April 25, 2001
Citizen Groups Denounce Plans for Nuclear Waste Transport Through Florida
Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice * Suwanee-St. John Sierra Club *
Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program
GAINESVILLE, FL — A proposal to open a repository for high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, would not solve the nuclear waste problem but would introduce new risks in the vicinity of the dump and along transportation routes in Florida, citizen groups said today. State and national environmental and public interest organizations joined forces today at a news conference at Gainesville’s downtown plaza. The groups called attention to the dangers associated with transporting high-level radioactive waste through Florida and the dramatic flaws of the repository proposal.
“The proposal for a radioactive dump at Yucca Mountain does not solve the nuclear waste problem, but merely transfers the risk to the state of Nevada and to communities along shipment routes,” said Carol Mosely, state coordinator with Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice. “A crash or radiation leak during transportation could pose serious threats to our health, environment and economy.”
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is now preparing to recommend Yucca Mountain, located near Las Vegas, Nev., as a permanent repository for high-level radioactive waste generated by atomic weapons facilities and commercial nuclear reactors across the country. An analysis prepared by the Clark County Comprehensive Planning Division in Nevada found that the waste would have to travel through 734 counties, which have a total population of 138 million people.
“Congress is under immense pressure from the nuclear power industry to approve a dump at Yucca Mountain,” said Kathy Cantwell, chair of Suwanee-St. John Sierra Club. “But this proposal is clearly contrary to sustainable energy goals, and would irresponsibly initiate the largest nuclear transportation scheme in history.”
DOE has refused to specify which routes would be used to ship high-level waste to Yucca Mountain. However, potential routes evaluated in a draft Environmental Impact Statement include I-75 and I-95 through Florida, as well as rail lines.
Against the backdrop of a full-sized inflatable model of a nuclear waste transport cask, participants at today s news conference raised concerns about the safety of transporting radioactive waste. DOE risk analysis data indicate that between 70 and 310 accidents could be expected involving waste shipments to Nevada.
Lisa Gue, policy analyst for Public Citizen, explained that the transport casks never have been subjected to full-scale physical testing. Rather, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission relies on computer modeling to predict how the casks would perform in the event of an accident. Even without an accident, the high-level nuclear waste shipments would routinely emit radiation equivalent to one chest X-ray per hour.
Transportation hazards are not the only risks associated with the proposal to build a permanent nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. The site itself is unsuitable, and DOE repository designs rely on the integrity of engineered storage canisters to contain the highly radioactive waste. Scientists in Nevada have pointed to the danger of groundwater contamination if these canisters leak, since the proposed repository would sit atop an aquifer. In addition to gradual corrosion and degradation of the storage canisters, an earthquake could cause them to break open. The chance of an earthquake occurring is far from remote; Nevada ranks third in the country for seismic activity.
“Congress must not allow this dangerous and dirty proposal to move forward,” concluded Gue.
The event was held as part of the Radioactive Roads and Rails Campaign, a national project of Public Citizen and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), supported in Gainesville by the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, Civic Media Center, and Suwannee/St. Johns Sierra Club. A public workshop will be held this evening from 7:30 to 9:00 at Civic Media Center (1021 West University Ave., Gainesville).