Waste Transportation

The transportation of radioactive waste already occurs, but will become frequent on our rails, roads and waterways, should irradiated reactor fuel be moved to interim or permanent dump sites.



Broad coalition submits additional comments to CNSC opposing radioactive steam generator shipment on Great Lakes

A broad environmental and public interest coalition of groups from both the U.S. and Canada has again voiced its opposition to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) opposing Bruce Power's proposal to ship 16 radioactive steam generators on the Great Lakes and Atlantic Ocean to Sweden for so-called "recycling." A media release was issued by the coalition. Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and Canadian co-chair of the Great Lakes United Nuclear-Free/Green Energy Task Force submitted supplemental comments, again emphasizing that the proposed shipment's cargo is mostly plutonium, hardly "low-level" radioactive waste of "no risk" to the public and environment as alleged by CNSC. Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, and a member of the GLU Nuclear-Free/Green Energy Task Force, also submitted supplementary comments (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3), emphasizing the nationwide and growing coalition calling for "hardened on-site storage" for radioactive wastes rather than risky transport for no good reason -- such as so-called "recycling" of radioactive materials into consumer products, which carries its own radiological risks for the population at large. Michael Keegan, chair of the Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, called upon CNSC for a Full Panel Review, the top level environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Ziggy Kleinau, on behalf of the Bruce Peninsula Environment Group, called for an independent full panel review five years ago, and also submitted supplemental comments yesterday.


7 Great Lakes States U.S. Senators object to radioactive waste shipment from Canada to Sweden

Seven U.S. Senators from Great Lakes States -- Russell Feingold (D-WI), Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Carl Levin (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Richard Durbin (D-IL, Assistant Senate Majority Leader), and Charles Schumer (D-NY) -- have written to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the Canadian federal government, expressing serious concerns about a proposed shipment of 16 radioactive steam generators from Bruce Nuclear Power Plant in Ontario to Sweden for "recycling" into consumer products. The shipment, on board a single ship, would violate International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) limits for the quantity of radioactivity aboard a single vessel. The shipment would travel via Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and connecting rivers (St. Clair, Detroit, the Welland canal, and St. Lawrence), and then across the Atlantic Ocean (see route map). Shockingly, Bruce Power's CEO, Duncan Hawthorne, has stated that there is no emergency plan for dealing with the sinking of the ship, stating there would be plenty of time to determine what to do once the ship sank. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, as well as the US DOT PHMSA, must approve permits for the shipment before it can commence. PHMSA has recently been the subject of severe criticism for oil pipeline leak and natural gas pipeline explosion disasters, as well as for the close ties between its leadership and companies involved in these disasters. Beyond Nuclear, along with a coalition of environmental groups, has called upon PHMSA to conduct a full environmental analysis on the proposed shipment, in order to fulfill its National Environmental Policy Act federal legal obligations, before permitting the shipment to enter U.S. territorial waters on the Great Lakes -- 20% of the world's surface fresh water, drinking supply for 40 million in the U.S., Canada, and numerous Native American/First Nations, and regional engine for one of the biggest economies on the planet.


Bi-national environmental coalition demands U.S. Dept. of Transportation scrutinize risks of radioactive waste ship on Great Lakes

Detroit News graphic of route, Sept. 11, 2010A U.S.-Canadian environmental coalition has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, demanding that it perform a federally required National Environmental Policy Act examination of the risks associated with Bruce Power shipping 16 radioactive steam generators from its 8 reactor nuclear power plant on the Lake Huron shoreline in Ontario, via the remaining Great Lakes, across the Atlantic, to Sweden for melting down and mixing into the consumer product scrap metal recycling stream. The coalition also demands that PHMSA analyze the less dangerous alternative of a longstanding Canadian plan simply to store the steam generators indefinitely onsite. They demand this happen before granting a U.S. DOT permit for the shipment of these radioactive wastes through U.S. waters on the Great Lakes. As described in the coalition's press release, the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Cities Initiative has calculated that the radioactive cargo would violate International Atomic Energy Agency safety regulations for the amount of radioactivity allowed on a single ship by 50 times over. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, whose staff has described the shipment as of very low risk, will hold a hearing in Ottawa, Ontario beginning on Sept. 29th to receive public comment from concerned citizens. Over 75 such submissions have been made by groups from the U.S. and Canada, showing how concerned environmentalists are about this radioactive waste shipment on the Great Lakes. Beyond Nuclear has registered to provide oral testimony at the hearing on the comments it has submitted. A full size image of the map showing the route above appeared in the Detroit News on Sept. 11.


