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E-M:/ Press release on Safety Concerns of Derailed Train
- Subject: E-M:/ Press release on Safety Concerns of Derailed Train
- From: Kay Cumbow <email@example.com>
- Date: Tue, 20 Jun 2006 16:16:32 -0400
- Delivered-to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Delivered-to: email@example.com
- List-name: Enviro-Mich
- Reply-to: Kay Cumbow <firstname.lastname@example.org>
News from NIRS - Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Washington,
D.C. - www.nirs.org
For Immediate Release
June 19, 2006
Contact Kevin Kamps, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS)
Office 301.270.6477x14, cell 240.462.3216
Safety and Security Concerns about Derailment of
Train Hauling Atomic Waste:
Surrey Township - Michigan Concerned citizen groups are raising questions
about the nature of the radioactive wastes aboard a derailed train amidst
conflicting press reports. The Associated Press first reported that the
train, which derailed in the early morning hours of June 16 in Clare
County, was hauling eight to ten railcars containing radioactive water
used for cooling nuclear materials at Consumers Energy's Big Rock Point
nuclear power plant in Charlevoix, Michigan.
Inconsistencies Raise Questions about Emergency Preparedness
However, Consumers Energy spokesman Timothy Petrosky later told the
Saginaw News that Big Rock no longer ships radioactive liquids, and its
cargo aboard the derailed train consisted of radioactively contaminated
concrete and soil.
According to a spokesman from the State of Michigan Department of
Environmental Quality's Waste and Hazardous Materials Division, the six
rail cars carrying 42 inter-modal atomic waste containers from Big Rock
are bound for a licensed radioactive waste dump in Clive, Utah.
Clare County Sheriff's Department Emergency Services Division Sergeant
William J. Larson told Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) in
a phone inquiry that tampering with the rails is suspected, and an
investigation has been launched.
This raises serious concerns about the security of atomic waste
shipments, said Kevin Kamps of NIRS. High-level radioactive waste
shipments from Big Rock that would travel this same rail route would be
potentially catastrophic targets for sabotage or terrorist attack rolling
through countless Michigan communities.
Responding to a telephone inquiry from NIRS, Jim Dunn of the Tuscola and
Saginaw Bay Railway also denied the presence of radioactive wastewater,
despite press reports to the contrary. Dunn said the train carried
radioactive crushed concrete containing a minimum of radioactivity.
These inconsistencies are very troubling, said Michael Keegan of
Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes in Monroe, Michigan. Where is
the train's manifest, clearly listing exactly what radioactive materials
are aboard the train - and how hazardous they are?
We are concerned about what level of radiation these radioactive wastes
from Consumers Energy are emitting, said Kevin Kamps of NIRS, a watchdog
group on the nuclear power industry based in Washington, D.C. How high a
radiation dose are the derailment clean up workers, emergency responders,
and nearby local residents and unsuspecting members of the public
receiving from these radioactive wastes that have now been parked in
their midst for days on end?
Sgt. Larson told NIRS that his agency lacks radiation detection
equipment, so it is unclear what radiation doses nearby persons face from
the stalled atomic waste shipment.
The rail company and Clare County Sheriff's Department are assuming that
there is no radioactive leakage, but how do they know? asked Kamps.
Radiation is invisible and can only be detected by special monitoring
equipment, so this incident reveals dangerous flaws in radiological
emergency response. Isn't it a basic precaution, when an atomic waste
train derails, that radiation monitoring be conducted right away? What if
one of the containers has been damaged by being jostled during the
derailment? What about the safety of local residents, and those who live
along the tracks in Michigan and beyond, all the way to Utah? Kamps
According to workers at the factory who spoke on condition of anonymity,
the derailment took place close to the rail spur leading into, and the
shipping dock area of, the Renosol Corp. plant, manufacturer of
polyurethane products for the auto industry.
We know that extremely hazardous materials, such as toluene diisocyanate,
are present at the Renosol factory, said Kay Cumbow of Citizens for
Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, headquartered in nearby Lake
Township. If the derailment had ignited a fire at the factory, could a
toxic cloud have formed? What would be the health and safety consequences
downwind? Cumbow asked.
Previous derailments have occurred on this very same section of track,
said Keegan. Was this train traveling at high speed, which led to the
derailment? Why were hazardous radioactive wastes being shipped in the
dead of night to begin with? What emergency preparations are in place to
deal with accidents involving radioactive wastes?
The Saginaw News also quoted railroad spokesman Jim Dunn as saying of the
radioactive waste [i]t's not dangerous at all. In response to a telephone
inquiry from NIRS, Dunn stated that although the radioactive crushed
concrete from Consumers Energy was placarded as hazardous, it only
emitted a minimum of radiation.
Clare County Sheriff's Sergeant William J. Larson told the Saginaw News
that the rail cars containing the atomic wastes are
Such false assurances raise more questions than they answer, said Kamps
of NIRS. The only radioactive wastes that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission requires to be packaged in special containers during transport
are the most radioactive and hazardous of atomic wastes. So if these
train cars are armor-plated, that makes it sound like these particular
radioactive wastes from Consumers Energy are intensely radioactive.
Kamps also pointed out that, according to U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
documents, the very same Tuscola and Saginaw Bay Railway that experienced
this atomic waste train derailment would also be used to ship eight
massive rail carloads of high-level radioactive waste from Consumers
Energy's Big Rock Point nuclear power plant to Nevada if the Yucca
Mountain dumpsite ever opens there.
Irradiated nuclear fuel from Consumers Energy's Big Rock Point nuclear
power plant in Charlevoix, Michigan would travel the Tuscola and Saginaw
Bay Railway through Boyne Falls, Kalkaska, Walton, Cadillac, Marion,
Clare, Mount Pleasant, Alma, Ashley, Owosso and Durand before
transferring to the Grand Trunk Western railway through Lansing, Battle
Creek, and Schoolcraft. The rail shipments would then exit Michigan bound
for Nevada if the Yucca dump ever opens. A copy of the DOE route map can
be accessed by this link:
Severe accidents or terrorist attacks can turn high-level radioactive
waste shipments into Mobile Chernobyls or dirty bombs on wheels, said
Kamps, referring to the 1986 Soviet nuclear catastrophe and radiological
dispersal devices. Release of just a fraction of such a cargo could
unleash a radioactive catastrophe deadly to emergency responders and
Consumers Energy has amassed a long list of radioactive waste handling
and transport accidents, said Keegan of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free
Great Lakes. Consumers Energy should not generate twenty-five more years
of radioactive wastes at its still-operating Palisades nuclear power
plant in southwest Michigan, for those would require risky handling and
transport as well.
Also under its Yucca Mountain dump plan, DOE proposes barging up to 125
containers of high-level radioactive waste on Lake Michigan from
Palisades to Muskegon. U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow voted against this
plan in 2002, citing the danger of such barge shipments sinking in Lake