Nukewatch Quarterly Fall 2016
At least 150 truckloads of extremely dangerous liquid radioactive waste are slated to drive through Canadian and US communities and across major waterway crossings, from Chalk River, Ontario, in Canada to the Savannah River Site, in South Carolina.
Seven nonprofit organizations challenged these unprecedented, high-risk shipments in federal court in Washington, DC Aug. 15, requesting preliminary and permanent injunctions to prevent the import and transport which violates US federal environmental, atomic energy and administrative procedure laws.
The coalition lawsuit charges that the Department of Energy (DOE) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) failed to provide a thorough public process as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to fully analyze the hazards of shipping liquid highly radioactive waste on roads. An Environmental Impact Statement must be prepared and made available for other federal agencies and citizens to review and comment on, including a discussion of alternative ways to deal with the nuclear waste.
Experts from the international coalition testify that the shipments are unwarranted, ill-advised and entirely unnecessary. Allowing highly radioactive liquid wastes from Canada to be shipped through communities and over major waterways in Canada and the United States, without the deliberative NEPA procedures, would set a dangerous precedent, and it would also intensify pressure on South Carolina to become an international nuclear sacrifice area.
US Rep. Brian Higgins, D-NY, has said that the proposed shipments raise significant homeland security questions. The US House of Representatives unanimously passed Higgins-sponsored legislation requiring a NEPA Environmental Impact Statement for the proposal.
The liquid high-level nuclear waste in question is a corrosive acidic mixture of dozens of highly dangerous radioactive materials including cesium-137, strontium-90, iodine-129, plutonium-239, and weapons-grade uranium-235, left over from the production of medical isotopes at Chalk River, Ontario, northwest of Ottawa.
Although it was previously determined that this highly dangerous liquid waste would be solidified and stored in Canada, the DOE now plans to truck 6,000 gallons of the extremely radioactive waste, in liquid form, to the Savannah River Site, in exchange for $60 million from Canada.
“Liquid high-level nuclear waste is known to be among the most dangerous materials on the planet, as we have seen at the Savannah River Nuclear Weapons Site and the nuclear power and weapons reprocessing site at West Valley, New York. There is a good reason why no one has ever tried to move this stuff over public roads before,” said Diane D’Arrigo of Nuclear Information & Resource Service.
“Our organization has fought against the needless and heedless transport of solid waste uranium fuel over public roads, rails, and waters,” said Kevin Kamps, nuclear waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear. “The only thing worse than solid irradiated uranium is the liquid variety. It is a Mobile Chernobyl. It cannot be contained when spilled due to crash, fire, or deliberate attack,” he said.
Dr. Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, said, “Chalk River has been solidifying exactly the same kind of liquid waste for over 10 years already. In 2011 Chalk River promised to handle all this material on site… making the high-risk transport of this material over public roads completely unnecessary.”
The lawsuit is being filed against the DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration on behalf of a number of organizations whose individual members live along likely transport routes who could suffer significantly in the event of an accident.
—Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Information & Resource Service, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Savannah River Site Watch