Resistance builds to radioactive waste shipments on Great Lakes

The Great Lakes United (GLU) Nuclear-Free/Green Energy Task Force has taken the lead in shining a spotlight on the proposal by Bruce Nuclear Power Complex in Ontario to barge 16 radioactive steam generators out the Great Lakes, and across the Atlantic, to Sweden for "recycling" the metal for un-restricted re-use in consumer products. A resolution signed by scores of organizations in the U.S. and Canada, as well as a cover letter to heads of government in the U.S. and Canada, signed by Task Force co-chairs Dr. Gordon Edwards and Michael Keegan, as well as GLU executive director Derek Stack, is posted at the GLU website. Also posted there are three documents written by Dr. Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility: a graphic image and photograph showing the radioactive "intestines" inside steam generatorss; an inventory of the hazardous radioactive isotopes that contaminate steam generators; and official company and government environmental assessment documents showing that the plan had been to store the radioactive steam generators on-site as waste, not ship them off for "recycling."

In addition to the radiological risks of one of these barges sinking -- including stigma impacts on economic sectors such as Great Lakes tourism and fisheries, even if there is not a radioactive release -- there is also the precedent setting nature of this proposal. As part of its Yucca Mountain plan, the U.S. Dept. of Energy has also proposed barging high-level radioactive wastes on the Great Lakes, as well as on the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay, various surface waters surrounding metro New York City as well as Boston, the California and Florida coastlines, and such inland rivers as the James in Virginia, the Mississippi, the Missouri, and the Tennessee. Unlike steam generators, irradiated nuclear fuel sinking risks accidental nuclear chain reactions underwater, due to the presence of fissile U-235 and Pu-239 in the high-level radioactive waste, which would make emergency response a "suicide mission," and would worsen radioactive releases to the environment. But any other "away-from-reactor" plans, such as reprocessing or "centralized interim storage" (aka parking lot dumps), could also involve such barge shipments.

Beyond Nuclear has delivered copies of the materials about the Bruce steam generator barge shipments proposal to the U.S. congressional delegations of the eight Great Lakes States (IL, IN, MI, MN, NY, OH, PA, WI). Please contact your own U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Urge them to take action, such as contacting the Obama administration, to protect the inland and coastal waters of the U.S. from the risks of shipping radioactive wastes.


The Yucca Mountain Dump Plan Would Launch Up to 453 Barges of Deadly High-Level Radioactive Waste Onto the Waters of Lake Michigan

As part of its plan to transport high-level radioactive waste to Western Shoshone Indian land at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) proposes up to 453 barges carrying giant high-level radioactive waste containers onto the waters of Lake Michigan. See the second page of this fact sheet for a map
of the proposed routes and a breakdown of shipment numbers by port.
Accidents happen. But what if high-level radioactive waste is involved? U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) design criteria for atomic waste transport containers are woefully inadequate. Rather than full-scale physical safety testing, scale model tests and computer simulations are all that is required. The underwater immersion design criteria are meant to “test” (on paper, at least) the integrity of a slightly damaged container submerged under 3 feet of water for 8 hours. An undamaged cask is “tested” (on computers, at least) for a 1 hour submersion under 656 feet of water.
But if a cask were accidentally immersed under water, or sunk by terrorists, is it reasonable for NRC to assume that the cask would only be slightly damaged, or
not damaged at all? Given that barge casks could weigh well over 100 tons (even up to 140 tons), how can NRC assume that they could be recovered from underwater within 1 hour, or even within 8 hours? Special cranes capable of lifting such heavy loads would have to be located, brought in, and set up. And what about the fact that Lake Michigan is deeper than 656 feet at locations not far from DOE’s proposed barge shipment routes?
The dangers of nuclear waste cask submersion underwater are two fold. First, radioactivity could leak from the cask into the water. Each container would hold 200 times the long lasting radioactivity released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Given high-level atomic waste’s deadliness, leakage of even a fraction of a cask’s contents could spell unprecedented catastrophe in the source of drinking water for tens of millions of people – Lake Michigan. Second, enough fissile uranium-235 and plutonium is present in high-level atomic waste that water, with its neutron moderating properties, could actually cause a nuclear chain reaction to take place within the cask. Such an inadvertent criticality event in Sept. 1999 at a nuclear fuel factory in Japan led to the deaths of two workers; many hundreds of nearby residents, including children, received radiation doses well above safety
Don't let DOE and NRC get away with shipping high-level radioactive wastes on Lake Michigan!
Urge your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative to oppose the Yucca Mountain dump plan.
Call their offices via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121.
For more info., contact Beyond Nuclear at (240) 462-3216.