Liquid Nuclear Waste on America’s Highways?

liquid uranium
Liquid Nuclear Waste – Photo by NRC

“Highly Enriched Uranyl Nitrate Liquids” (HEUNL) Liquid Nuclear Waste
It’s pretty much exactly what you think it is.

It’s a lot like solid nuclear waste, only it’s liquid.
It’s runny. It spills, it flows, it soaks into things, and it’s radioactive.  It glows in the dark.

HEUNL is so hazardous that it has never been transported in North America.
Not by train, plane or automobile. Solid radioactive material, which has been transported in North America, is dangerous enough, liquid radioactive material is even more dangerous.

There is no permanent disposal location for HEUNL, and those who create liquid nuclear waste are responsible for storing it on-site until a permanent disposal location is constructed.

Never, never-ever, not once anywhere in North America has anyone considered moving HEUNL from one temporary facility to another… until now.

A plan is in the works to move over 23,000 liters (6,075 US Gallons) of HEUNL from the Chalk River Site in Eastern Ontario
to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina,
another temporary holding site.

map by USGS – graphic by CACC
We’re talking about multiple trucks, carrying around 200 liters each of weapons grade liquid-uranium, traveling over 1,100 miles of public roadway, crossing countless waterways including the St. Lawrence River, and passing numerous cities, not least of which would be Washington DC.


It’s a long way from Ontario to South Carolina, and three major obstacles stand in the way: the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Watershed, the Appalachian Mountain Range, and some of the largest population centers on the face of the planet. If the HEUNL transport operation is forced by Eastern states to take a more Westerly route, the convoys will travel through Michigan, possibly even across the Mackinac Bridge.

This map, created by the Regional Plan Association, illustrates eleven population centers that are growing into megaregions

Even if an accident does not occur, the areas along the shipping routes will be exposed to low levels of ionizing radiation.


But why transport liquid nuclear waste?


The material is included in a nonproliferation effort aimed at recovering U.S.-origin highly enriched uranium distributed to research facilities in other countries.

The Department of Energy said a contract has been signed in which Canada will pay $60 million over four years for Savannah River Site to receive and process the liquid.

Tom Clements, the South­eastern nuclear campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth, said the Canada project is more about bringing money to SRS than safeguarding bomb-grade materials.

“A decision by the U.S. Department of Energy to import 23,000 liters of liquid high-level waste from Canada is being presented as a nonproliferation effort, but in reality it is a waste-management issue in Canada and a monetary issue at the Savannah River Site,” Clements said, adding that Canada “is dumping their problem on SRS.”

Processing the Canadian material will generate even more radioactive waste at Savannah River!

temporary storage – Photo by NRC

Estimates indicate that the Canadian waste, when processed, would create about 1.5 million gallons of low-level waste that would be disposed of in the site’s Saltstone Facility, and enough high-level waste to fill an additional 24 steel canisters produced by the site’s Defense Waste Processing Facility.

Those quantities only amount to about one additional month of operation for the Defense Waste Processing Facility and two months for the Saltstone Facility.

Liquid Nuclear Waste on America’s Highways…

(PD) sign kids

Any attempt to reroute the shipments away from populated areas would put the trucks on even more dangerous terrain. Such an attempt would be irrelevant in light of the fact that sparsely populated areas in the Eastern US are upstream from densely populated areas.

Highway accidents are sadly a common occurrence. CACC will continue to discourage the shipment of HEUNL Liquid Nuclear Waste. If these initial shipments go forward, it sets a dangerous precedent: that we may see these radioactive trucks pass us by again, and again… until something goes wrong.


For more information visit:

Radioactive Roads

Sierra Club Canada