12. What other groups are involved in nuclear waste transportation issues?

 

What is high-level nuclear waste?

 

Every truck or train rumbling through your town on its way to Yucca Mountain will be hauling an extremely radioactive load of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants, the Navy, and government-run nuclear reactors. The spent fuel from the hot core of commercial nuclear power plants accounts for 95 percent of the radioactivity generated in the United States in the last 50 years from all sources, including nuclear weapons production. About 90 percent of the waste travelling to Nevada will be from these commercial nuclear power plants. [DOE EIS Appendix A, figure A-2]

Splitting uranium-235 atoms in a nuclear reactor creates intensely radioactive elements known as fission products, such as cesium, strontium, and plutonium. When spent nuclear fuel is removed from the reactor core, it is about one million times more radioactive than when it was loaded. A typical rail cask of high-level nuclear waste contains more than 200 times the long-lived radiation (cesium and strontium) than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. If unshielded, the average cask of nuclear waste destined for Nevada delivers a lethal dose of radiation in 2 minutes to a person standing 3 feet away.

 

How are we going to ship nuclear waste?

 

Under the current plan, high-level radioactive waste will be shipped to Nevada on trucks, trains, and barges (DOE EIS, Appendix J). How many of each remains uncertain at this time.

If trucks are the primary mode, the current Department of Energy plan calls for 80,000 shipments from nuclear power plants over the 38 year life of the entire plan, plus an additional 25,000 shipments from DOE facilities and Naval reactors.

This translates into about 2,760 shipments of high level nuclear waste per year, more than 27 times the 100 shipments per year that have been transported over the past 40 years (Halstead testimony).

Each truck shipment will be accompanied by a security escort, consisting of as few as two guards, who are not required to travel separately. The trucks will follow a prescribed route typically along major interstate highways. Truck shipments moving through urban areas will also be escorted by State Troopers. The casks will be secured on a flatbed trailer, one cask per load.

If trains are the dominant mode, there will be more than 18,000 shipments over the 38-year life of the project plus 3,000 shipments by barge or truck. Barge shipments are being considered under this option because 17 nuclear power plants have no rail access, yet could connect to rail lines via barges.

The government currently proposes shipping casks full of high level nuclear waste on flatbed rail cars, as a part of regular trains hauling other commercial freight. The American Association of Railroads opposes this plan on safety and security grounds and is calling for dedicated nuclear waste transport trains if nuclear waste is to be shipped by rail. There is also no rail access to the ultimate destination in Nevada, Yucca Mountain, meaning either that a rail line must be built, or that all waste moved by train to Las Vegas will have to be transferred to trucks for hauling to the disposal site.

 

What if there is a wreck?

 

In a serious truck or train wreck or terrorist attack, the casks could be breached, releasing high level radiation into the surrounding area. Estimates vary as to the number of people that would die from radiation exposure in a severe accident. The Department of Energy’s worst-case scenario predicts 48 radiation-induced deaths in a terrorist incident and 5 radiation-related deaths in a serious truck accident. Other experts estimate thousands of deaths over time if the release is in an urban area. First responders, local police, fire and hazardous materials response teams could easily be exposed to lethal does of radiation. Billions of dollars and many years could be required to clean up the area. Transportation routes, including major interstates and train lines could be closed for months, or even years.

 

What are the risks to first responders?

 

No one has any meaningful experience in dealing with a release of radiation from a train or truck wreck involving high level nuclear waste. There are plans in place for reactor meltdowns, and plans in place for transportation accidents involving low level nuclear waste. But there is no experience or plan for first responders dealing with a major rail or highway accident involving highly radioactive nuclear waste.

In a severe accident with a breach of the cask and leaking radiation, first responders could be exposed to lethal levels of radiation in a very short time. Death could occur as a result of acute radiation poisoning, or a latent cancer, depending on the magnitude and duration of exposure. There is no equipment short of impractical lead shields that can protect first responders from gamma radiation coming off a major nuclear waste train or truck wreck. A person standing three feet away from unshielded nuclear waste will receive a lethal dose of radiation in about two minutes.

Three-quarters of all firefighters in the United States are volunteers. These men and women are being offered voluntary radiation training, but it is extremely unlikely that the nations’ two million first responders will be properly trained and equipped to respond to a serious leak of high level radiation from a transportation wreck or a terrorist attack.

The first responder exercise most often cited in support of nuclear waste transport to Nevada is the Waste Isolation Pilot Program, or WIPP. The WIPP training process may provide some useful lessons, but there are many significant differences between the WIPP project and the proposed shipments to Yucca Mountain.

WIPP first responders are trained to clear the area and wait for state and federal officials to arrive. This will not suffice in the event of a high level nuclear waste accident.

