|The Nuclear Waste Debate|
Senators Murkowski and Bryan
March 28, 1997
in this forum:
Why Nevada? Aren't communities who produce nuclear waste responsible? Does the nation need an interim site? Why can't the waste stay at the nuclear plant? Are you concerned about possible protests? How safe is it to transport waste across the country? How long should they plan on storing waste safely? SENATOR BRYAN: How would this bill impact the Nevada population? Additional Viewer Comments...
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A question from Sherry Bohlen of Gilbert, AZ:
In March of this year, Germany attempted to transport six radioactive waste transport canisters a few hundred miles from Southern Germany to Gorleben, a farm town in Northern Germany. According to German newspapers, the effort cost $100 million. Over 30,000 police were mobilized to deal with the 20,000 protesters who came out to interrupt the transport. Aren't you concerned about a comparable U.S. citizenry response? And how far is the U.S. government willing to go to enforce this transport proposal if it were to become law?
Senator Murkowski responds:
Greetings to Sherry from Gilbert. Thanks for the international question. You are giving my brain a good workout.
Your question is premised on the incorrect notion that nuclear shipments in the U.S. would be a new thing. In fact, there have been 2400 shipments of radioactive waste in the last 20 years. If you were unaware of them, it is because they were uneventful. Not one person has been exposed, and there have been no leaks of radiation or environmental mishaps. Even with that good record, though, we have insisted upon including additional funds in the legislation for extensive education, training and proper route selection. There will be additional technical and financial assistance for emergency response training for states and local communities. Americans take this very seriously, as we should.
If I am not mistaken, the demonstration you are talking about occurred when the shipments were coming back to Germany, after they had been shipped out for reprocessing in France. There was no demonstration when the materials were on their way to France, it was only when they came back, minus the plutonium from reprocessing, that protesters did their thing. I don't think Americans in 41 states will put up much of a protest that we are moving high-level radioactive materials further away from their homes, schools and neighborhoods! It hasn't been a problem in Europe, and France alone has transported 30,000 metric tons.
If I know Dick Bryan -- and he is a friend of mine -- he will use this question to explode another one of his rhetorical bombs. His predictions of a "mobile Chernobyl" and other disasters continue to be unfounded. While I understand his political plight, most people agree science and common sense are not on his side. He has already admitted he will say or do just about anything to stop progress on this issue of national importance.
Senator Bryan responds:
Never in the history of our country have we taken the risk of transporting this amount of deadly waste throughout America. This is why the nuclear waste bill has been dubbed the "mobile Chernobyl." On its way to Nevada, the waste will travel through 43 states on highways, byways and rail lines, through small towns and major population centers. I do not hesitate to predict that when shipments start, local communities will not stand idly by.
The significant safety issues involved in transportation of nuclear waste cannot be emphasized enough. Unfortunately, the record of train wrecks and truck wrecks in our country is not as good as it should be. The reality is that we have had some spectacular accidents attributed to varied causes, including human failure and sabotage. The United States has nearly 1500 train derailments a year. Heavy truck accidents occur approximately 6 times for each million miles traveled which, if applied to the thousands of truck shipments under the nuclear power industry's plan, would result in at least 15 truck accidents involving nuclear waste per year. If nuclear waste is to be shipped to Nevada cross-country from the eastern most parts of the United States to the West, the potential for accidents is daunting. It is so daunting that there is no way to properly prepare for the resulting disaster. Community response teams are simply not prepared to meet this challenge.