June 18, 2002
Caravan of Mock Nuclear Waste Transportation Casks Converges at Capitol to Join Lawmakers and Activists in Fight Against Yucca Mountain
Senators and Environmental Leaders Urge Rejection of Dangerous Nuclear Transportation Scheme
WASHINGTON, D.C. ? With giant replicas of radioactive waste transportation casks as a backdrop, national environmental, public interest and consumer groups joined lawmakers and activists at a press conference and rally today to urge the Senate to reject the dangerous proposal to transport high-level nuclear waste to a dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. A final vote in the Senate is expected within the next month.
The caravan of six casks converged at the Capitol today after a three-week national tour designed to alert citizens who live near the projected nuclear waste transportation routes. Each dumbbell-shaped cask is 20 feet long and seven feet tall, a life-size replica of the actual casks that would be traveling on the nation’s highways, railways and waterways for up to 38 years if the Yucca Mountain project is approved.
“We have been overwhelmed by the response of local communities as we’ve driven through town after town in the last few weeks,” said Amy Shollenberger, a Vermont activist who drove one of the casks through New England and the Midwest. “We?ve come to Washington to deliver the message that people across the country are worried about the prospect of regular shipments of deadly nuclear waste through their communities.”
The potential dangers of this scheme are enormous, opponents said.
“The Department of Energy?s Yucca Mountain recommendation fails to address transportation concerns,” said Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen president. “Shipping tens of thousands of tons of nuclear waste in untested casks to a questionable site, as currently proposed, poses risks that cannot be justified. An accident, crash or attack involving just one of these shipments could be catastrophic.”
Accidents involving nuclear waste transport already have occurred. A 1996 analysis of Department of Energy accident reports documented 72 “incidents” since 1949 involving nuclear waste shipments, including four instances of “accidental radioactive material contamination beyond the vehicle” and 49 instances in which the surface of the container was contaminated. With Yucca Mountain, the number of nuclear waste shipments would be vastly increased. Since the beginning of the nuclear age, there have been 3,000 shipments of high-level waste; that number could be exceeded within the first two years of shipments to Yucca Mountain.
At the press conference, activists unveiled a statement endorsed by more than 200 citizens groups from around the country opposing the Yucca Mountain Project.
“We are extremely concerned that these mobile Chernobyls ? more than 100 thousand shipments of waste ? will move across the United States for four decades, past our homes and past our children?s schools,” said Gene Karpinski, executive director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
Leaders of national environmental and public interest organizations emphasized the dangers of transporting high-level nuclear waste and problems with the Yucca Mountain site itself, calling last Friday?s earthquake in southern Nevada “a wake-up call from Mother Nature.”
U.S. Sens. Harry Reid, assistant majority leader from Nevada, and John Ensign (R-Nev.) spoke at today?s event. Other participants included representatives of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Clean Water Action, Friends of the Earth, League of Women Voters, National Environmental Trust, Nuclear Information Resource Service, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Citizen, Safe Energy Communication Council, Sierra Club, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and Women’s Action for New Directions.
The following groups participated in today’s press conference:
Alliance for Nuclear Accountability * Clean Water Action * Friends of the Earth * League of Women Voters * National Environmental Trust * Nuclear Information Resource Service * Physicians for Social Responsibility * Public Citizen * Safe Energy Communication Council * Sierra Club * Transportation Safety Coalition * U.S. Public Interest Research Group * Women’s Action for New Directions * 20/20 Vision