A severe accident involving high level nuclear waste is an intensely life-threatening event. In the case of a severe railroad disaster that did not puncture the cask but did cause seals to leak, first-responders who came within a meter of the cask could be exposed to a lethal dose of radiation within about 7 minutes. Someone standing about 15 feet away could receive the equivalent of 72 chest x-rays every minute. In a little over two hours, that person would have a 50 percent chance of dying of cancer (RWMA worst case accident study).

 

What are the health effects of radiation?

 

Radiation is energy that travels in waves and it is typically described in two forms. Non-ionizing radiation can shake or move molecules. Ionizing radiation, the kind that could be released in an accident involving high level nuclear waste, is matter or energy that is given off by the nucleus of an unstable atom in the process of decaying and reaching a stable (ground) state. This energy is released in the form of subatomic particles (alpha and beta) or waves (gamma and x rays). Ionizing radiation can break molecular bonds, causing unpredictable chemical reactions, including genetic mutations.

Each form of radiation has different characteristics, but all forms can be deadly. Alpha particles cannot penetrate the skin, but when inhaled do severe damage to the lungs. Plutonium is an alpha emitter that is extremely hazardous when inhaled. Gamma rays can travel right through a human body, breaking genetic material in the process. Cesium-137 is a gamma emitter that is a major component of nuclear reactor waste.

LINK: The health impacts of radioactive elements

Most elements and their atoms are not radioactive. A few radioactive elements, like uranium, radium, and thorium, occur in nature. Many more have been created by man through nuclear power generation and weapons development. Humans cannot see, feel, taste, smell or hear ionizing radiation.

The health hazards of high level nuclear waste

The health effects of radiation can be grouped into two categories:

1. The direct destructive effects that cause cell death or mutation-induced cancer.

2. Genetic damage that affects reproduction, manifesting as birth defects, stunted growth, microcephaly (small brain) or mental retardation. [1]

Humans are the most sensitive species to radiation of all mammals. Although the initial impact of radiation occurs within 10 to 18 seconds of exposure, overt symptoms can take days to decades to manifest, depending on the dose. Cell death from radiation can produce a range of effects from burns to cataracts, hair loss, thyroid conditions, organ failure and ultimately death. Radiation-induced cancer typically results from genetic mutations caused by radioactive particles tearing through individual cells. A single radiation-induced genetic mutation can lead to full-blown cancer. Cancers most often caused by radiation are leukemia, lung, breast and thyroid cancer.

Cancer – the most likely cause of death from a high level nuclear waste spill

Cancer deaths are the most prevalent outcome of exposure to radiation from high level radioactive waste. Even if there is not a single accidental release of radiation in the entire 38-year span of the transport of nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, the DOE estimates that 15 “lethal” cancers will be caused by exposures (primarily occupational) during the transport of high-level nuclear waste [2]. These deaths will be caused by radiation emissions from the casks themselves, which cannot block all the radiation emitted by the waste and be small and light enough to transport. DOE estimates that one out of every 50 truck drivers working over the life of the project will contract a “lethal cancer” simply from routine close proximity to the casks (DOE EIS, Table 6-1). A full breach of the cask in an urban area could easily result in thousands of cancers in the exposed area [3]

• LINK: DOE downplays the risk from severe accidents and terrorist attacks

 

When radiation hits a living cell it can break the strands that form the double helix chain within the DNA molecule. This can result in several forms of chromosomal mutations. These genetic mutations in turn disrupt normal cell reproduction and can lead to unregulated cell growth and ultimately malignant cancers.

 

Leukemia and lung cancer are the most common cancers associated with radiation exposure. The incidence of leukemia in survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb blasts was 3 to 5 times higher than in the general population. Children exposed to radiation between the ages of 7 and 12 are at increased incidence of acute lymphatic leukemia. Adults exposed to radiation are at an increased risk of developing acute and chronic myeloid leukemia. Uranium miners have a significantly increase rate of lung cancer.

Other cancers linked to radiation include cancers of the breast, lymph nodes (lymphoma), brain, skin, bone, thyroid, intestine, pancreas, stomach, esophagus, kidney, bladder, and ovaries.

Acute Cell-Killing Effects/Death

First responders to a significant breach of a cask are at great risk of receiving an acute lethal dose of radiation. Two minutes of exposure to the unshielded radiation coming off a fuel rod assembly of high level nuclear waste headed to Yucca Mountain will kill the average person.

Acute whole-body exposure to high doses of radiation causes death within days or weeks of exposure, depending on the dose. Usually, the higher the dose, the sooner death occurs. Three distinct radiation-induced syndromes lead to death as exposure increases: bone-marrow syndrome, gastrointestinal syndrome, and central nervous system syndrome.

