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Higgins Asks Feds to Keep Highly Enriched Uranium Shipments out of Western New York

Mar 18, 2016
Press Release
Congressman Says Risks are too Great Given Recent Container Flaws & Lack of Environmental or Threat Assessment

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is asking the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to take their shipments of Highly Enriched Uranium elsewhere.  The request comes as the agency plans up to 150 shipments of the hazardous material over the northern border from Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario, Canada to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.  

“Recent equipment failings and the lack of current environmental or threat assessments raise very serious concerns about the risks associated with the transport of this hazardous material,” said Congressman Higgins.  “With too many unanswered questions the risks are just too great for this community and we are asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to keep these shipments out of Western New York.”   

In recent months the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a report which details plans for the shipment of 6,000 gallons of highly enriched liquid uranium across the Northern Border. The Peace Bridge and Western New York has been identified as one potential shipment route.  Expressing great concern of the impact a terrorism driven or accidental disaster could have on the Peace Bridge, Great Lakes and the entire Buffalo-Niagara community, Higgins has called for a full and formal environmental review.  Instead, the DOE insists they will move forward, relying on data from a 1995 report which pre-dates today’s realities in a post 9/11 world. 

Higgins also says that an incident occurring on October 28, 2015 at Chalk River Laboratories contributes to the alarming nature of the impending shipments.  Documented in the transcript of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission public meeting held on January 28, 2016 was an account of the incident which includes: failure of a fuel caddy, cracks in the weld of end plates on several fuel caddies, and failure to properly report the incident to Canadian and U.S. oversight agencies in a timely manner.  The company found to have inadequate welds is the same company responsible for casks that will be transported, potentially through Western New York, later this year. 

Higgins outlined his concerns in a letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Stephen Burns.  Higgins writes:  “The liquid nuclear waste that DOE plans to begin shipping is highly radioactive, and complicating matters, it has never before been shipped by truck or in the transport cask that your agency recently approved. Furthermore, in contrast to solidified spent nuclear fuel, the material’s liquid form could vastly exacerbate the consequences of a spill and the ability to contain it. A recent component failure during preparation of another spent fuel shipment at Chalk River, reportedly due to faulty welding, demonstrates that the risks of an accident are far from remote.”

Congressman Higgins’ work on this issue:

July 24, 2014: Congressman Says Further Investigation Necessary Before Nuclear Waste Crosses Peace Bridge, Warns of Mobile Chernobyl

May 20, 2015: Higgins Wins Approval For Amendment to Require a Risk Assessment Prior to Planned Transport of Liquid Uranium Across Border

June 24, 2015: House Passes Bill With Higgins’ Amendment Requiring Risk Assessment of Proposed Nuclear Waste Transport Across Peace Bridge

October 1, 2015: Higgins’ Bill Requiring A Threat Assessment of Hazardous Materials Crossing the Border Is Approved In Committee

October 21, 2015: House of Representatives Approves Congressman Higgins’ Bill Requiring A Threat Assessment of Hazardous Materials Transported in the U.S.

January 6, 2016: Higgins Pushes Pack on Department of Energy Attempts to Move Forward with Nuclear Waste Transport Without Proper Review

January 7, 2016:  On House Floor, Higgins Calls DOE Planned Shipment of Highly Enriched Liquid Uranium Through WNY “Dangerously Negligent”

March 1, 2016: Congressman Higgins meets with officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy to express his concerns regarding the shipments of liquid radioactive waste.