Environment News Service

AmeriScan: October 29, 1999

NUCLEAR AGENCY RE-EXAMINES SAFETY OF TRANSPORTATION CASKS

WASHINGTON, DC, October 28, 1999 (ENS) - Citizens are being asked for input on the safety of containers used to transport nuclear materials on the nation's roads and rails. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will hold two public meetings on the agency’s re-examination of a 1987 study of the safety of spent nuclear fuel transportation casks in accidents. The NRC is reviewing the study in light of an expected increase in spent fuel shipments if the permanent nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada is opened. It is the only repository site under consideration and no decision has yet been made. The meetings will review new spent fuel transportation cask designs, new computer tools to examine accident scenarios, and more recent truck and rail safety data. The meetings will be held:

  • November 17 in Bethesda, Maryland, Bethesda Hyatt, 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
  • December 8 in Henderson, Nevada, Henderson Convention Center, 8:00 am to 10:00 pm.

The 1987 study, known as the "modal study," relied on professional judgment and computer analyses, but no simulated accidents. Actual tests during this reassessment are an option, and the agency would like to have public input as to the need, importance or types of physical tests should be performed. Spent nuclear fuel is transported in steel and lead truck and rail casks. NRC requires that the casks withstand a series of tests to ensure their ability to withstand a range of accidents. The tests include a 30 foot drop onto an unyielding surface, a drop onto a vertical steel bar, an engulfing 30 minute fire, and immersion under three feet of water.

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