Nuclear waste may be coming soon through rural Western communities. As early as June, the U.S. Department of Energy plans to ship five loads of nuclear waste through Concord, Calif., to a federal storage facility near Idaho Falls in eastern Idaho.
The waste, spent nuclear fuel rods from
Asia, is a legacy of the Eisenhower administration's 1950s Atoms
for Peace program, which allowed Asian countries to use
U.S.-produced uranium for research. To reduce the threat of nuclear
terrorism, the countries promised to return the waste to the United
States for safe storage.
After passing under the
Golden Gate Bridge, the waste will travel by rail through
Sacramento, Calif.; Reno, Nev.; Ogden, Utah; Pocatello, Idaho, and
numerous small towns in the four states. It will be shipped in
25-ton lead and steel casks, each containing more radioactive
material than a nuclear bomb, said John Hadder, a spokesman for
Citizen Alert, a Nevada grassroots group for government
The shipments have provoked
protests all along the 1,400-mile route and lawsuits from
California's Contra Costa County and the city of Concord. On Feb.
16, activists started traveling the route with a mock cask, telling
the public about the risks involved with the
But there is virtually no chance of a leak,
according to John Belluardo, a DOE spokesman in Oakland. The casks
are designed to withstand smashes, 2,000-foot plunges and head-on
collisions with diesel locomotives traveling 80 miles an hour, he
said. Nevertheless, federal officials have been training emergency
personnel from Concord to Idaho on how to handle a nuclear accident
- just in case.
For information, contact John
Hadder at Citizen Alert (702/827-4200) or the Department of Energy
* Jane Braxton