February 28, 2002
With apologies to all the true, die-hard fans of the classic movie "Casablanca," one of Humphrey Bogart's most famous quotes applies to the debate about possibly shipping nuclear waste through Northeast Ohio.
"Of all the highways and railways in America, why'd you have to consider using those through our area?"
The transport of nuclear waste from power plants across the country is due from a plan by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a nuclear waste dump beneath Yucca Mountain, Nevada. While President George W. Bush supports the plan, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn promised to veto use of the site. Congress can override Nevada's objections.
There is good reason for Ohio's senators and congressional representatives to send this plan down the highway to never-never land. That's because anywhere from 35,000-100,000 shipments of highly radioactive waste would pass through this area during Yucca Mountain's proposed 25-year service life.
Some of the waste could be put on special trucks routed over Interstate 90. Other waste might be put on dedicated trains that would use Norfolk Souther Corp. tracks through Lakewood and Lorain, or a more southerly track through Olmsted Falls and North Ridgeville.
Northern Ohio has some of the most densely populated cities between Chicago and the East coast and is adjacent to the largest supply of fresh water on the face of the Earth - the Great Lakes. Surely, if there is to be a nuclear dump in Nevada, less risky routes can be found to get there.
We're aware that nuclear transport equipment used by the DOE is extremely sturdy, with thick walls to guard against puncture. Leaks are nearly impossible. But why not strive to reduce the risk even further by finding paths around the largest cities and towns that dot America's landscape?
There are a myriad of limited-acess highways and major railways through rural parts of Ohio that totally avoid large population centers like Greater Cleveland. When the DOE considers using highways and railways through the heart of a major city, it doesn't sound like every effort is being made to reduce the potential hazards.
It's true that some routes may end up being circuitous, but for whose convenience are these shipments being made? Ours, or the government's?
Citizens and community leaders need to make their concern known to their two U.S. senators and member of Congress. Only then can a full debate be possible and, from that, a more rational solution be found.