Texas Radiation Online- Waste Transport Across Texas

Transportation to WIPP: Hazards of Transuranic Waste Shipping Containers
Shipping containers for transporting transuranic waste on the highways to WIPP are called TRUPACTs. The safety of the TRUPACT-II containers has come under scrutiny for a number of reasons. The majority of the tests conducted by the NRC were computer simulations, and not actual tests. One actual test included dropping a canister 30-feet into concrete. In the first two of these tests, the outer shell had breached. Although the DOE estimates that 40% or more of the contents of a TRUPAC container will be combustible materials, there were no tests done to determine the effects of an internal fire.

Shipments to WIPP will cross 22 states. Initially, 1450 shipments a year were estimated to arrive at WIPP, and that rate has nearly been reached. In August 2001, WIPP reached 14 shipments a week, and for 2002 expects to reach at least 24 shipments a week. From the 38,089 TRUPACT shipments scheduled over the next 35 years the DOE has estimated that 6 deaths and 48 injuries would result from accidents, and that an additional 3 people would die from radiation exposure. Since the DOE doesnt consider an accident will release radioactivity these numbers are expected to be much higher. Rail transport has been estimated to result in 10 times lower exposures to the public, and 100 times lower doses to workers than the truck shipments, but trains are not being considered for use in WIPP shipments.

Two traffic accidents involving TRUPACT shipments to WIPP occurred within a month apart in 2002.

Transportation to Yucca Mountain - Risks of High-Level Waste Transportation
Yucca Mountain shipments would pass through 734 counties in 44 States. The transportation casks have not been fully tested to ensure they could withstand realistically severe crashes. Motions have been in process to adopt IAEA standards for transportation containers, which would weaken US standards. Also, the waste will make a tempting terrorist target as it rolls across the country

Tests at the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground and Sandia National Labs found that shipping containers are vulnerable to shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles and high explosives. Terrorists would not have to steal radioactive material and smuggle it into a population center; they could wait for the Energy Dept. and nuclear industry to do the hard part for them. This would result in a situation worse than any dirty bomb senario.

Wastes stored on-site at reactors across the U.S. must be immediately fortified, bunkered with thick concrete to guard against attack. Waste shipments by truck, train, and barge between the reactors and Yucca cannot be fortified: they'd be too heavy to move.

It is unlikely that emergency workers would be prepared to adequately handle such potential disasters. DOE estimates nearly 300 crashes could occur while this dangerous waste is being shipped to Nevada. NIRS says 450 (15 a year) over 30yrs. Each transport container holds the equivalent of up to 240 times the radioactivity that was released in the Hiroshima bomb.

Current reports show that even the release of a small fraction of the contents of a nuclear waste cask during an accident could contaminate 42 square miles and if it occurs in a city (which is the greatest likelihood) require over $9.5 billion per square mile to clean up. Knowing this, the nuclear industry has lobbied to create laws exempting them from any liability once the nuclear waste has left the reactor. It will be the U.S. taxpayers who will be paying the huge cleanup costs.

Over 1/3 of our nation's populations lives near these radioactive highway routes threatened by these accidents waiting to happen. For cities like Las Vegas and Salt Lake City the danger is even greater, as all of these shipments would pass close to schools, businesses and homes with hundreds of thousands exposed to the potential radioactive disaster waiting to happen.

The Price Anderson Act limits radioactive waste companies' liability for accidents to $9.4 billion. Clean-up costs for an accident with this waste are estimated at $14 to $313 billion by the State of Utah's Dept. of Environmental Quality.

What MapScience.org says about Texas and Yucca Mtn:
Transporting nuclear waste to Nevada does not get rid of nuclear waste in Texas. Instead, shipping high level nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain adds new transportation security risks that residents of Texas will have to deal with for 38 years beginning in 2010.
• The Comanche Peak and South Texas Project reactors in Texas will still have 1,637 and 1,307 metric tons of high level nuclear waste on-site when the Yucca Mountain Project is completed.

• When the Yucca Mountain Project is completed there will be roughly the same amount of high level nuclear waste at power plants across the country as there is today.

