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[cdn-nucl-l] Video shows nuclear cask risks to anti-tank missle strike
Posted in the Las Vegas Sun on March 18, 2002 and at:
Goodness, how many people would be killed if an anti-tank missile hit an
office building? Or a chemical truck? Or anything with people in it???
Video shows nuclear cask risks
Nevada leaders point to dangers of transporting waste
By Benjamin Grove
LAS VEGAS SUN
WASHINGTON -- In an attempt to grab national attention and rally
opposition against the Yucca Mountain project, Nevada's congressional
delegation today released a videotape showing an anti-tank missile
blowing a hole in a nuclear waste shipping container.
Nevada officials say the footage makes the case that it is too dangerous
to ship nuclear waste across the country to Yucca Mountain for permanent
burial because the metal waste containers used to transport waste are
vulnerable to a terrorist strike.
"The (video's) message is that it is inherently dangerous to transport
77,000 tons of toxic nuclear waste to (a site) 90 minutes from a major
population center in the state of Nevada," Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.,
said. "There is no guarantee that these containers can be protected
under the circumstances of a terrorist attack."
President Bush last month approved Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of
Las Vegas, as a suitable site to bury the nation's highly radioactive
nuclear waste, which is now stored at nuclear power plants and U.S.
defense sites around the nation. Congress likely will vote on the
project this year.
Nevada officials have long opposed the Yucca project. Among their
arguments: Shipping waste across the country risks accidents and
Highly radioactive uranium rods, after being used to fuel nuclear
reactors around the country, would be put in one-foot-thick steel casks
and put on trains or trucks destined for Yucca Mountain.
The video released today, which was done as part of a privately
sponsored test in 1998 done in conjunction with the Army at the Aberdeen
Proving Ground in Maryland, shows a simulated missile attack on a
Nuclear industry and Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials acknowledge
that a missile could put a hole in the casks but argue that potential
health and safety dangers would be small.
A missile would displace very little radioactive waste material from the
cask, nuclear industry experts say, although Nevada officials and their
scientific consultants disagree.
"It is handleable," said John Vincent, a senior project manager at the
Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's top trade group. "It does not
create a huge exposure with thousands affected. That does not happen."
Experts point to a 1982 Department of Energy full-scale test at Sandia
National Laboratories in which an explosive charge put a 6-inch hole in
a waste container. If the test container had been hauling real
radioactive waste, up to seven people could have died from cancer caused
by exposure to the displaced radioactive material, according to early
estimates. More recent estimates suggest up to 48 people could die.
Consultants hired by the state of Nevada say even more people than that
could be affected.
"They are constantly saying that it's not as bad as you think," said Bob
Halstead, a waste transportation expert hired by Nevada. "I don't
The 1998 video shows two experiments sponsored by International Fuel
Containers. In one, a missile charge is attached to a cast-iron cask and
detonated. The explosion put a softball-sized hole in the cask. The cask
is similar in strength to casks licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission for waste shipping. The charge was manipulated to simulate a
fired missile strike, IFC president Thomas Kirch has said. Missiles are
relatively common in use worldwide.
In the second experiment, a concrete compound "flak jacket" material
marketed by IFC protects the cask from the blast. The missile charge did
not breach the cask.
The video was produced by IFC as a promotional tool to sell its concrete
flak jacket product to nuclear power companies, which store waste from
their nuclear reactors in on-site storage areas.
The concrete material is too heavy to wrap around waste containers for
Nevada's lawmakers released the 4.5-minute videotape to local broadcast
news outlets and have offered it to national media.
Nevada officials say the video demonstrates why waste should be left at
nuclear power plants, where it can be adequately protected, and not
shipped across 43 states for permanent burial in Nevada.
Berkley obtained the videotape from IFC's Kirch in early February,
shortly after she first heard about the Aberdeen test. The video was
reviewed by the Sun and described in a story Feb. 12.
Nevada officials have been reviewing the tape and mulling over how it
fit into their anti-Yucca strategy. They are trying to interest national
news media in the video, sources said.
Nevada officials say the video counters claims made by nuclear industry
officials who say shipping waste is safe. Industry officials say they
have a long record of shipping waste without radiation releases.
NEI has been promoting a video of its own that shows a waste container
passing tests in which it is burned, dropped and hit by a train.
Nevada officials plan to send the Aberdeen videotape to local news
outlets along rail and highway routes that would be used to haul waste
to Nevada, said Bob Loux, director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear
"It's very dishonest for the industry to send out tapes of Sandia tests
that only show tests where the containers successfully survived," Loux