2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: marylia@earthlink.net
Date: 14 Feb 2002 16:49:35 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] DOE plutonium lawsuit filed today!

Manufacturer Admits Containers Cannot Withstand "Crush Test;" Shipment 
Routes Would Include Major Population Centers

Livermore, CA -- At a news conference held today at the fence line of 
the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, community groups and
environmentalists announced the filing of a major environmental lawsuit 
challenging a Dept. of Energy (DOE) plan to truck plutonium from Rocky 
Flats, Colorado to the Bay Area's Livermore Lab in containers that 
cannot be certified as safe.

Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment),
represented by attorneys with Earthjustice, filed a complaint in federal 
court in San Francisco detailing how Rocky Flat's plutonium is slated to 
be shipped to Livermore in 45-gallon "DT-22" containers that DOE 
documents acknowledge do not satisfy applicable safety regulations.  The 
containers cannot pass a "crush test," which is mandatory for such 
shipments under Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. Moreover, 
documents obtained by Tri-Valley CAREs disclose that the container's 
manufacturer apprised DOE of this fact.

DOE's plan to put these containers on trucks out on the Interstate
highways, which run through many populated areas between Colorado and
California, is raising concern throughout the West. According to DOE
sources, the surplus plutonium parts are scheduled to be trucked in 
DT-22s to Livermore Laboratory in the spring or early summer of 2002. 
Once in Livermore, the plutonium parts will undergo high-temperature 
processing. Some years hence, the plutonium is supposed to go back out 
on the road, some of it to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico 
and some to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

Documents obtained by plaintiffs and attorneys in the case show that DOE 
is hurrying to meet an "accelerated closure" plan for dealing with the 
mess it made at the old Rocky Flats weapons plant, located about 16 
miles outside of Denver. "Speeding up the project to meet an arbitrary 
2006 closure date would save the agency money, but at the expense of 
public safety along the shipment route and in my community," stated 
Marylia Kelley, executive director of the Livermore-based Tri-Valley 

"First, the DOE improperly granted itself a 'national security 
exemption' from NRC regulations, so that it can more cheaply truck 
decades-old, surplus plutonium parts in containers that cannot be 
certified safe in crush scenarios. Then, DOE compounded its egregious 
violation of law and agency discretionary powers by neglecting to comply 
with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the basic 
environmental statute of the land," explained Trent Orr, an attorney 
with Earthjustice.

The lawsuit is being filed under NEPA, and calls on DOE to prepare an
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposal. An EIS, say
plaintiffs and their attorneys, is needed to analyze the risks posed to 
communities along the route in case of an accident. Further, the law 
requires an EIS to contain a comprehensive "alternatives analysis," 
i.e., outlining other options for the plutonium, and include the public 
in decision-making through hearings and comment periods.

Plaintiffs and attorneys noted that there are multiple alternatives that 
were dismissed out of hand by DOE -- without benefit of NEPA analysis -- 
as too expensive or time-consuming. They include but are not limited to:

* Cutting the material to fit into safer containers for transport.
* Processing the material on-site at Rocky Flats, and storing it there.
* Sending portions of the material from Rocky Flats directly to the 
Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico, rather than to 
California first then across the Southwest to New Mexico.
* Sending the recovered plutonium directly to Savannah River, SC, rather 
than to California first then across the country to Savannah River.
* Processing the material at one of several DOE sites not within urban
boundaries, if careful analysis showed this to be safe.

Citing the potential hazard of an accident, Marvin Resnikoff, an expert 
in radioactive transport issues, said, "These DT-22 containers cannot 
withstand all credible highway accidents. It makes no sense to transport 
plutonium in unsafe containers to Lawrence Livermore, process the 
plutonium, then transport it to other government facilities in New 
Mexico and South Carolina. All this transportation maximizes the risk of 
a transportation accident."

"Plutonium presents an extreme health hazard to workers who handle it 
and to the public," explained Marion Fulk, a retired Livermore 
Laboratory physicist with five decades of experience studying plutonium 
and other radioactive elements. "A tenth micron-sized particle of 
plutonium, once in the body, is enough to cause cancer or other health 
problems," Fulk continued. "New scientific studies show a wide range of 
negative health outcomes associated with radiation doses that 
authorities believed to be safe in years past. If we must err, we must 
err on the side of caution," he concluded.

"What we have here is an agency ignoring rules to get a job done 
quickly," agreed attorney Orr. "While that may save the DOE some money, 
it might not be the safest way to solve the problem."

Moreover, the shipments could pose a national security issue, said 
Kelley. "After the tragedy of September 11th, the DOE temporarily halted 
nuclear waste shipments knowing they pose an attractive target for 
terrorists. What assurances do we have that these shipments will now be 

"Cleaning up the remnants of the Cold War is a worthy and difficult
project, but communities should not be endangered in the name of
expediency," Kelley concluded.

- 30 -

The following persons are also available for interviews:
Tom Marshall, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, 
(303) 444-6981

Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, Radioactive Waste Management Assoc., 
(212) 620-0526

A pdf file of the lawsuit complaint is available on Tri-Valley CAREs'
website at http://www.igc.org/tvc. Additionally, maps of potential 
routes and communities that could be affected and a copy of the lawsuit 
are available online at http://www.earthjustice.org.

Marylia Kelley
Executive Director,
Tri-Valley CAREs
(Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
2582 Old First Street
Livermore, CA 94550
Phone: 1-925-443-7148
Fax: 1-925-443-0177
Web site: http://www.igc.org/tvc

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