Nuclear waste transport through state in federal court

A plan by the federal government to haul weapons-grade liquid nuclear waste through western North Carolina may be on hold pending a ruling by a Washington, D.C. judge.
An extensive report by Michael Gebelein on the Carolina Public Press Web site on Jan. 24 noted that several regional environmental groups have filed a lawsuit, arguing that the U.S. Department of Energy violated the National Environmental Policy Act by planning to move the waste in relative secrecy.
Those opposing the shipping of the waste have argued that this would be the first time weapons-grade highly enriched uranium, in liquid form, would be transported in this manner, that the government’s containers are untested and dangerous, and that the containers only have transported solid nuclear waste in the past.
The cargo comes from the Chalk River Laboratories power plant in Ottawa, Canada, which created the waste during production of medical isotopes for use in diagnostic tests. The shipments would be heading for the DOE’s Savannah River Site nuclear facility near Aiken, S.C.
Movement of the material would cover more than 1,000 miles. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that in the “worst-case circumstances” — such as a breach of one of the containers — the waste could become agitated and fission might occur leading to extremely high temperatures that might rupture the tanks and spill nuclear waste onto the ground or into the water system.
The Department of Energy, in a report published in 2015, argued that the potential environmental impact of transporting nuclear waste would be low and that “no radiological or non-radiological fatalities” would be expected.
A federal judge heard oral arguments in Washington last Wednesday but made no ruling.
 
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