Bone marrow syndrome. Bone marrow syndrome occurs in mammals with acute exposures roughly equivalent to the dose received after two minutes by a person standing three feet away from an unshielded fuel rod assembly of high level nuclear waste. Death occurs weeks after exposure and is the result of the death and depletion of stem cells in bone marrow and other blood-forming organs. In this syndrome, the higher the dose, the quicker death will occur. Deaths reach their peak at 30 days after exposure and continue up to 60 days post-exposure.

Gastrointestinal syndrome. This syndrome is associated with acute whole-body exposure in mammals to doses that could possibly be received by first responders at the scene of a severe accident or attack that produced a hole in the cask. The time of death does not appear to be related to dose. Death is the result of damage to and depletion of stem cells in the gastrointestinal mucosa. Death caused by GI syndrome is faster than that associated with bone marrow syndrome because cells in the gastrointestinal tract have a shorter life span than bone marrow cells. Without medical intervention, individuals will die within 3 to 4 days after exposures that produce this syndrome. [4]

Central nervous system syndrome. Doses needed to cause CNS syndrome are not likely even from a severe nuclear waste transportation accident. Death by radiation-induced CNS syndrome results from a failure of both the central nervous and cardiovascular systems caused by a "superlethal" radiation dose from which there is no possibility of survival. Death results from a buildup of pressure inside the skull, which literally explodes.

Pregnant Women and Their Babies

The high rate of cell division and organ system development makes the fetus and embryo extremely sensitive to radiation exposure. Radiation exposure to a fertilized egg, embryo or fetus can cause death, birth defects, mental retardation, childhood or early life cancers and a host of other developmental problems.

The effects of radiation on the unborn are typically divided into three categories: lethal effects, congenital malformations and growth disturbances.

Lethal effects can occur after implantation of the fertilized ovum, at any time during intrauterine development or at birth. Congenital malformations manifest after birth and are readily induced by radiation exposure during critical periods of organ formation in the womb. Growth disturbances are effects that can result from radiation exposure either before or after birth. They may not be associated with any other deformities.

The most common abnormalities caused by in-utero radiation exposure occur in the brain, skeletal system, and in behavior. Specific deformities can be traced to intrauterine exposure to radiation at particular days of development. Microcephaly (an abnormally small brain) is associated with radiation exposure after the first trimester. Low exposures during the time between fertilization and implantation result in a high incidence of death from rapid radiation-induced cell division. Fetal exposure to radiation is also associated with increases in cancer and other diseases later in life.

Although most of the evidence of fetal toxicity and birth defects is extrapolated from animal studies, humans are known to be more sensitive to radiation than other mammalian species.

 

Hereditary Effects of Radiation

 

When radiation affects germ cells, mutations can occur that can be transmitted to future generations. Mutation can occur at the gene level or the chromosome level. Each chromosome consists of two genes, so mutations at the gene level may not appear for several generations. Mutations in chromosomes can result in more profound and immediate changes. This is particularly true with genetic material in which even point mutations can result in severe abnormalities.

Adapted from NIRS Fact Sheet

 

OTHER SOURCES:
1) Gofman, M.D. Ph.D., John W., Radiation and Human Health, Sierra Club Books, 1982.
2) DOE, Final Environmental Impact Statement, 6-11 and 6-12.
3) Radioactive Waste Management Assoc., Worst Case Credible Nuclear Transportation Accidents, August 2001.
4) Radiologic Technology, January 2000, NEWMAN, JULLIANA

 

 

Will Yucca Mountain get rid of nuclear waste in my state?

 

"Under intense questioning from Nevada's two senators, [Secretary of Energy] Abraham conceded that the Yucca Mountain repository as currently envisioned could handle only a fraction of the waste expected to be generated by commercial power plants and the government in the coming decade." — Associated Press, Friday, May 17, 2002

 

Moving tens of thousands of shipments of high-level nuclear waste through 45 states over 38 years does not solve the problem of storing nuclear waste at reactor sites across the country. At the end of the process, there will be roughly the same amount of nuclear waste at power plants as there is today.

 

Amount of nuclear waste stored on-site after Yucca Mountain is full

PDF FILE: Nuclear waste that will remain at nuclear power plants if Yucca Mountain is approved and filled to planned capacity.

A year after Yucca Mountain opens there will be enough waste sitting at reactors across the country to completely fill it. If all the nuclear reactors in the United States shut down the day Yucca Mountain opens, in 2010, their waste would barely fit in the repository.

