NUKE WASTE MAY GO NEAR 7.5 MILLION.Byline: Bill Hillburg Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - A new study to be released today details how vast amounts of California's nuclear waste likely would travel through the web of freeways and rail lines cutting through Ventura County, the San Fernando Valley San Fernando Valley
Valley, southern California, U.S. Northwest of central Los Angeles, the valley is bounded by the San Gabriel, Santa Susana, and Santa Monica mountains and the Simi Hills. and nearby communities en route to the proposed Yucca Mountain Yucca Mountain, mountain in the SW Nevada desert about 100 mi (161 km) northwest of Las Vegas. It is the proposed site of a Dept. of Energy (DOE) repository for up to 77,000 metric tons of nuclear waste (including commercial and defense spent fuel and high-level storage complex in Nevada.
It was reported in March that the Department of Energy was considering shipping high-level radioactive waste Noun 1. high-level radioactive waste - radioactive waste that left in a nuclear reactor after the nuclear fuel has been consumed
radioactive waste - useless radioactive materials that are left after some laboratory or commercial process is completed from the Diablo Canyon plant by barge from San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo (săn l`ĭs ōbĭs`pō), city (1990 pop. 41,958), seat of San Luis Obispo co., S Calif., near San Luis Obispo Bay; inc. 1856. County to Port Hueneme Port Hueneme (wī'nē`mē), city (1990 pop. 20,319), Ventura co., S Calif., on the Pacific coast; founded 1870, inc. 1948. It has an artificial deep-sea harbor and is the site of a huge naval construction-battalion (Seabee) center. in Ventura County but the truck and train routes that would be used to get it to the planned underground repository in Nevada were not provided.
In the new report, the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based watchdog organization, said rail lines in Ventura County, the Valley and the Antelope Valley This article is about the Los Angeles County region. For the census-designated place in Wyoming, see Antelope Valley-Crestview, Wyoming.
The Antelope Valley and the 5 and 210 freeways through Santa Clarita Santa Clarita, city (1990 pop. 110,642), Los Angeles co., S Calif., suburb 30 mi (48 km) NW of downtown Los Angeles, on the Santa Clara River; inc. 1987. Situated in the Santa Clara valley and nearby canyons, Santa Clarita includes the former towns of Canyon Country, and the Valley would meet federal safety standards Safety standards are standards designed to ensure the safety of products, activities or processes, etc. They may be advisory or compulsory and are normally laid down by an advisory or regulatory body that may be either voluntary or statutory. for nuclear shipments.
The study, based on the recent DOE environmental impact report, forecast that Nevada-bound trains and trucks carrying spent nuclear fuel Spent nuclear fuel, occasionally called used nuclear fuel, is nuclear fuel that has been irradiated in a nuclear reactor (usually at a nuclear power plant) to the point where it is no longer useful in sustaining a nuclear reaction. and other radioactive materials could move along a variety of routes through Southern California Southern California, also colloquially known as SoCal, is the southern portion of the U.S. state of California. Centered on the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, Southern California is home to nearly 24 million people and is the nation's second most populated region, east through the San Gabriel Valley The San Gabriel Valley is one of the principal valleys of southern California. It lies to the east of the city of Los Angeles, to the north of the Puente Hills, to the south of the San Gabriel Mountains, and to the west of the Inland Empire. and San Bernardino San Bernardino, city, United States
San Bernardino (săn bûr'nədē`nō), city (1990 pop. 164,164), seat of San Bernardino co., S Calif., at the foot of the San Bernardino Mts.; inc. 1854. and Riverside counties to Nevada. Shipments from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas also could go through eastern desert areas of California to Nevada.
In all, the report estimated that nuclear shipments via rail and truck would pass within a mile of 7.5 million Californians' homes, as well as 1,567 schools and 130 hospitals.
``This is a right-to-know issue,'' said Laura Chapin, Environmental Working Group spokeswoman, who said the DOE plans 14,479 truck and 13,690 rail shipments in California by the time the Yucca Mountain facility is filled to capacity in 2034.
``President George W. Bush and the Energy Department are asking Congress to approve Yucca Mountain before people have all the facts on the routes and the risks,'' she said.
The Daily News reported March 24 that the DOE was considering shipping high-level radioactive waste from the Diablo Canyon plant by barge from San Luis Obispo County to Port Hueneme but the DOE hadn't made any recommendations on truck or train routes to get it from there to the planned underground repository at Yucca Mountain.
The new report provides likely scenarios for how freeways and major rail routes could be used for those and other shipments bound for Yucca Mountain.
