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« Urge PHMSA to undertake Programmatic EIS on water-borne radioactive waste shipments! | Main | Radioactive waste "cargo" on the Great Lakes would violate Haudenosaunee 7th Generation Philosophy »
Thursday
Feb242011

So-called "low" level radioactive waste shipments by water could set bad precedent for much worse to come!

Should the fresh surface waters of the U.S. -- primary drinking water supplies for countless tens and even hundreds of millions of Americans -- be used as shipping lanes for radioactive waste? Should the fishing grounds in our oceanic bays and coasts become haz. mat. routes for irradiated nuclear fuel? The nuclear establishment in industry and government seems to think so.

Bruce Power's proposal to ship 16 radioactive steam generators, so-called "low" level radioactive wastes -- despite containing mostly ultra-hazardous plutonium isotopes, as well as other hazardous radioactive substances -- could set a bad precedent that will pave the way for vastly more radiologically risky shipments of high-level radioactive waste in the future. In its 2002 Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada dump, the U.S. Department of Energy revealed it was considering barging irradiated nuclear fuel on waterways across the U.S. The DOE's targets included the Chesapeake Bay, the James River in Virginia, the Delaware Bay, the waterways (Long Island Sound, the Hudson River, etc.) surrounding metro New York City, the waterways of Massachusetts (Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts Bay, and Boston Harbor), Lake Michigan, the Mississippi River, the Tennessee River, the Missouri River, the Pacific coastline of California, and the Atlantic coastline of Florida. Wisely, President Obama and Energy Secretary Chu zeroed out the Yucca Mountain Project's funding in 2009, effectively cancelling the dump.

However, any away-from-reactor plans for irradiated nuclear fuel -- such as reprocessing or centralized interim storage, under consideration by Obama and Chu's "Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future" -- could revive such high-level radioactive waste water-borne shipping plans. For example, a report put out by Common Sense at the Nuclear Crossroads, using a DOE routing computer program, shows that water-borne shipments of irradiated nuclear fuel bound for a proposed commercial reprocessing facility at Savannah River Site, South Carolina, could target the Great Lakes, rivers, bays and sea coasts.

In terms of safety and security risks, these water-borne shipments of high-level radioactive waste can be regarded as potential floating Chernobyls or dirty bombs targeted at our drinking water supplies, fishing grounds, beaches, and largest ports.