Plans for a rail shipment of nuclear wastes from the West Valley Demonstration Project have been put on hold indefinitely after the terrorist attacks last Tuesday in New York City and Washington.
John Chamberlain, a spokesman for the project, confirmed today that the day after the attacks, federal Energy Department officials in Washington halted all transfers of nuclear materials, including West Valley's shipment of 125 highly radioactive nuclear waste fuel rods.
"In light of what happened, the DOE is evaluating a lot of activities and certainly shipping of any nuclear material," he said.
"My assumption is that when it begins again, it will go on a case-by-case basis."
The proposed shipment was believed to be the largest commercial nuclear fuel shipment in U.S. history.
Because of security concerns, officials weren't releasing a date for the shipment, but the West Valley Project had been planning on completing the five-day journey before Oct. 31, the day the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission's certificate for compliance for the shipment ends.
"It has to be in Idaho by the end of October," Chamberlain said, acknowledging that "our time is getting short."
Two specially designed casks containing the waste were to be placed on rail cars and transported through 11 states to a temporary destination, the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in Idaho Falls.
The $16 million shipment, which involved planning and negotiating with the states and with the four railroads that were to carry it, was to have gone through Butler, Pa.; Youngstown, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Springfield, Ill.; Kansas City; Topeka, Kan.; Kearney, Neb.; Julesburg, Colo.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; and Pocatello, Idaho, before reaching the laboratory.