Real Impacts of Nuclear Waste Shipments
Starting to Be Understood


If a high-level nuclear waste repository of interim storage facility is ever built at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain or the Nevada Test Site, some 109 cities with populations of 100,000 or more in 43 states could be impacted by thousands of shipments of spent nuclear fuel and highly radioactive waste. The report titled, Nevada Potential Repository Preliminary Transportation Strategy Study 2, was released in February, 1996 by TRW Environmental Safety Systems, Inc., DOE’s management and operations contractor for the Yucca Mountain project.

The TRW report parallels an analysis done by the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects in 1995. The Nevada report examined shipping routes, both rail and highway, in relation to the impacts various alternatives have on communities nationwide. The State’s analysis also shows that many of the reactors that would ship waste during the first 10 years of repository or interim storage facility operations will likely use truck transport, thereby impacting a larger number of cities and communities than reflected in the TRW report.

In what is likely a low shipment scenario, the State researchers used DOE's now- defunct Multiple Purpose Canister (MPC) base case assumptions in concluding that at least 6,200 truck shipments and 9,400 rail cask shipments of spent fuel would be made from civilian nuclear power plants, in addition to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of shipments of high-level radioactive waste from DOE weapons facilities. The repository or interim storage facility would also receive an unknown number of shipments of so-called "miscellaneous wastes requiring geologic disposal." If the yet-to-be-developed MPCs, which would hold greater amounts of spent fuel and high-level waste than traditional shipping containers, are not available (as appears likely), the numbers of both highway and rail shipments would increase substantially. The use of smaller shipping canisters designed for truck transport, for example, would result in as many as 61,500 shipments of spent fuel over the 25 year duration of the shipping campaign.

Bob Loux, Director of Nevada’s Yucca Mountain oversight agency, noted that both DOE and State analyses contradict the argument that nuclear waste disposal is somehow only a Nevada issue. Should Yucca Mountain or interim storage in Nevada go forward, Loux said, the country will be creating, in effect, a roving mobile storage system that will impact thousands of communities throughout the country for decades.

U.S. Map of Probable Routes

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