DOE Plans to Ship Waste through the Big I Construction to WIPP
Russian Citizens Oppose Plans to Import High-Level Nuclear Waste
Beginning this fall, the Department of Energy (or DOE) plans to
truck 33 shipments of radioactive and hazardous waste from the Nevada Test
Site through the Big I construction project to the Waste Isolation Pilot
Plant (or WIPP). Albuquerque is the most populated city between the Nevada
Test Site and WIPP.
the plan predict that there will be increased chances of accidents
due to the reduced-sized lanes through the construction zone
and the possible use of Albuquerque streets. Don Hancock of
the Southwest Research and Information Center said, "These
shipments are totally unnecessary as Nevada has plenty of
room to store this waste. Given the construction of the Big
I, some of the trucks could even travel on Albuquerque's streets
when they are diverted from I-40. Citizens of Albuquerque
voted on whether to have a new or renovated baseball stadium,
but they have no right to vote on whether nuclear waste shipments
can come through the city. If they could vote, they would
vote NO to waste shipments."
The State of New Mexico has been unsuccessful in convincing DOE to
delay the shipments until after the construction is completed. The State
may escort the trucks through Albuquerque or direct the WIPP trucks to
different routes. Activists have taken their appeal to Representative
Heather Wilson. Claiming that DOE and state officials are responsible for
the shipments, Wilson said, "I have no intention of intervening, nor would
it be appropriate for me to do so."
* On June 7th, Russia's lower house of Parliament will vote on
legislation that would allow the import of high-level waste for permanent
storage. Recent opinion polls, however, indicate that 90 percent of voters
oppose the plan.
If the plan passes, the upper house of Parliament is required to
vote on the measure. The chairman of the upper house, Yegor Stroyev,
opposes the project and stated that the plan is "designed either for madmen
or the mafia."
Officials of Russia's Nuclear Power Ministry have declared that if
Russia allows the import of 22,000 tons of high-level waste over 10 years,
that it would earn up to $20 billion. Under existing contracts, Russia
currently imports high-level waste for reprocessing from former East Bloc
nations, including Ukraine, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary.
If the Russian Parliament approves the plan, waste would be
transported to the Chelyabinsk Region for storage and possibly for
reprocessing at the Mayak nuclear facility. Unable to afford a safe
disposal system for its highly toxic radioactive waste, the Mayak facility
continues to dump its wastes into the environment, thus earning it the
epithet of "the blackest spot on earth." Contamination found in the region
is eight times greater than the radioactive fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl
accident that spread across Europe.
Despite the fact that the final Parliament vote has not taken
place, waste shipments may have already begun. Since January, Greenpeace
activists in St. Petersburg have detected 20 trains emitting large amounts
of radiation passing through the city. The activists allege that the
trains are carrying spent nuclear fuel from Germany.
Back to News Index