BLUE RIDGE ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE LEAGUE
Charlotte, North Carolina
On Thursday, May 3, at the Great Aunt Stella Center in downtown Charlotte, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) released a new plutonium fuels transportation report outlining past problems with the U.S. Department of Energy's handling of plutonium and the potential for escalating problems with the implementation of the Plutonium Fuels program slated to bring plutonium into the Southeast. Environmental groups remain staunchly opposed to the plutonium fuel plan for a number of reasons, and the report focuses on many of these key issues. The report is based on evaluation of environmental and other documents from the Department of Energy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the consortium involved in the contract for the MOx (mixed oxide) fuels program in commercial nuclear reactors: Duke Energy, Cogema of France and Stone and Webster (DCS).
It details overrated records, increased risks, higher costs and more uncertainties in the transportation of this deadly substance. The plutonium fuels program escalates the problem of transportation of radioactive materials, says BREDL's Don Moniak, author of the report.
"The stakes have now been raised on the transportation of plutonium in this country. DCS intends to have more plutonium, more trucks carrying plutonium and more plutonium in each fuel assembly than what was first reported by DOE in 1999. It is essential that the NRC define just how much that risk has increased."
One reason for the increased risk is Virginia Power's decision to drop out of the program just before the contract was awarded to the consortium, leaving one-third fewer reactors to handle the material, thus requiring more plutonium in each fuel assembly than originally reported by DOE.
Mary Olsen of Nuclear Information and Resource Service - SE (NIRS) addressed liability issues: "The MOx plutonium fuel plan makes nuclear power more dangerous and increases nuclear liability. We do not believe that Price-Anderson coverage should pay for the increased liability associated with MOx plutonium fuel. The utility owner that decides to use this extra-dangerous, deadly fuel should cover their own nuclear liability. It's like disabling brakes on a car and then asking the insurance companies to cover you when you crash."
Louis Zeller, also of BREDL, discussed potential accident scenarios and the impact on first - responders and medical personnel, as well as the risks of terrorism associated with larger numbers.
The first fuel assemblies are slated to be loaded into Duke Energy's McGuire and Catawba reactors in September 2003 if this program goes forward.
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Link to reports :