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Citizen Groups Denounce Proposal for Nuclear Waste Transport Through California


Sept. 28, 2000

Citizen Groups Denounce Proposal for Nuclear Waste Transport Through California

Radioactive Roads and Rails Campaign Arrives in San Bernardino

San Bernardino, Calif. — If nuclear waste is transported through California to Nevada for permanent storage as proposed, San Bernardino could experience serious threats to public health, the environment and the economy in the event of a crash or a radiation leak, public interest groups said today.

Environmental and public interest groups, concerned citizens and elected officials held a news conference outside the County Government Center today to call attention to the dangers associated with transporting high-level radioactive waste through California. Public workshops on the topic of high-level waste transportation will be held from 7-9:30 p.m. tonight at the Public Enterprise Building in San Bernardino, and from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday in Barstow at Dana Park.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is preparing to recommend Yucca Mountain, located near Las Vegas, Nev., as a “permanent disposal site” for high-level radioactive waste generated by atomic weapons facilities and commercial nuclear reactors across the country. A new analysis prepared by the Clark County Comprehensive Planning Division in Nevada found that the waste would have to travel through 734 counties with a total population of 138 million people.

“If Congress gives in to the pressures of the nuclear power industry for a dump at Yucca Mountain, it will initiate the largest nuclear transportation plan in history,” said Lisa Gue, policy analyst for Public Citizen.

Judy Treichel, executive director of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, said, “Members of Congress are under intense pressure from the nuclear power industry to force a dump at Yucca Mountain. If the nuclear industry prevails, over 50 million Americans in 43 states will have the risks of nuclear waste transportation imposed on them and their communities for at least 25 years while the waste is being shipped to Nevada.”

DOE has refused to specify which routes would be used to ship waste. However, potential routes evaluated in the draft Environmental Impact Statement include I-5, I-10, I-15 and I-40 through southern California, as well as rail lines. San Bernardino County would be disproportionately affected. Evidence suggests that property values are likely to drop along nuclear waste transportation routes due to a public perception of danger.

Participants at today s news conference, which took place against the backdrop of a full-sized inflatable model of a nuclear waste transport cask, raised concerns about the safety of radioactive waste transportation schemes.

“The rad trans issue is the most likely nuclear threat to the American public concerning radiation exposure and its consequences in terms of health, welfare and safety,” said Jeff Wright, San Bernardino resident and spokesperson for the Environmentality Project.

Gue, of Public Citizen, explained that the transport casks have never been subjected to full-scale physical testing. A 1987 study sponsored by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission relied on computer modeling to predict how the casks would perform in the event of an accident.

DOE risk analysis data indicate that between 70 and 310 accidents could be expected involving waste shipments to Nevada.

“No adequate safety training is being provided to our police and fire personnel, who will be the first line of defense in the event of accidents,” said Margery Mikels, of Women s Action for New Directions.

Transportation hazards are not the only risks associated with the proposal to build a permanent nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. Geologist Steve Frishman, an expert on Yucca Mountain, pointed to the danger of groundwater contamination and the potentially severe consequences of an earthquake in the area. Nevada ranks third in the country for seismic activity.

“The proposal to build a permanent storage facility at Yucca Mountain does not address the nuclear waste problem,” said Gue. “It merely transfers the risk to the state of Nevada and to communities like San Bernardino, which are unlucky enough to be located along transportation routes targeted for the large-scale shipment of nuclear waste.”

Mikels concluded, “This waste should not be shipped all over the country, exposing millions of people to ionizing radiation. It should be stored at or as close as possible to the place it is generated in monitored, retrievable storage facilities until long-term neutralizing technologies can be developed.”

Other speakers at today s press conference included Terry Wold, of the San Gorgonio Chapter Sierra Club, and Ruth Lopez, executive director of People Against Radioactive Dumping. The event was held as part of the Radioactive Roads and Rails Campaign, sponsored nationally by Public Citizen and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), and in San Bernardino County by People Against Radioactive Dumping (PARD), San Gorgonio Chapter Sierra Club, Environmentality, and Women s Action for New Directions (WAND).