In a surprising move given the threat of terrorist attacks, an environmental group has published online a series of maps that show the proposed transit routes of radioactive waste from nuclear energy plants to a disposal site in Nevada.
The interactive Nuclear Waste Route Maps, published online by Environmental Working Group (EWG), reveals the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) plans for shipping some 70,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste by truck or train through 45 states over the next 24 to 38 years to a disposal site at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
The group said the online mapping system would allow people to find out if a proposed shipping route will pass by their community.
EWG said DOE's plan projects that nuclear waste transported by truck will require more than 100,000 shipments over the life of the project. If rail is the principal mode, there will be approximately 18,000 train shipments plus about 2,850 shipments by barge.
EWG said it dug through DOE maps, obtained millions of DOT and Census Bureau records and combined them with the latest mapping software to calculate that 38 million Americans live within one mile of the proposed nuclear waste transport routes.
The concern, said EWG, is that current transport containers for radioactive waste are protected by less than five inches of armor, and that weapons readily available on the international black market can pierce 12 to 30 inches of armor. A container pierced by a missile or explosives would become a "dirty bomb" that could kill thousands and terrorize a large population with fear of long-term radiation exposure, EWG said. However, EWG has not stated how revealing the routes that would be taken would not aid "dirty bombers."