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Australian govt plan for nuclear waste dump ignores transport dangers

Looking back to the 2016 shonky South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, – the same problems apply to the present Federal Government plan . Friends of the Earth Australia examined these- in Arguments against turning SA into the world’s nuclear waste dump.

The Royal Commission’report claimed that ”no accident involving a breach of the package and the release of its contents has occurred. The same record applies to international transport of high and intermediate level waste.”

”That claim is incorrect and is refuted by documented evidence provided to ‒ and ignored by ‒ the Royal Commission. For example a whistleblower sparked a major controversy over frequent excessive radioactive contamination of waste containers, rail cars, and trucks in France and Germany. International transport regulations for spent fuel shipments were constantly over a period of many years and this was done knowingly. Another example concerns the derailment of a train wagon carrying spent fuel in December 2013, 3 km from Paris, with testing by AREVA revealing a hotspot on the rail car.

Numerous other train derailments involving nuclear materials transport have been documented. It is unsettling to consider the multiple derailments on the Ghan train line in Australia in the relatively short period of time it has been in operation.

Transport incidents and accidents are routine in countries with significant nuclear industries. The case of the UK is pertinent. A UK government database contains information on 1018 events from 1958 to 2011 (an average of 19 incidents each year).

There were 187 events during the shipment of irradiated nuclear fuel flasks from 1958−2004 in the UK (an average of four per year):

  • 33% involved excess contamination on the surface of the flask;
  • 24% involved collisions and low speed derailments of the conveyance;
  • 16% involved flask preparation faults, and loading/unloading faults;
  • 13% involved excess contamination of conveyance;
  • 11% involved faults with the conveyance; and
  • the remainder included three cases involving fire on a locomotive with no damage to flasks.

The French nuclear safety agency IRSN produced a report summarising radioactive transport accidents and incidents from 1999−2007. The database lists 901 events from 1999−2007 − on average 100 events annually or about two each week. The IRSN report notes that events where there is contamination of packages and means of transport were still frequent in 2007.

Potential costs of transport accidents: Spent fuel / high level nuclear waste transport accidents have the potential to be extraordinarily expensive. Dr. Marvin Resnikoff and Matt Lamb from Radioactive Waste Management Associates in New York City calculated 355−431 latent cancer fatalities attributable to a “maximum” hypothetical rail cask accident, compared to the US Department of Energy’s estimate of 31 fatalities. Using the Department of Energy’s model, they calculated that a severe truck cask accident could result in US$20 billion to US$36 billion in clean-up costs for an accident in an urban area, and a severe rail accident in an urban area could result in costs from US$145 billion to US$270 billion.

Transport and nuclear security: Nuclear engineer Dr John Large writes: “Movement of nuclear materials is inherently risky both in terms of severe accident and terrorist attack. Not all accident scenarios and accident severities can be foreseen; it is only possible to maintain a limited security cordon around the flask and its consignment; … terrorists are able to seek out and exploit vulnerabilities in the transport arrangements and localities on the route; and emergency planning is difficult to maintain over the entire route.”

A number of nuclear transport security incidents are listed in the body of this submission (section 3.8).

Security and proliferation risks…….”Arguments against turning SA into the world’s nuclear waste dump


May 24, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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