But nuclear power plants are not going to shut down, and as long as they keep running, they keep generating nuclear waste. Twenty-three are currently licensed to run past 2025. And if power companies pursue the standard 20-year license extensions, over one-third of all nuclear power plants could still be generating waste for shipment after Yucca Mountain has closed.

 

Is there a nuclear waste storage crisis?

 

The nuclear industry claims that moving waste to Yucca Mountain will fend off an impending overflow of nuclear waste at the nation’s nuclear reactors. But the fact is that nuclear power plants are not running out of on-site storage capacity for their highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel.

To quote a former commissioner at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

“The important thing now is to recognize that there is no immediate crisis, that there is time to do this and to do a good and responsible job in terms of safety and security and to do it at a much lower cost to ratepayers.” -- Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Commissioner Victor Gilinsky, testimony before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, May 22, 2002.

LINK: Victor Gilinsky, testimony before the U.S. Senate

When nuclear fuel is removed from the reactor core it is normally cooled for at least five years in water-filled pools before it is moved. This cooling process is essential because the spent fuel rods coming out of the reactor core are thermally too hot to handle. Water also shields against the waste’s intense radioactivity.

At most reactors, spent fuel has been stored in pools of water for decades. At about 30 reactors these pools are approaching their capacity. This means that the spent fuel in these pools must be moved and stored in dry casks to make room for more spent fuel coming out of the reactor cores.

Dry cask storage is not controversial or new. The first dry cask storage installation was licensed by the NRC in 1986 at the Surry Nuclear Power Plant in Virginia. According to the Department of Energy, dry cask storage facilities are currently in use at 18 nuclear power plants across the country, and another 15 plants plan to add it. Only one plant, Prairie Island in Minnesota, is limited in its ability to store waste on-site in dry cask storage. That limitation is based on an agreement with the state and not due to any physical limitations at the plant.

Dry cask storage is not permanent in geologic terms, but there is no reason that nuclear waste could not be stored in dry casks for 50 to 100 years while safer storage technologies are developed.

Even if the Yucca Mountain waste dump is approved, nearly every nuclear power plant running today will have hundreds of tons of nuclear waste on-site when the repository is full. On-site storage will be a major means of dealing with nuclear waste whether Yucca Mountain is approved or not.

 

What is the transportation safety plan?

 


“What I find most shocking about the Yucca Mountain Project is that DOE has no plan to transport spent nuclear fuel to its proposed repository. Secretary Abraham testified last week that the DOE is ’just beginning to formulate its preliminary thoughts about a transportation plan.’” — Jim Hall, Former Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, testimony before the U.S. Senate, May 23, 2002

People are just beginning to realize that the decision to open the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump is also the most important transportation safety decision this country has ever made. The government has deliberately left the American people in the dark about the transportation implications of opening Yucca Mountain.

There is no transportation plan for the shipment of 100,000 truckloads or 20,000 trainloads of high-level nuclear waste through 45 states for 38 years. According to Joseph Davis, a spokesperson for the Department of Energy, the DOE plans to meet with affected states over the next eight years to discuss routes and shipment plans as well as training for local police forces. [1]

There are 200,000 tractor-trailer crashes on America’s highways each year: 60,000 of them occur on the Interstate highways where nuclear waste would be transported. Numerous incidents and accidents have occurred during past nuclear waste shipments, in spite of the comprehensive planing that accompanied most of them.

There are nearly 2,000 train derailments and 7,300 train accidents each year, including hundreds of crashes with other trains and scores of collisions with cars and trucks. In 2001, the Federal Railroad Administration found 108,000 defects in signal equipment and tracks nationwide.

The transport of low level radioactive waste (hospital gloves, paper, medical equipment, etc.) to the WIPP facility in New Mexico was planned for a decade, yet the first shipment took a wrong turn and was headed for Albuquerque and would have arrived at rush hour were it not turned around. In spite of the highly touted satellite tracking system for the project, the error was spotted and corrected by local law enforcement, not satellite trackers.

SOURCES
1. Environment and Energy Daily, May 23, 2002

 

What is the past safety record of nuclear waste shipments?

 

The Department of Energy and the nuclear power industry often cite past nuclear waste shipments as proof that it is perfectly safe to transport tens of thousands of shipments of high level nuclear waste through 45 states for 38 years.

There are many problems with this argument.

1. The mileage and number of shipments that would be sent to Nevada are unprecedented.

From 1979 to 1997, there were 1,334 total shipments of spent nuclear fuel in the United States: an average of 70 shipments per year traveling an average of 684 miles each. If nuclear waste from power plants is shipped to Nevada by truck, (which is the only way that is currently possible), there will be more than 2,700 shipments per year, traveling an average of several thousand miles each. This radical increase in the number of shipments and distances traveled is not comparable to past experience, and dramatically increases the likelihood of an accident.

