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Few barriers seen to nuclear waste transport

February 13, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 7

A report by the National Research Council says there are no fundamental technical barriers to the safe transport of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in the U.S., but a few challenges remain unresolved. The NRC Committee on Transportation of Radioactive Waste says the radiological risks associated with the transport of spent fuel and high-level waste are well-understood and generally low. The Feb. 9 report notes that spent fuel has been shipped worldwide for more than four decades without a significant release of radioactive materials during an accident. However, the report says more attention needs to be paid to understanding and managing the social risks involved in transporting these materials, such as lower property values or reduced tourism along shipping routes. Shipments of spent fuel and high-level waste will increase dramatically if the Energy Department opens a proposed repository at Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. The report says DOE should identify and make public its preferred routes to the site as soon as possible to give emergency responders time to prepare. The committee strongly endorsed DOE's decision to use dedicated trains, which would carry only spent fuel or high-level waste and no other freight.


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