An international coalition including Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination has filed suit against the United States Department of Energy in an effort to stop dangerous and unprecedented shipments of liquid nuclear waste.
The coalition lawsuit charges that the Department of Energy (DOE) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) failed to provide a thorough public process as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to fully analyze the hazards of transporting liquid highly radioactive waste. An Environmental Impact Statement must be prepared and made available for other federal agencies and citizens to review and comment on, including a discussion of alternative ways to deal with the nuclear waste.
Experts drawn from organizations within the international coalition will testify that the shipments are unwarranted, ill advised and entirely unnecessary. Allowing highly radioactive liquid wastes from Canada to be shipped through communities and over major waterways in Canada and the United States, to be dumped in South Carolina, without the deliberative NEPA procedures, will set a dangerous precedent for decades to come. It will also intensify the pressures on the State of South Carolina to become an international nuclear sacrifice area.
U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (NY – 26) has stated that the proposed shipments raise significant homeland security questions. The US House of Representatives unanimously passed Higgins sponsored legislation requiring a NEPA Environmental Impact Statement for the proposal.
Wes Raymond, CACC administrator says: “We cannot allow precedent to be set that would permit shipments of this material. CACC has examined all potential routes from Chalk River to Savannah River Site and the way in which liquid waste would interact with the environment in a release event; An accident anywhere along any potential route could irradiate the drinking water of millions of people. We are familiar with the physical properties of liquids, and we deny the claim that liquid nuclear waste can be contained in a release event.”
Lynda Schneekloth, a Buffalo, NY Sierra Club member says: “It is irresponsible to ship liquid highly radioactive waste through our communities and over our waterways without truly studying the dangers and alternatives. Governments are responsible for the health and wellbeing of the citizens who elected them.”
The liquid high-level nuclear waste in question is a corrosive acidic mixture of dozens of highly dangerous radioactive materials including cesium-137, strontium-90, iodine-129, plutonium-239, and weapons-grade uranium-235, left over from the production of medical isotopes at Chalk River, Ontario, north-west of Ottawa.
Although it was previously determined that this highly dangerous liquid waste would be solidified and stored onsite in Canada, the US Department of Energy now plans to truck the 6,000 gallons of extremely radioactive waste, in liquid form, to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, in exchange for $60 million from Canada.
“Liquid high-level nuclear waste is known to be among the most dangerous materials on the planet, as we have seen at the Savannah River Nuclear Weapons Site and the nuclear power and weapons reprocessing site at West Valley, NY. There is a good reason why no one has ever tried to move this stuff over public roads before. The material from Chalk River is in the same category,” said Diane D’Arrigo of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.
“Our organization has fought against the needless and heedless transport of solid irradiated uranium fuel over public roads, rails, and waters,” said Kevin Kamps, nuclear waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear. “The only thing worse than solid irradiated uranium is the liquid variety. It is a Mobile Chernobyl; it cannot be contained when spilled due to crash, fire, or deliberate attack.”
“Shipping highly radioactive liquid waste to South Carolina is wildly inappropriate,” said Dr. Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. “Chalk River has been solidifying exactly the same kind of liquid waste for over ten years already. In 2011 Chalk River promised to handle all this material on site.” He added, “It was recently learned that Indonesia is going to be down-blending its high-level liquid waste on site, rather than sending it to the Savannah River Site, and Canada can do the same thing, making the high-risk transport of this material over public roads completely unnecessary.”
The lawsuit is being filed against the Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration on behalf of a number of organizations whose individual members live along the potential transport routes who could suffer significantly in the event of a safety or security mishap allowing the escape of some of the highly dangerous liquid contents. The suit will also highlight specific problems at the SRS site that argue against the dumping of more nuclear waste there.
The coalition includes Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Lone Tree Council, Beyond Nuclear, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Environmentalists, Inc., Nuclear Information Resource Service, Savannah River Site Watch, and Sierra Club.