Gillibrand, Higgins petition Energy Department to rethink N-waste transport - The Buffalo News

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Gillibrand, Higgins petition Energy Department to rethink N-waste transport

The first of about 150 shipments of high-level liquid nuclear waste between Ontario and South Carolina began last month.

It's unclear whether the flatbed tractor trailer carrying a cask with a uranium solution containing cesium-137, strontium-90 and plutonium-239 crossed the Peace Bridge. The route taken is apparently classified for national security reasons. But just the specter of it has local congressional officials demanding a review from U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Brian Higgins, in a joint statement Thursday, asked Perry to overturn the Obama administration's approval of the shipments from Chalk River, Ont., to the Savannah River Site, a U.S. Dept. of Energy nuclear reservation in Aiken, S.C.

Wednesday's Letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Brian Higgins.

"We are concerned that there was not a full Environmental Impact Statement to examine the potential risks associated with shipping liquid uranium prior to the decision to allow these shipments to proceed," Gillibrand and Higgins wrote to Perry.

The letter added: "Highly radioactive material has never been transported over public roads in liquid form."

The shipments are expected to proceed over the next four years.

One of the possible routes outlined to the federal government would take the shipments into the United States at the Peace Bridge to the Niagara Thruway through downtown Buffalo to the mainline Thruway toward Erie, Pa., and south from there.

The shipments, which were to start last September, were delayed by a lawsuit by several environmental groups seeking the same environmental assessment requested by Gillibrand and Higgins.

A federal judge ruled against the environmental groups in February, paving the way for the start of the shipments last month.

Federal judge allows transport of liquid nuclear waste from Ontario

The first one didn't proceed unscathed, according to an April 21 report by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

"An unexpected hotspot" was reported at the South Carolina facility when one of the containers from the cask was removed into another piece of shielded equipment there, the report stated.

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