DOWNWINDERS PRESS RELEASE
Thursday, July 17, 1997
In the Sunday, July 6, 1997 Salt Lake Tribune Leon D. Bear of the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes stated concerning the proposed spent nuclear fuel storage facility in Skull Valley, Utah: Despite our five years of intensive study on this issue, no one has been able to present one shred of scientific evidence that this facility would not be safe." Bear suggested that (Congressman) "Cook take time to learn the facts of the project in question and stop issuing slanderous, false statements." Perhaps it's time that Mr. Bear learn the facts about the dangers of spent fuel storage and transportation to the people of Utah. The following information is provided by the respected Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Radioactive Waste Project, 1424 16th Street NW, #601, Washington, DC 20036:
- More than 15,000 shipments to Utah could be made over the next 30 years. Each large train cask carries the long-lived radiological equivalent of 200 Hiroshima bombs. In terms of radioactivity, each fuel assembly contains 10 times the long-lived radioactivity released by the Hiroshima bomb.
- A person standing three feet from unshielded irradiated fuel would receive a lethal radiation dose in 10 seconds.
- Current cask fire standards do not reflect the possibility of a tanker fuel fire. A fire associated with a truck or rail accident increases the probability that radioactivity will be released. Fires occur in 1.6% of all truck and 1% of all train accidents. Shipping containers are designed to withstand a 1/2-hour fire at a temperature of 1475 Fahrenheit. But rail fires could burn for hours, sometimes for days, at temperatures considerably higher. Diesel fuel burns at 1850 Fahrenheit. Some materials burn twice as hot. The heat could vaporize some radioactive materials and sweep them up into the air. Persons downwind could inhale radioactive particulates and later develop cancer or genetic effects. On July 2, 1997 a collision between two trains in Kansas produced just such an intense diesel fire.
- Accidents will happen -- the Department of Energy expects at least 15 truck accidents yearly.
- New cask designs are more than twice as large as any cask used before, and they will be tested only by computer models, not under actual accident conditions.
- Existing transport routes are designed for commerce and link major population centers; they are not designed for radioactive waste transportation.
- About 3/4 of the U.S. population could be affected by these shipments.
- Shipping containers are designed to withstand a crash into an immovable object at 30 miles per hour. Obviously Interstate trucks travel much faster than 30 m.p.h. Impact into a bridge abutment or falls off a bridge could easily exceed the design limits of the container.
- None of the containers presently used on highways and rails has been physically tested. These containers were designed and built in the 1960's and '70's. Waste containers have only been tested by computer or hand calculators. Before the flood gates open on nuclear shipments, the Department of Energy should at least require that the new generation of shipping containers presently proposed be actually physically tested, but the Department has no such plans.
- Mr. Bear does not consider the very real prospect of nuclear sabotage and terrorism. The recent bombings at the World Trade Center, Oklohoma City Federal Building, and the Atlanta Olympics point to this threat. What if an act of nuclear terrorism happened at our 2002 Winter Olympics to one of the 9 or 10 shipments that will travel through Salt Lake City each day?
Over 70 Native American tribes across the United States have declared their reservations "Nuclear Free Zones" and 17 tribes have rejected spent fuel dumps outright. Darelynn Lehto, the vice president of the Prairie Island Mdewankanton, testified before the Minnesota State Senate stating, "It is the worst kind of environmental racism to force our tribe to live with the dangers of nuclear waste simply because no one else is willing to do so." This same tribe rejected an offer from Northern States Power similar to the Goshute proposal and declared their tribal lands a "Nuclear Free Zone."
We wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Bear that the Skull Valley Goshutes have a right to business opportunities -- but not at the expense of the rest of us!
c/o Winston Weeks
239 E. So. Temple
Salt Lake City, Utah 84111