LINK: Testimony of Robert J. Halstead (PDF format)

2. There have been numerous incidents, accidents and foul-ups with past nuclear waste shipments.

From 1949 until 1996, there were 72 reported incidents involving radioactive waste shipments. In four cases there was accidental radioactive material contamination beyond the transport vehicle, in four more there was accidental radioactive material contamination that was confined to the vehicle. There were 13 incidents or traffic accidents that resulted in no release or contamination, and 49 incidents of accidental surface contamination that required clean up.

There are many other instances that raise concern. For example, on 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.

LINK: CRS Report for Congress on spent nuclear fuel
LINK: DOE downplays the risk from severe accidents and terrorist attacks

3. DOE “prefers” shipment by train, but there is no experience with rail shipments, and insufficient infrastructure to ship by train.

DOE favors rail shipment of nuclear waste, but 17 reactors have no rail link, and once the waste gets to Las Vegas there is no rail line to the repository at Yucca Mountain. To accommodate the lack of rail lines to reactors, the DOE recommends putting nuclear waste on barges and sending them to the ports in Jersey City, New Haven, Baltimore, and Wilmington, and several other cities, and then transferring them to commercial freight trains. Past experience, which did not involve barges, ports and inner city rail transport, is no measure of whether or not this system is safe.

4. Past shipments do not reflect the risks we face after 9/11

To quote terrorism expert James Ballard testifying before the U.S. Senate in May, 2002:

“Investigations of the infrastructure behind the [September 11] attacks revealed an active interest by al Qaeda and others in the development of nuclear weapons of mass destruction and radiological weapons of mass contamination. The latter category is where the risks lie for shipments of radioactive waste to the Yucca Mountain facility.”

“Terrorists and counter terrorism experts recognize these shipments for what they could become: Potential weapons of mass radiological contamination.”

LINK: Ballard testimony (PDF format)

Our past experiences and safety measures do not adequately address the terrorist threat. Significantly increased safety and planning measures will be required to reduce the terrorist threat to acceptable levels.

 

Is there a terrorist threat?

 

Within hours of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. Department of Energy ordered a halt to all transport of nuclear fuel and waste. In the tense weeks that followed, DOE suspended nuclear shipments two more times – once for fear of counterattack after the U.S. began air strikes in Afghanistan, and again for what the DOE described as “in the best interest of the government.”

Federal officials recently issued alerts to rail and transit officials warning of possible terrorist attacks. With America on heightened alert against terrorism, how can it be in the best interest of the country to ship 77,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste on trucks and trains through 45 states over the next 38 years?

Many Americans who live along the highways and rail lines that would carry high-level nuclear waste to Nevada can’t accept the government’s argument that the best way to guard the waste against terrorist attacks is to dramatically increase the number and location of targets. A man in Iowa, referring to the casks used to transport the waste, said: “There are people loose out there who can shoot holes in these things.”

Current cask models are protected by less than five inches of steel, but weapons readily available on the black market can pierce 12 to 30 inches of steel. A study by the State of Nevada estimated that penetration of a waste cask by a portable anti-tank missile launcher could cause 3,000 to 18,000 latent cancer fatalities. Cleanup and recovery costs would exceed $10 billion.

 

Will my Governor Set the Routes?

 


Front Page, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 1, 2001

HOLDEN SAYS RADIOACTIVE SHIPMENT WAS BUNGLED
GOVERNOR CHARGES THAT FEDERAL AGENCY BROKE PROMISES ON MOVING WASTE


By Bill Bell Jr. Post-Dispatch Jefferson City Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY, MO--When a shipment of highly radioactive nuclear waste quietly rolled through St. Louis on June 28, the state Highway Patrol said everything went smoothly.

But details now surfacing show the shipment did not go as planned -- or as promised.

Last week, Gov. Bob Holden charged that the Department of Energy broke agreements to avoid rush-hour traffic and major public events. In a letter to Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, Holden wrote that the department also shipped the waste from Germany without setting up safe parking areas. "They did everything they promised they wouldn't do," said Jerry Nachtigal, a spokesman for Holden. Nachtigal said the governor also was worried about what sort of precedent the botched shipment might set. Another load of foreign waste is set to travel from South Carolina to Idaho next year.

After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, "the errors are just that much more alarming given the potential for something to go wrong," he said...


If the Senate gives the go-ahead to Yucca Mountain this summer, then transportation planning will be left up to the Dept. of Energy—the primary proponent of the Yucca Mountain dump—and the Department of Transportation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will have no authority to modify or reject the project on the basis of transportation concerns, only concerns about the site itself and the engineering of the transport containers.

