Restraining order sought to stop plutonium shipments

Tuesday, December 7, 1999


A Kalamazoo man has joined a lawsuit filed by several Michigan residents attempting to stop a shipment of plutonium through the state.

A hearing on the request for a temporary restraining order against the U.S. Department of Energy will be today before Judge Richard Enslen in U.S. District Court in Kalamazoo.

Robert Anderson of Kalamazoo, a frequent critic of the proposed plutonium shipment from New Mexico to Ontario, Canada, is one of seven plaintiffs asking for a court order to stop the shipment of mixed oxide uranium fuel, a nuclear weapons plutonium material.

The Gazette was unable to reach Anderson for a comment.

Joining Anderson in the suit are the Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination out of Lake Station, Mich., and residents from Holland, East Lansing, Brown City, Petoskey and Bay City.

The federal government had until 4 p.m. Monday to respond to the lawsuit, but no response was filed with the Kalamazoo federal court.

An Energy Department spokeswoman said the agency would fight the request for a court-ordered halt to the shipment. She spoke on the condition she not be identified.

The lawsuit challenges DOE's environmental assessment report that there would be no significant impact by the plutonium shipment.It claims the DOE report is "unlawfully narrow" and "inadequate."

The group believes that transporting the MOX fuel through the state without an environmental impact statement will cause "the potential for immediate and irreparable harm to the quality of the human environment. It also said it may cause damage by radioactive pollution, and irreversible damage to lands and waters.

Each of the plaintiffs lives within 50 miles of the announced route, which includes I-94, I-69, I-75, across the Mackinaw Bridge and proceeding to Saute Ste. Marie, where it will pass over the International Bridge to a facility in Chalk River, Ontario.

The lawsuit charges that the group has concerns about what could happen if there is an accident involving the vehicle carrying the plutonium, especially if shipped during winter weather conditions.

The group is asking for a more complete environmental impact statement that addresses their concerns.

The plutonium shipment has sparked concerns in cities along the route, including among several Kalamazoo residents. They have repeated raised fears to the Kalamazoo City Commission, which for its part had asked for more hearings on the plutonium shipment.

TOM HAROLDSON can be reached at 324-9340.