January 13, 2000
Mr. Joe Colvin
Dear Mr. Colvin
Recent news reports in the Las Vegas area have addressed the issue of nuclear waste transportation safety in and around the metropolitan area. I am writing to express my concerns with the misleading and inaccurate information that has been presented by various NEI spokesmen who have claimed that the NEI has performed "rigorous tests" on the casks, and they "could go right through the middle of Las Vegas and there would be no hazard to the citizens." This is a horribly irresponsible statement.
As you know, the task of transporting the nations nuclear waste to a centralized repository will require thousands of shipments over millions of miles that will take decades to complete. With that magnitude, it is likely accidents will happen. Evidence to this fact has recently been addressed in round table discussions held by the NRC in which the NEI was represented. Throughout the discussion and reports, the question was not if an accident would occur, but on the mitigation of transportation accidents.
In addition to potential accident scenarios, the mere presence of a loaded nuclear waste transportation cask has the ability to subject men, women and children to the harmful affects of radiation through the emission of gamma rays. Current cask design implements a large amount of shielding, which primarily consists of lead, but gamma rays are still a radioactive source that can escape the cask in "tracks" similar to light that can shoot through the human body like a bullet. A single cask on a truck that becomes disabled or stuck in traffic has the potential to deliver a significant amount of radiation to the citizens that are around the waste.
Presently, the NRC and Sandia National Laboratory are reviewing current cask designs and are planning a new series of tests and studies. I believe it is misleading for the NEI to inform the public that rigorous tests have been performed by the institute, which is not responsible for cask design or testing and has a serious conflict of interest, in an attempt to quiet public concerns of safety. The NEI does have the option to independently test any cask design, but the results of such testing is not a part of NRC licensing and the NEI is not held accountable in the event of an accident.
Richard H. Bryan