Once the project is formally licensed and underway, Congress will have no say on the transportation concerns. Not even the Governors of the 45 states through which the waste will pass will have authority to determine the timing or routes of nuclear waste shipments through local communities--that will be up to Washington. The only “power” Governors will have will be to suggest state and local “preferences” about nuclear waste shipment routes and timing, suggestions that have been ignored in the recent past. Mayors and other officials will have no say whatsoever.

Proposed shipment routes through Colorado and Pennsylvania were altered after the states identified elements of the route that did not conform to Department of Transportation regulations.

PDF FILE: Halstead Testimony

 

What other groups are involved in nuclear waste transportation issues?

 

Many public interest groups are engaged in the debate over the transportation of high level radioactive waste and the nuclear dump at Yucca Mountain. Here are some of the leaders in that fight.

Citizen Alert
URL: www.citizenalert.org
This smart, scrappy Nevada group is literally at ground zero in the fight to stop the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump. They have a wealth of resources on their accessible, well-designed Web site including national maps of nuclear waste transport routes that are available as posters.

Sierra Club
URL: www.sierraclub.org/nuclearwaste
The Club's extensive Nuclear Waste Task Force Home Page bespeaks a long, inspired commitment to the Yucca Mountain fight.

Public Citizen
URL: www.publiccitizen.org/atomicroad
Joan Claybrook's group has provided some of the most effective, consistent advocacy on Yucca Mountain.

U.S.PIRG
URL: www.uspirg.org
Another smart, long-time opponent of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump and the transportation plan that goes with it.

Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS)
URL: www.nirs.org
NIRS is at the forefront of the debate over nuclear energy and the Yucca Mountain issues. Vast amounts of information about nuclear issues can be found on their site.

Greenpeace
URL: www.greenpeaceusa.org/nuclear/
By entering their zip code, visitors to the web site will gain immediate access to a wealth of data on nuclear facilities in their area, as well as the corporations that own and operate them.

STATE GROUPS

Ohio Citizen Action
URL: www.ohiocitizen.org/campaigns/electric/nucfront.html
Ohio Citizen Action gives citizens of the state a well-informed voice on a wide array of issues, including nuclear power and transportation and the recent near-catastrophe at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant.

The State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects
URL: www.state.nv.us/nucwaste
The State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects is home to a vast trove of research, analysis, and news items assembled by the state in its opposition to becoming the national dumping ground for nuclear waste.

Illinois Student Environmental Network
URL: www.isenonline.org
ISEN works to connect Illinois' college student environmental groups with each other and with environmentalists in all sectors, of all ages, and across all political parties to help students develop the knowledge, skills, and motivation they need to participate effectively in a variety of environmental issues.

 

Supplemental Information

 

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 [http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/yucca/terrfact.htm] 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 carrying a cask containing six fuel elements, buckled from the weight. The cask 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.

DOE Environmental Impact Statement Maps

Here are the maps our Government has provided.

Buried deep in “Appendix J” of the Department of Energy’s 5,000-page Environmental Impact Statement for the Yucca Mt. nuclear waste dump, published in February 2002, are a series of maps that depict the train, truck, and barge routes selected by DOE for its analysis. [Jump to government maps]

The government’s maps provide very little useful information to the public—and insult more than honor the public’s right to know about the transportation implications of the pending decision to initiate tens of thousands of cross-country shipments of extremely radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain in southwest Nevada.

You’ll notice that these maps are drawn to "satellite-view" scale, providing no local detail. In fact, major cities are not even depicted unless they happen to be the State capitol. The extremely controversial potential barge route maps—also buried deep in Appendix J—are on separate pages from the rail and highway maps, further obscuring crucial transportation information that local people have a right to before the Senate approves Yucca Mt.

By the way, if Yucca Mountain moves forward, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will not evaluate transportation aspects of the plan in approving the license. That will be up to DOE—the proponent of Yucca Mt—and the Dept. of Transportation. Governors will only have the power to state their preferences about routes and the timing of shipments. The federal government will have final say, not state an local people and their officials. (See FAQ: Will my governor set the routes?)

These may not be the final routes, but they do meet U.S. Department of Transportation regulations for transporting high-level nuclear waste. And these maps are the only information the goverment has provided. There are only so many choices under those regs. Yucca-bound nuclear shipments would basically have to travel along mainline freight rail routes and Interstate highways. Those rail lines, built many decades ago, connect big cities—just like Interstates do.

Yucca Mountain may sound like it’s in the middle of nowhere. But as you’ll see from MapScience, when it comes to shipping waste, this decision is really about the middle of dozens of America’s biggest cities, and thousands of smaller towns along the prospective routes.

