Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Transporting Nukes: Catastrophic accidents waiting to happen

Transporting Nukes/Nuclear Materials: Catastrophic Accidents Waiting to Happen
Eagle Watch #12
October 18, 2009

We Indigenous always consider our future generations and the world they will inherit from us. We have a huge responsibility to stop all this nuclear development.

The issue of transporting dangerous nuclear materials is a no brainer yet it goes on all the time, on our busy highways, in planes over us and on rivers, lakes and oceans all around the world. Moving all these radioactive toxins around must be stopped. Just in our area, Nishnaabe and Ongwehonwe territory, there is an alarming amount of uranium and nuclear products being trucked around.

For starters, the yellowcake that comes thousands of kilometres from northern Saskatchewan is trucked to Blind River and Port Hope along the busiest highways in the land. Some of the processed radioactive powders, pellets and fuel bundles are then put on ships and sent down the St. Lawrence River and on to ports in the USA, Asia, France and elsewhere. An accident of just one load would be a major disaster. When it does happen, it is hushed up, minimized, swept under the carpet and the victims are muzzled.

Several years ago, some Russian plutonium was flown to Canada, most likely landing at Trenton Air force base on Lake Ontario. Then the 15 kg of MOX was flown by helicopter to Chalk River. It probably flew right over Sharbot Lake!

The government recently decided that the solution to the millions of cubic metres of radioactive material at Port Hope would be to move it by truck to a nearby site. "All the waste will be consolidated in an engineered mound west of Baulch Rd. and south of Hwy. 401, to then be managed for hundreds of years." How is that any better? It'll get blown and spilled all over the place along the way. CNSC Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission approved and licensed this demented plan.

Now we have GE Hitachi wants to make LEU fuel bundles at their Peterborough plant where they already make the basic uranium fuel bundles for CANDU reactors. The LEU bundles contain 5times more uranium and are for reactors as far away as Japan, India and China. The materials used to make the bundles come from Toronto and Wilmington, North Carolina, once again on busy highways. Then the finished bundles are driven to reactor sites like Darlington, Pickering and Bruce or to ports for shipment around the world. An accident could happen at any time.

The "approved and designated trucking routes" for the GE-Hitachi nuke factory form a network of municipal (e.g., Monahan Road, Lansdowne, and The Parkway), regional (e.g., Highway 115) and provincial highways (Highway 401). These are all busy roads and often quite slippery in winter.

We all know that vehicle accidents happen so much it is routine. They often involve big transport trailers, 18-wheelers on busy freeways. Toxic spills are frequent, downplayed and under-reported. Multiple collisions are common. Sometimes these crashes result in fiery infernos.

If a nuclear load caught on fire on the 401 near Toronto, the consequences would be catastrophic. Some eight million people live and work in the region. An accident only has to happen just once to destroy the area for thousands of years to come. Countless numbers of people would be dead and many more would be sickened with cancers, heart disease and behavioural disorders. Babies would be born deformed and many pregnancies would end in miscarriage. This would also happen to all the animal life around us. Government and Industry would Deny, Deny, Deny! The cost in suffering and economics would be astronomical. Why take such a risk? It is insane!

Following the publication of our recent report, "Stop the Expansion of Peterborough Nukes", we received an article from a reader. "For Lack of a Database: Uranium truck rollover in North Carolina", was written in January, 2007 by Michael Hopping. Here's an excerpt from it:
"On the evening of December 21, 2006, a tractor trailer hauling 3159 kg of low-enriched (fuel-grade) uranium dioxide overturned on the I-95 exit to eastbound I-40 at Benson, North Carolina. A blip of press interest followed the accident, but by Christmas it was gone. We might have hoped the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and federal hazardous materials bureaucracies filed the incident in long-term memory for future reference. That doesn’t appear to be the case. So, for lack of a more appropriate venue, this is the report that should have been.
"The Accident
A Tri-States Motor Transport tractor trailer rig picked up the 20-foot long overseas shipping container loaded with uranium at Virginia’s Portsmouth Marine Terminal. It was bound for the Global Nuclear Fuels (GNF) fuel rod fabricating plant in Wilmington, NC. The container, which was bolted to the flatbed trailer, remained attached when the rig rolled off the curving exit ramp and came to rest on its side in a grassy area.

"...the material on board was uranium dioxide powder enriched to approximately 5% U-235. (U-235 is the uranium isotope responsible for starting fission, the nuclear chain reaction, inside a reactor.

"...If any significant quantity of enriched uranium dioxide were dumped in a pile it would undergo uncontrolled fission—go critical. On the scale of a nuclear power plant this is called a meltdown."

That's the exact stuff that will be brought to Peterborough to be put in the fuel bundles. Are the 1,400 jobs at GEHitachi worth the risk?

These highway crashes involving nuclear materials can happen anytime anywhere along the route. Fortunately this one did not end in catastrophe. Increasing the movement of nuclear materials increases the probability of a serious accident. No container is invincible yet the complacent nuclear industry recklessly moves nuclear materials around every day, claiming it is safe. It is a risky gamble not worth taking. These arrogant nuclear nuts need some kind of therapy for their gambling addiction. They're gambling with our lives and our futures.

There is still time until October 21 to send your comments to the CNSC regarding the nuclear factory expansion at Peterborough. You can get their screening report from "CEAAInfo" and send your comments to:
Send comments by mail, fax or email to:
Dr Caroline Ducros
Environmental Assessment Specialist
Environmental Assessment Division
Directorate of Environmental and Radiation Protection and Assessment
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
P.O. Box 1046, Station B
Ottawa, ON K1P 5S9
Phone: 1-800-668-5284
Fax: 613-995-5086


Part of the solution to any problem is getting the facts straight. Someone puts a lot of resources into denials and lies to pacify us the people. They want to soothe us into a stupour. If you find this article useful and interesting, help to circulate and discuss.

We welcome your feedback! Forward, post and consider printing for your cyberphobic friends and relatives.

Notes and Sources
GNF Global Nuclear Fuels is a partnership between General Electric, Hitachi, and Toshiba.

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