The most frequently cited public concern at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Public Scoping meetings on the environmental impacts associated with the Waste Control Specialists license application to construct and operate a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) for Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) were about transportation.
Transportation safety issues associated with the movement of SNF – specifically, spent fuel rods in dry cask storage – dominated the public comments at the recent public hearings in Hobbs, N.M. and Andrews, Texas. The WCS license application is required to address the potential impacts of SNF transportation in its environmental report for both normal and accident conditions. And the WCS application provides that information using the same RADTRAN modeling code which is the industry standard and has been used by both the NRC and by interveners in the Yucca Mountain licensing efforts to date.
The safety of SNF transportation will ultimately have to be addressed by the entity responsible for the transport which we believe will ultimately be the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The U.S. Department of Transportation and Nuclear Regulatory Commission monitor and regulate the transportation of SNF – and they have established an exemplary safety record in the process
- The fact remains that the safety record for the transportation of radioactive material, including SNF, is superior to that of all other hazardous materials. Any discussion about the safety of transporting used nuclear fuel must take place in the context of the safety record for the transportation of all hazardous materials in the United States.
- There are nine categories – including Radioactive Materials – considered hazardous materials. Flammable liquids has had the highest number of incidents involving accidents, deaths, and public exposure to toxic fumes. Most accidents were trucking accidents.
- Radioactive waste has had zero incidents where any radioactive material was released in the United States.
At WCS all we can do it continually try to respond to unfounded, unproven assertions about safety with the well-documented, publicly available record of safely shipping Spent Nuclear Fuel and other types of radioactive materials. We’ve just compiled two more summary documents. The first looks at the transportation of all hazardous materials, and the second provides an overview of the federal regulations and studies on the transportation of SNF.
We have also uploaded to this website A Historical Review of the Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel, a DOE report issued August 31, 2016.
The report is not a light read at 75 pages, but I strongly recommend to anyone in any city that has concerns about the transportation of SNF and how it could impact their community.
You’ll feel a lot better when you consider the following from the Executive Summary:
“However, from this review, it can be concluded that:
- At least 25,400 shipments of SNF have been made worldwide, but likely more than 44,400. It is likely that significantly more cask shipments have been made for all forms of SNF considered. The shipments within and into the US account for approximately 10 to 17 percent of this total.
- The quantity of SNF shipped worldwide to date is at least 87,000 metric tons of heavy metal (MTHM) and likely more than 109,000 MTHM. This is considered a lower bound since many of the data sources did not report on the heavy metal quantities shipped. Of the quantities reported here, the US accounts for only about 5 to7 percent of the total.
“Additionally, the study identified that at least 130 cask shipments of vitrified high-level radioactive waste (HLW) containing more than 2,350 canisters of HLW have been reprocessed at the plant in La Hague, France, and shipped back to the countries where the SNF originated.
“Review of the data sources shows that all of these shipments were undertaken without any injury or loss of life caused by the radioactive nature of the material transported.”
I underlined the last sentence above because it deserves emphasis. The facts are clear:
- More than 25,000 shipments of Spent Nuclear Fuel worldwide
- 0 incidents of radioactive release.
- 0 fatalities from radioactive exposure.
Those are the facts.