Department of Energy and Department of Transportation officials on Monday said no routes to Yucca Mountain, located north of Las Vegas and east of Death Valley, have been formally designated. Extensive security and safety measures safety measures,
n.pl actions (e.g., use of glasses, face masks) taken to protect patients and office personnel from such known hazards as particles and aerosols from high-speed rotary instruments, mercury vapor, radiation exposure, anesthetic and would be in place before shipments begin in 2010, they said.
``This is very preliminary information and is not a true reflection of any plan,'' said Joe Davis, a DOE spokesman. ``We have eight years to work with the states on these decisions. By then, there could be new roads and rail lines in place.''
The U.S. House of Representatives last month voted overwhelmingly to back Bush and rebuff an attempt by Nevada officials to veto the Yucca Mountain plan.
Reps. Elton Gallegly, R-Oxnard, Howard P. ``Buck'' McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, joined all local Democrats in voting against the project. All three lawmakers represent districts featuring potential nuclear shipment routes.
A final Senate vote on Yucca Mountain is expected before the end of July and possibly as soon as June 25. Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are opposed to the project.
``Congressman Lewis cannot, in good conscience, support Yucca Mountain until all of the transportation and security issues have been worked out,'' said aide Jim Specht. ``San Bernardino and Inyo counties are not equipped to handle the kinds of disasters we might be looking at. An accident could turn into a huge logistics nightmare.''
For more than 20 years, officials have debated where to store 77,000 tons of waste byproducts from 131 nuclear reactors throughout the United States.
Yucca Mountain foes point to a 1996 incident in Nebraska as a prime example of the type of nightmare that could snarl Southern California's major rail or freeway links to the east. In that incident, a truck carrying nuclear warheads overturned in a blizzard. No radioactive material was released, but the investigation and the righting of the truck by specially trained crews kept a major highway closed for 24 hours Adv. 1. for 24 hours - without stopping; "she worked around the clock"
around the clock, round the clock .
``I recognize the importance of finding a permanent solution to the problem of nuclear waste,'' said McKeon, whose current district includes possible nuclear shipment routes through Santa Clarita and the Antelope Valley.
McKeon - who under reapportionment reapportionment: see legislative apportionment. will represent Inyo County, adjacent to Yucca Mountain, in the next Congress - added: ``I am concerned that my district would bear a disproportionate risk. The environmental needs and safety of my district and the many communities that this nuclear waste must travel through must take priority.''
``DOE is taking the most extreme safety precautions,'' said Rep. David Dreier, R-Covina, who voted to approve the Yucca Mountain plan. ``And I also believe that having these materials secured in one place is the best plan for dealing with nuclear waste.''
According to the new study, California's waste load would not be limited to shipments from in-state nuclear plants like San Onofre and Diablo Canyon.
Because of Yucca Mountain's remote location and limitations of the Southwest's existing freeway and rail networks, waste from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas could also be shipped to Nevada through California's desert areas.
Possible routes would be the 40, 15 and 10 freeways, as well as rail lines that intersect near Barstow.
DOE officials said spent fuel and other waste would be transported in specially designed, lead-lined containers that can withstand fire and collisions. All shipments would be closely monitored, with advance notice given to local public safety officials.
However, due to concerns over terrorist attacks, notification of nuclear waste shipments would not be given to the general public.
``In 30 years, we have conducted 2,700 shipments of nuclear materials covering 1.6 million miles and have never had a serious accident or a significant release of radioactivity,'' said the DOE's Davis.
He also argued that centralized storage at Yucca Mountain is much safer than the current method of housing materials at 131 nuclear plants and other sites in 31 states.
``If Yucca Mountain is not approved, California will have to leave its nuclear waste right where it has been sitting for years, scattered around the state,'' said Davis.
The report cited the potential risk of spent nuclear fuel, noting that the contents of a single shipping container could pack 200 times the level of radiation generated by the atomic bomb atomic bomb or A-bomb, weapon deriving its explosive force from the release of atomic energy through the fission (splitting) of heavy nuclei (see nuclear energy). The first atomic bomb was produced at the Los Alamos, N.Mex. that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. It estimated that an unprotected person standing within three feet of unshielded Adj. 1. unshielded - (used especially of machinery) not protected by a shield
unprotected - lacking protection or defense spent nuclear fuel would receive a lethal dose lethal dose
n. Abbr. LD
The dose of a chemical or biological preparation that is likely to cause death. of radiation within two minutes.
Beginning today, the public can go online for information from the study. Go to www.mapscience.org and type in an address and ZIP code to get customized information about proximity to possible routes.
THE ROUTE TO YUCCA MOUNTAIN
SOURCES: U.S. Energy Department, U.S. Transportation Department and the Environmental Working Group
Warren Huskey/Staff Artist