DOE Has No Nuclear Waste Transportation Plan, Says Jim Hall, Former NTSB Chairman Contact: Ed Rothschild (202) 879-9317
May 21, 2002

Washington - Declaring that the Department of Energy has no transportation plan for shipping high level nuclear waste, Jim Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), today called on the United States Senate to delay any vote on a nuc lear waste repository until full-scale tests of truck and rail casks have been conducted.

In a letter sent to Senators, Hall said, "In light of September 11th, this lack of a comprehensive, well thought out plan is, in a word, appalling."

Hall pointed out that the DOE's lack of a transportation plan was highlighted by Secretary Abraham in his recent testimony to the Senate Energy Committee where he admitted that "the Department of Energy is just beginning to formulate its preliminary thoughts about a transportation plan." The Secretary also stated, "any suggestion that the Department has chosen any particular route or mechanism is completely fictitious."

Stating that as NTSB chairman he was all too familiar with the human and economic toll caused by air, rail, truck, and marine accidents, Hall urged the Senate to reassure the American people that "high level nuclear waste can indeed be shipped safely and securely on America's roads, rails, and waterways" by requiring "full-scale testing of truck and train casks before it votes on establishing a nuclear waste repository."

Hall, who served as NTSB Chairman from October, 1993 to January, 2001, decided to speak out on the nuclear waste transportation issue because "DOE seems not to have understood the consequences of September 11th. "In view of the fact that these shipments would pose extraordinary risks with potentially catastrophic human and economic consequences, I am astounded that DOE's transportation proposal contains no serious risk assessment or analysis of human factors," said Hall.

Sending his letter on behalf of a newly formed ad hoc group, the Transportation Safety Coalition, Hall said, "The DOE's waste repository plan will generate more than 100,000 truck shipments or nearly 20,000 rail and at least 1,600 barge shipments of high level radioactive waste over the next 40 years. Each of these trucks, trains and barges will be traveling across our country - through our cities and towns in 44 states -- hauling shipping casks full of spent nuclear fuel and other high- level radioactive waste. We have all witnessed the horrific creativity of terrorists.

They have seized U.S. airliners, blown up U.S. naval vessels, and used powerful truck bombs. Each transport container holds enough long-lived radiation to create a devastating dirty bomb."

"Where we find safe systems, we also find that before transportation vehicles are allowed to carry passengers or cargo, they undergo vigorous tests for crashworthiness, structural integrity and engineering reliability. The same is not true for the casks that will be carrying the nuclear waste. Unbelievably, no government agency - not the DOE, the Department of Transportation or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) - has subjected truck or train casks to full-scale tests. This is of particular concern since new cask designs that will carry four times more waste than those currently in use would be used," said Hall.

"Before putting its stamp of approval on DOE's nuclear waste repository and allowing the shipment of even one metric ton of deadly spent nuclear fuel across the country, the Senate should require DOE to come up with a transportation plan, especially in view of the $68 billion that utility ratepayers are spending for the nuclear waste program. Moreover, spending $40 to $50 million on a comprehensive full-scale testing program, to test new truck and rail casks, seems a very small price to pay for our peace of mind," Hall concluded.

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