Transporting radioactive waste through Oklahoma

Friday, June 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

In the near future, nuclear waste may be traveling across Oklahoma roadways and railways. The federal government has plans to transport tons of nuclear waste through the state.

The main routes will be Interstates 35 and 40. Also in those plans are several railroads. Communities impacted by those railroads in eastern Oklahoma include Claremore, McAlester, Muskogee, Nowata, and Wagoner. News on Six reporter Tami Marler shows us the proposed plan.

Scientists have studied the plan for decades. Spent nuclear fuel from sites all over the country would be transported to a thousand feet beneath Yucca Mountain in Nevada, it's just weeks from full approval. The radioactive pellets will be hauled in tankers, along roadways like Interstates 40 and 35 in Oklahoma.

And along railways like the Union Pacific in McAlester. Larry Ralls of McAlester says he had no idea his new thrift mall would be just a few feet from where nuclear waste would be transported.

Former Oklahoma Governor David Walters agrees that residents should have a say, and they should take their concerns right to the man who holds their vote. But what if the unthinkable did happen, in McAlester, where Walters says trains loaded with nuclear waste will go right through the middle of town, and dozens of other little towns like it. Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe said in a faxed statement that he supports legislation authorizing the use of Yucca Mountain as a national nuclear waste repository. That the proposal has been analyzed with regard to all safety and environmental issues, and that evidence and experience indicates the transportation of the nuclear waste will be handled safely.

Inhofe also said that transporting the waste would be better than leaving it in less-safe nuclear sites, some of which border Oklahoma.

Senator Inhofe is in Washington, but a spokesperson tells us he will talk with the News on Six about the rationale behind the Yucca Mountain project when he returns to Tulsa.