Letters for Sunday

03/25/2001

Waste shipments

Nuclear engineer Ramon L. Ashley implies that cities have nothing to fear from nuclear waste shipments over the Interstate highway system ("Risk of waste shipments is overblown," Viewpoints, March 19.

My concerns, as mayor of Duncanville, through which these shipments must pass, are those of a pragmatist: one who understands the concept of cause and effect.

During the next 25 years, between 35,000 and 100,000 shipments of nuclear waste are scheduled for shipment to the disposal site at Los Alamos, N.M. All of the waste generated east of the Mississippi River will pass through Duncanville on I-20. This is in addition to all of the hazardous waste already routed on I-20, designated a "hazardous cargo route."

Between 50 and 260 highway transportation accidents and 250 to 590 incidents are calculated to occur over the operating life of the Los Alamos depository. While accidents severe enough to cause a failure of the "transport cask" and a resulting release of radioactive material are likely to be extremely rare, the potential exists, nevertheless, for serious accidents to occur.

The greater concern, however, has to do with the everyday risk of trucks transporting hazardous material through our city on an Interstate highway which has had few, if any, safety improvements since it opened in 1974. While median barriers, which safely separate traffic moving in opposite directions, are scheduled for construction in Dallas County in the next two years, Duncanville still is without service roads along I-20.

Consider what can happen when – not if – a hazardous material incident shuts down I-20 within our city limits. Remember the collision involving an ammunition truck on I-635 in an uninhabited section of eastern Dallas several months ago? All westbound traffic was held up for six hours.

Because there are no continuous service roads, affected traffic will naturally divert to our city streets, creating a monumental traffic jam. Everything will come to a standstill awaiting response from the Department of Energy Albuquerque Field Office Emergency Operations Center which is in charge of any incident involving shipment of transuranic waste, regardless of where it occurs.

We are not crying "nuclear wolf"! The danger we fear is not radiation, but traffic bottlenecks.

The solution lies in the construction of continuous service roads along I-20 throughout the metroplex. The funds should come from the governmental institutions, federal and state, that caused the situation by designating it a "Transuranic Waste" shipment route. It is unfair and inappropriate for the citizens of Duncanville to bear this burden alone.

GLENN A. REPP
Mayor, Duncanville


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