Nuclear Waste in Valley

By: Melissa Reynolds
By: Melissa Reynolds

The regional Haz-Mat team really isn't concerned. They say it's nothing new. Radioactive material has been on the Valley's interstates for more than 20 years.

Nuclear waste may be zipping along beside you, under a new plan it could travel east to west on Interstate 64, but, a local Haz-Mat team member says you have nothing to worry about.

"They are kept in extremely secure vaults or casks and we've got every confidence in the way those are transported," Deputy Chief Nick Astarb.

Representative Bob Goodlatte gives it a green light.

"It's absolutely essential that we do not have these large stockpiles of nuclear waste in various places around Virginia and it is an ongoing risk that some terrorist will be able to steal it," Representative Bob Goodlatte says.

Goodlatte and local Haz-Mat teams, training includes both classroom and hands on work...if there was an emergency, time, distance and shielding are the most important things the team can do.

"Our mode is first response to get there and stop the harm and secure the scene and then we'll let the professionals deal with the emergency and support them in that role," Astarb says.

Astarb says things like gasoline, pesticides and incorrectly labeled packages are bigger problems.

"Just by the sheer numbers and different types of materials that go up and down the interstate the radiological portion concerns us, but there are other hazardous materials out there that concern us more," Astarb says.

That's because when the material is transported, it'll be escorted and heavily armed, plus local authorities may be notified when it's in the area...so you're not at risk.

Nothing's set in stone yet. There's been talk of using railroads instead of the interstates that would take it completely away from the Valley.

The Senate still needs to pass the bill.

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What Are Radioactive Wastes?

  • Radioactive waste can be solid, liquid, or gaseous waste that contains radionuclides.

  • Depleted Uranium (DU) is, according to the to the Military Toxins Project, the radioactive byproduct of the uranium enrichment process, is "roughly 60 percent as radioactive as naturally occurring uranium and has a half-life of 4.5 billion years."

  • The United States has in excess of 1.1 billion pounds of DU waste material.

  • Using uranium as a fuel in the types of nuclear reactors common in the United States requires that the uranium be enriched so that the percentage of U235 is increased, typically to 3 to 5 percent.

  • The DU decay chain includes hazardous radioactive thorium, radium, radon, the radon "daughters" and lead. The Department of Energy plans to recycle massive quantities of 1.25 million pounds of DU into the commercial marketplace for reuse in consumer goods.

  • High-level waste (HLW) is highly radioactive material from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. HLW includes spent nuclear fuel, liquid waste, and solid waste derived from the liquid.

  • HLW contains elements that decay slowly and remain radioactive for hundreds or thousands of years. HLW must be handled by remote-control from behind protective shielding to protect workers.

Source: http://www.sierraclub.org/nuclearwaste/nucw.asp (Sierra Club).


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