BARGE MAPS

TRAIN AND HIGHWAY MAPS

 

About MapScience

Nuclear Waste Route Maps: About the MapScience System

The government provides almost no useful information about nuclear waste transportation implications of the Yucca Mountain repository. To fill that public information gap, EWG Action Fund staff developed a sophisticated Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis and the capacity to serve custom maps on the Web.

Here is how we conducted the analysis.

Mapping Software, Webware, Data and Analyses

We used state of the art GIS mapping software from ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute), the world leader in this technology. The primary geographic data—the locations of the rail lines and highways, the locations of schools, and other map “data layers”—came from Geographic Data Technology (GDT).

The routes we analyzed were taken directly from the U.S. Dept. of Energy”s final Environmental Impact Statement for the Yucca Mountain. nuclear waste dump. DOE analyzed two scenarios in order to “bracket” the range of the number of shipments required to deliver nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain from locations nationwide. The lower bound shipment estimate is derived from the “primarily train” scenario; the upper bound is associated with the “primarily truck” scenario. Some combination of the two, the DOE says, will be used for Yucca Mountain.

EWG Action Fund research and information technology staff painstakingly identified the routes selected by DOE by comparing the published maps in the EIS to the high-resolution rail and highway maps displayed on our GIS system. Altogether, we traced 20,000 separate route segments to replicate the DOE’s published maps. We then used the GIS system to draw bands along those segments identifying distances within 1 mile, 2 miles and 5 miles of the route.

With the routes in our GIS system, we were able to pre-measure the distance between route segments and the physical location (latitude and longitude) of each of the nation’s 29 million, nine-digit zip codes (Zip+4s, in USPS parlance). This locational data also came from GDT, the leading private source of geographic data. When you type in an address on the MapScience site, our server looks up the Zip+4 for that address and the associated latitude and longitude, and locates its proximity to the nearest nuclear waste route segment on a custom map displayed on your computer. At the same time, it identifies schools and hospitals in the vicinity from separate “data layers” and displays them, too.

The estimates of population and households in proximity to the maps were developed using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 Census of Population. For accuracy, we used data on population and number of households from the smallest published Census unit—the Census “block”—and mapped the overlay of those units within 1, 2 and 5 miles of the route segments. That analysis yielded an estimate of the number of people and households that were close to a nuclear waste route as of the year 2000. Several factors probably cause these population and household figures to be underestimates: overall, the U.S. population is expected to grow, including along many of these routes; and the Census locates where people live, not where they work or commute or go to school, so the maps likely underestimate affected population in urban and suburban areas. Finally, the analysis will tend to overstate the population affected if, as expected, DOE selects some hybrid of its two scenarios (primarily truck and primarily rail), since some route segments will drop out. As noted elsewhere, however, it will be extremely difficult not to ship Yucca-bound nuclear waste by train or truck through hundreds of major cities and towns, because the nation’s mainline freight train routes and Interstates connect population centers.

Funding

The MapScience.org "Nuclear Waste Route Maps" Web site is a project of EWG Action Fund and EWG Action Fund. It was developed with the support of the W. Alton Jones Foundation, The Bauman Foundation, and The Turner Foundation. Support was also provided by Brian Greenspun, publisher of the Las Vegas Sun. No financial support was provided by the State of Nevada. Our funders are not responsible for the site’s content.

Made by Hand @ EWG Action Fund

This Web site was designed and developed by the staff of EWG Action Fund. From start to finish, it took three weeks. We did it because the government didn’t — and should have.

Sean Gray conceptualized and conducted the Geographic Information System analyses of the routes, and implemented the look-up features of the site, including Web display of the maps from the underlying data. Tim Greenleaf designed and produced the site. Chris Campbell designed and performed numerous database analyses, and designed. Many other EWG Action Fund staff contributed to the Web site’s development by providing research, analysis, quality assurance checks, and content: John Coequyt, Brendan DeMelle, Ben Crandall, Jim Cox, Susanne Fleek, Bill Walker, Daphne Dador, and Ken Cook. EWG Action Fund’s public affairs staff developed and implemented our media strategy for the site: Laura Chapin, Liz Moore, Jon Corsiglia, and Elizabeth Abbett.

EWG Action Fund Senior Vice President Richard Wiles managed the research effort for the project, and Mike Casey, EWG Action Fund Vice President for Public Affairs, oversaw the media and Internet communications components.

We also received superb site development support from ESRI.

 

Table: Waste Generated via Relicensing

Congressional approval of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump led to a surge in nuclear power plant relicensing. This increase in the rate of relicensing puts pressure on the DOE to bring Yucca Mountain on-line because these extended operating licenses will generate thousands of metric tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste that must be stored at the power plants, if it is not shipped to Nevada.

