Report: Terrorism risk high for nuke shipments

By Mary Manning

October 16, 1997

Terrorism poses a much higher risk to high-level nuclear waste shipments to the proposed Yucca Mountain repository than the federal government has considered, according to a state report. Transportation expert Robert Halstead and criminal justice Professor James David Ballard, consultants for the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, released the report Wednesday.

A nuclear accident or terrorism incident could contaminate eight acres for every 2,000 to 10,000 curies of radiation released, Halstead said.

With traffic choking the streets and freeways of Las Vegas and development booming, any nuclear route through the valley could be dangerous, the consultants said.

Nuclear Waste Task Force Director Judy Treichel said if Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, becomes the nation's nuclear dump, real estate agents will have to disclose transportation routes to home buyers.

In the event of an accident, radiation from cesium, strontium, cobalt-60, iodine-131 and plutonium would all have to be removed before people could return, the study said.

The 82-page report recommends further extensive tests by the Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"Shipping nuclear waste in rail cars is even scarier," Halstead said.

Since no federal agency requires that armed guards ride on trains carrying nuclear waste, the cars could travel normal freight and passenger routes.

Union Pacific Railroad has had trouble in the West tracking normal shipments of goods and there are gaps in communications due to mountains and deep valleys in several Western states. This makes rail routes particularly susceptible to terrorist attacks, according to the report.

Weapons that could open a 6-inch hole in a nuclear waste cask include M72 anti-tank launchers, the Superdragon anti-tank missile, the TOW anti-tank missile, the Milan anti-tank missile and the RPG-7 anti-tank weapon, used by guerrilla armies around the world, the study found.

Terrorists also might use remote-fired weapons because the technology has advanced so much in the past 10 years, Halstead said.

The report was released after a meeting in Las Vegas of the state's Commission on Nuclear Projects Commission.

Copyright 1997 LAS VEGAS SUN

Compliments of Proposition One Committee