• The only reactors that will get rid of their waste completely, according to the Department of Energy, are those that are closed today.

• High-level nuclear waste in Texas now - 1,141 metric tons. High-level nuclear waste in Texas if Yucca Mt. Project proceeds to completion - 2,944 metric tons.

Shipping 77,000 metric tons of high level nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain means thousands of nuclear waste shipments through Texas, many from out of state. The proposed routes move potentially lethal nuclear waste through Texas's major population centers including Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso.
• By truck:
8,411 truck shipments over 38 years or an average of 234 truck shipments a year.
69 percent of these shipments (5,798) will come from outside of Texas.

• By rail:
12,570 train shipments over 38 years or an average of 349 train shipments a year.
96 percent of these shipments (12,111) will come from outside of Texas.

Millions of Texas residents are at risk of exposure to deadly nuclear radiation is if there is an accident or terrorist attack. In Texas:
• 2,336,290 people live within 1 mile of the Department of Energy's proposed high level nuclear waste transportation routes. 8,003,276 people live within 5 miles.

• 599 schools are within 1 mile of the Department of Energy's proposed high level nuclear waste transportation routes. 1,414 schools are within 5 miles.

• 76 hospitals are within 1 mile of the Department of Energy's proposed high level nuclear waste transportation routes. 142 hospitals are within 5 miles.

Accidents Happen
• There are 60,000 tractor-trailer wrecks on interstates each year, 3,300 of these involve rollovers.

• In Texas there were 2,391 fatal semi-truck wrecks from 1994 through 2001, 577 occurred on interstates.

• There were 9,051 train wrecks in Texas from 1990 through 2001 including 2,427 derailments and 399 collisions.

First responders face life threatening risks
• In the event of an accident where radiation is leaking, first responders, local police, fire and hazardous materials response teams could easily be exposed to lethal does of radiation. Independent analysis of the health and economic impacts of an attack with common military demolition devices could cause 300 to 1,800 latent cancer deaths and cleanup and recovery costs of $10 billion or more.

• Three-quarters of all firefighters in the United States are volunteers. These men and women are being offered voluntary radiation training, but it is extremely unlikely that the nations' 2 million first responders will be properly trained and equipped to respond to a serious leak of high level radiation from a transportation wreck or a terrorist incident.

Transportation routes for Yucca Mountain Over Texas Highways

Transportation to Andrews
Transportation routes to Andrews and other LLW processing sites in Texas are not posted. DOE documents show that between 1971 and 1994 there were 306 accidents involving 3,649 containers of "low-level" radioactive waste. Of these, 236 containers were damaged and 149 resulted in an unspecified amount of radiation being released into the environment.

On August 24th 2001, it was revealed that a 22-ton shipment of waste from a Illinois gaseous diffusion plant had headed for Andrews, and was lost for nearly a month when found dumped on a North Texas cattle ranch near Oklahoma piled on plastic and covered with dirt.

Trivia Time: During the following 78th Texas State Legislature, Sen Bivins again released WCS's bill -which would allow them to dump vast amounts of DOE waste- in the Senate, it was originally ironically numbered as Senate Bill 824- corresponding to the date that the above blunder was reported to federal authorities [NRC Daily Event Notification Listing 08-24-2001 EN#38227]. Later, it was the identical House version, HB1567, which was passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.

Other Internet Resources on Waste Transport
You may also want to see our pages dealing with WIPP and Yucca Mountain specifically.

Radioactive Roads and Rails: Hauling Nuclear Waste Through Our Neighborhoods
June 2002 - Report of the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the State Public Interest Research Groups

State of Nevada, Nuclear Waste Project Office: Transportation Documents

MapScience - enter a zip code for Yucca Mtn transportation facts on that area.

Pamphlets from Public Citizen:
      Are Your Emergency Responders Prepared for a Nuclear Waste Accident?
      Get the Facts on Property Values and Nuclear Waste Transportation
      Get the Facts on Nuclear Waste Transportation

Information on WIPP from Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety
      WIPP - Transportation Issues
      WIPP - Where Do We Stand? (overview index)

Environmental Evaluation Group of New Mexico: WIPP Transportation