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Interactive Maps of Nuclear Waste Routes Go Online; Debate on Transport of Radioactive Waste Suddenly 'Very Close to Home'.

With Safety Concerns Mounting and Senate Vote Looming, Energy Dept. Has Given

Public Virtually No Information on Routes to Nevada Dump

WASHINGTON, June 12 /PRNewswire/ -- One in seven Americans live within one mile of the proposed routes for shipping highly radioactive nuclear waste to Nevada, but the government has not made details of the routes accessible to the public in any meaningful way. Now citizens can go online and see just how close nuclear waste shipments will come to their homes or schools with interactive Nuclear Waste Route Maps, published online today by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) at http://www.mapscience.org/ .

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is pushing a plan to ship at least 70,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste by truck or train through 45 states over 24 to 38 years to a disposal site at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The Senate will vote on the plan as early as June 25, but crude multi-state maps in an appendix to a 5,000-page technical report have been the only information about the transport routes available to the public. The maps are extremely hard to find on DOE's website.

EWG's new website, http://www.mapscience.org/ , allows anyone to type in an address and get a customized map clearly marking areas within 1 mile, 2 miles and 5 miles of a nuclear waste route. The maps also show the locations of schools and hospitals near the route. State and major metro area maps are also available.

DOE's own data show that if the nuclear waste is transported by truck, there will be more than 100,000 shipments over the life of the project. If rail is the principal mode, there will be approximately 18,000 train shipments plus about 2,850 shipments by barge. According to the Department of Transportation, from 1994 to 2000 there were more than 28,000 fatal tractor- trailer accidents in the United States (almost 7,000 on interstate highways), and from 1990 to 2001 more than 88,000 train accidents.

"This vote is not just about shipping nuclear waste to the middle of nowhere in Nevada. It's about shipping it through the middle of dozens of major cities and thousands of communities nationwide. Until now, most Americans had no way to know how very close Yucca Mountain is to home, because our government did not tell them," said EWG Senior Vice President Richard Wiles. "This is the most important transportation safety decision our country will ever make. It should not be undertaken without the full participation of the public. Americans have a right to know -- before this decision is made for us."

EWG dug through DOE maps, obtained millions of Department of Transportation, Census Bureau and other records and combined them with the latest mapping software to calculate that 38 million Americans live within one mile of the nuclear waste transport routes. The data show that more than 14,000 schools and almost 1,000 hospitals are also within a mile of the routes. The project involved 1.2 trillion computer-assisted calculations.

Current models of the containers that would be used to transport the waste are protected by less than five inches of armor, but weapons readily available on the international black market can pierce 12 to 30 inches of armor. A container pierced by a missile or explosives would become a "dirty bomb" that could kill thousands and terrorize a large population with fear of long-term radiation exposure.

Independent analysis of the health and economic impacts of an attack with common military demolition devices show that the radiation released could mean 300 to 1,800 latent cancer deaths and $10 billion or more in cleanup and recovery costs. After Sept. 11, said Jim Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board in the Clinton Administration, "One of the things that immediately got my attention ... is the potential of each one of these (nuclear transport) casks to be a dirty bomb."

Proponents of the plan claim that use of the repository will collect the nation's nuclear waste in one site, but DOE figures and U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham say otherwise. The day the repository in Nevada opens, all of its space will be spoken for, while nuclear plants continue to produce waste.

The site is a project of Environmental Working Group and EWG Action Fund. EWG uses the power of information to investigate and solve environmental problems. It was developed with the support of several private charitable foundations working for environmental protection and national security. Support was also provided by Brian Greenspun, publisher of the Las Vegas Sun. No financial support was provided by the State of Nevada.

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Contact: Mike Casey or Laura Chapin, +1-202-667-6982, both of the Environmental Working Group

Website: http://www.ewg.org/ http://www.mapscience.org/
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Date:Jun 12, 2002
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