Ely Daily Times

4/30/99

Letter to the Editor:
Nuclear waste shipments are here

To the Editor

In reading the article that appeared in Thursday's paper, "Board Prepares for Nuke Waste Shipments," I wanted to add to the following information so residents keep informed about low-level waste being transported across the country and through White Pine County. This information is taken directly from documents available from the Department of Energy, Nevada Test Site or from the White Pine County Nuclear Waste Project Office.

Two trucks loaded with approximately 22 boxes each of low-level waste passed through White Pine County sometime between 11:00 p.m. on April 4 and noon on April 5. Drivers of the trucks notified the Nevada Highway Patrol, Headquarters, of their intent to transport hazardous waste through Nevada, entering at Wendover on 1-80. then taking Alternate U.S. 93 -to U.S. 375 and proceeding on U.S. 6, to U.S. 95 to Mercury, Nevada. As soon as the Department of Energy, Nevada Test Site personnel became aware of this situation, they contacted the generator site and asked them to ask their carriers to use the "preferred northern route" which goes through Panaca and Caliente.

All shipments of hazardous materials, including radioactive, whether from industry or government, must be packaged and transported according to strict federal, state, and local regulations. Handling, storage and disposal of these wastes must also be performed in accordance with specific regulations. The Nevada Test Site transportation activities must comply with federal, state, and local environmental regulations, waste management regulations, occupational health and safety standards, and transportation regulations.

The radioactive waste type shipped to the Nevada Test Site is low-level waste or mixed waste.

Low-Level Waste (LLW) is a catchall category defined by what it is not rather than by what it is. LLW includes all radioactive waste other than uranium mill tailings, transuranic waste, and high-level waste, including spent nuclear fuel. Low-level wastes are generated by a wide range of institutions and facilities using radioactive materials, including nuclear power plants, government and defense laboratories and reactors, hospitals, laboratories, and industrial plants. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission classifies low-level waste into four groups according to the degree of hazard it poses and, consequently, the type of management and form of disposal it requires.

Mixed Waste (MW) is waste containing both radioactive and hazardous components as defined by the Atomic Energy Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The containerization. and packaging of hazardous materials must comply with detailed U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. The form, quantity, and concentration of the radioactive materials determine the type of packaging used.

These types of wastes would require Type A containers. This type of container is used for radioactive materials with higher specific activity levels (radioactivity), and must demonstrate ability to withstand a series of tests without release of their contents. These packages are generally 55-gallon steel drums, steel boxes. or specially designed shielded boxes. Typically, Type A packages are used to transport radiopharmaceuticals (radioactive materials for medical use) and certain regulatory-qualified industrial products.

These types of wastes would require Type A containers. This type of container is used for radioactive materials with higher specific activity levels (radioactivity). and must demonstrate ability to withstand a series of tests without release of their contents. These packages are generally 55-gallon steel drums, steel boxes, or specially designed shielded boxes. Typically, Type A packages arc used to transport radiopharmaceuticals (radioactive materials for medical use) and certain regulatory-qualified industrial products.

The Department of Energy and its contractor transportation specialists review the following information on carriers before they select them to transport radioactive and hazardous materials.

  • Experience with hazardous and radioactive cargo Safety and regulatory compliance record

  • Driver employment policies

  • Equipment maintenance programs and procedures

  • Driver training program, including documentation

  • Financial stability and insurance records

Drivers of vehicles that transport hazardous materials (which includes radioactive materials) must first receive special training and certification in accordance with Department of Transportation Regulations, which include the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (49 CFR 350-399).

A "Generator" is defined as "An individual, facility, corporation. government agency, or other institution that offers waste material for certification, treatment, storage, or disposal," not nuclear generator.

Thank you,

Debra Kolkman
Director
White Pine County Nuclear Waste Program