"Under intense questioning from Nevada's two senators, [Secretary of Energy] Abraham conceded that the Yucca Mountain repository as currently envisioned could handle only a fraction of the waste expected to be generated by commercial power plants and the government in the coming decade."

—Associated Press, Friday, May 17, 2002

On average, the relicensed reactors generate more than 100 pounds of lethal nuclear waste each day, or about 17 metric tons per reactor per year. This translates into 8,900 metric tons of highly radioactive spent fuel generated by the 26 reactors relicensed to date at 15 power plants across the country.

As currently authorized, Yucca Mountain will not be able to accept the waste generated by these license extensions. To send this additional waste to Nevada, the capacity of Yucca Mountain must be expanded. While it is plausible that the capacity of Yucca Mountain will be increased to accommodate this waste, it is also possible that it will not be. Until a decision is made either way, the thousands more metric tons of high-level nuclear waste generated at these relicensed reactors will be stored on site at nuclear power plants.

Waste from 18 reactors with pending license extension applications at 9 additional power plants would add another 6,600 metric tons of waste to be secured and ultimately disposed.

Relicensing Will Leave Hundreds of Metric Tons of Highly Radioactive Nuclear Waste Stranded at Power Plants

The power plants with the most nuclear waste on site due to license extensions are McGuire in North Carolina, Catawba in South Carolina, and Edwin Hatch in Georgia, with 1,416, 1,409 and 1,103 metric tons of waste respectively left on site at the end of their operating life. The states with the most nuclear waste generated as a result of relicensing are South Carolina, Virginia, and Florida.

Nuclear Plants Where Reactor Licenses Have Been Extended

 

Nuclear Plant State Number of Reactors Waste on-site now
(metric tons)
Waste generated from relicensing
(metric tons)
Waste on-site after license extension expires
(metric tons)
McGuire NC 2 1,122 906 1,416
Catawba SC 2 849 790 1,409
Edwin I. Hatch GA 2 1,144 865 1,103
Oconee SC 3 1,529 959 1,095
North Anna VA 2 915 766 1,082
Peach Bottom PA 2 1,271 806 927
Calvert Cliffs MD 2 923 626 767
St. Lucie FL 2 837 524 746
Surry VA 2 960 668 726
Turkey Point FL 2 874 573 623
Summer SC 1 394 376 593
Arkansas Nuclear One * AR 1 905 291 451
H. B. Robinson SC 1 279 299 291
Fort Calhoun NE 1 310 196 221
Ginna NY 1 383 225 214
Total 8,870 11,663

* The 905 metric tons currently on site include the waste generated by both of Arkansas Nuclear One's reactors. The 291 metric tons of waste generated from relicensing include waste generated only from the one reactor that has been relicensed. The 451 metric tons of waste on-site after the license extension expires does not include waste generated by the second reactor's pending relicense period.

Nuclear Plants With Reactor License Extensions Pending

Nuclear Plant State Number of Reactors Waste on-site now
(metric tons)
Waste generated from relicensing
(metric tons)
Waste on-site after license extension expires
(metric tons)
Browns Ferry AL 3 1,454 1,365 1,442
Millstone CT 2 1,380 936 1,393
D. C. Cook MI 2 1,146 820 1,107
Joseph M. Farley AL 2 942 663 936
James FitzPatrick/Nine Mile Point NY 2 1,405 775 746
Arkansas Nuclear One * AR 1 905 291 743
Dresden IL 2 1,889 738 719
Quad Cities IL 2 1,074 580 638
Point Beach WI 2 724 434 461
Total 6,601 8,184

 

* The 905 metric tons currently on-site include the waste generated by both of Arkansas Nuclear One's reactors. The 291 metric tons of waste generated from relicensing include waste generated only from the one reactor that has a pending application for relicensing, not the reactor that has already been relicensed. The 743 metric tons of waste left on-site after the license extension expires include waste generated by both the reactor that has already been relicensed and the reactor with a pending application to be relicensed.

Source: EWG Action Fund analysis of the DOE Yucca EIS, Appendix A. "Currently on-site" is calculated by taking DOE's figure for actual waste on-site in 1995 and adding the amount of waste DOE reports will be generated by each reactor between 1996 and 2011. "Current license waste generated" is calculated by taking each plant's actual waste on-site in 1995 and adding the following product: the plant's yearly rate of waste generation from 1996 to 2011, as reported by DOE, multiplied by the the number of years the plant will operate past 1995 under its current license. "License extension waste generated" adds "current license waste generated" to the product of waste generated per year and the number of years for which the plant has been, or will be, relicensed.