Accountability for Transportation of Nuclear Waste Urged
Waste Shipments from INEEL to WIPP Halted Indefinitely
2001 A Record Year for Waste Shipped from Rocky Flats
Bern Haggerty, Senior Assistant to the Attorney General of Wyoming, is demanding accountability for transportation of nuclear waste after witnessing many violations of transportation rules in his state.
According to Department of Transportation (or DOT) regulations, trucks carrying radioactive waste are prohibited from parking on city streets or driving through residential neighborhoods. These regulations also have strict rules against reckless driving, including driving on ice. Since 1997, Haggerty has recorded nearly 200 violations of these regulations, including one truck speeding along an icy Wyoming highway despite whiteout conditions and high winds. Haggerty said, "Call me old-fashioned, but we shouldn't have nuclear waste on ice."
Haggerty hypothesizes that regulations of these shipments often go unenforced due to heavy subsidization of the nuclear industry and difficulty of public participation in the industry.
Haggerty has submitted his documentation of violations, as well as photographic evidence of these violations, to DOT. Last month, more than a year after his submittal, Haggerty received a response from DOT admitting that they had not conducted a review of the complaint. In response, Haggerty said, "I showed them 16 photographs of nuclear waste being hauled...in violation to their rules. If they can't investigate this complaint, they are incompetent."
Haggerty is now asking Jim Matheson, of the House Transportation Committee, to demand an investigation of nuclear waste transportation by DOT's Inspector General.
The Department of Energy (or DOE) has suspended indefinitely transportation of nuclear waste from the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (or INEEL) to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (or WIPP). WIPP spokesperson Dan Balduini said that the shipments have been delayed due to world events and security concerns. The government is required ship 15,000 drums of radioactive waste from INEEL to WIPP by the end of 2002, according to a 1995 agreement. This delay may render the government unable to fulfill this obligation.
Shipments from INEEL were halted the day after the September 11th terrorist attacks, and resumed two weeks later. This most recent delay could cause serious delays to the government's plans, as only 4,050 drums have left INEEL as yet. Failure to comply with the agreement could mean that DOE would lose some privileges established by the agreement, including temporary storage of waste at INEEL.
Cleanup officials at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant announced last week that more waste was shipped from Rocky Flats in Fiscal Year 2001 than ever before. Approximately 1,044 cubic meters of waste was shipped to WIPP in Southeastern New Mexico, 13,197 cubic meters was shipped to the Nevada Test Site, and 212 cubic meters was shipped for treatment and disposal to Utah, Washington and Tennessee.
Rocky Flats is located near Denver, Colorado. Plutonium triggers were produced at Rocky Flats until 1989, when an FBI raid forced the close of the facility.
A total of 274,000 cubic meters of waste must be removed from Rocky Flats by December 15, 2006, at which time the property may be transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for use as a wildlife reservation.
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