News from
Governor Bob Miller

March 24, 1998 DATE
contact: Richard Urey
702/687/5670 Carson City

Nevada review of DOE report
finds public safety concerns go unaddressed

Governor Bob Miller today released a Nevada review of the U. S. Department of Energy report on leaking containers of low-level radioactive materials destined for the Nevada Test Site.

"The report written by the Department of Energy does not address several important aspects of public safety," said Governor Miller. "This report is inadequate. Our review of it finds many unanswered questions which are critical to the safety of the Nevada public and visitors, and to the safety of residents in the dozens of communities through which this hazardous cargo passes, en route from Ohio."

The DOE report was triggered by a December, 1997 incident in which liquid leaked from a shipping container near Kingman, AZ. The shipment originated at a DOE nuclear facility in Fernald, Ohio. An investigation discovered leaks from four of the seven shipments from Fernald to the Nevada Test Site during a one-week span in December. Further shipments were halted by the DOE until all problems have been identified and solved. But Nevada's response to the DOE report notes serious deficiencies:

  • DOE's procurement process allowed the low-bid contractor to lower technical standards for the construction of hazardous waste containers in which radioactive waste would be shipped on highways through populated communities. These changes included the removal of a center rail support, the reduction of the gauge metal used in construction, and the elimination of vibrations and drop tests on the completed containers.

  • DOE failed to assess the formation of free-liquid in the waste material during shipment. Combined with the use of an improper material in the containers, those two factors led to the leakage of liquid materials from the hazardous material containers onto the public highways on at least three occasions.

  • DOE has no formal plan for deploying a radiological hazardous response team to an accident site, nor does the completed report have any direction do so.

  • DOE takes no steps in the report to address the mismanagement which created the above problem and others in the program which transports hazardous radioactive waste from the Fernald Environmental Management Project to the Nevada Test Site.

Nevada's review of the DOE report was conducted by the State of Nevada Nuclear Projects Agency. More than 400 low-level radioactive shipments from the Fernald facility were sent to the Nevada Test Site in 1997. Since the Fernald weapons facility began dismantling in 1994, more than 23,000 low-level radioactive shipments have been sent to the Nevada Test Site.

Governor Miller added, "The DOE report has been completed, but not to the satisfaction of the State of Nevada. We are urging the DOE to maintain the moratorium on shipments until all necessary safety measures are in place."

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