Higgins Calls on Energy Department to Conduct Environmental Review of Nuclear Waste Transportation Proposal
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is asking the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess a proposal which could transport liquid nuclear waste from Ontario, Canada to a location in South Carolina crossing the Peace Bridge and traveling through Western New York.
“An EIS provides a roadmap to make informed decisions on proposals and is especially warranted given the volatile substance and significant impact area involved in this case,” said Congressman Higgins. “Without a comprehensive review and plan, they are setting us up for a mobile Chernobyl.”
Environmental Impact Statements are detailed reports required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for a proposed major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. Several environmental groups and local residents recently brought their concerns about this issue to the Congressman.
Congressman Higgins addressed the issue on the House Floor:
(To access video click above or go to: https://youtu.be/fzDCoOWd6cg)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to express my serious concerns with the Department of Energy’s proposal to transport liquid nuclear waste from Ontario’s Chalk River Research reactor to the Department of Energy’s Savannah River site, across several states and over the Peace Bridge, which is in my Western New York Congressional district.
Unlike spent nuclear fuel, which can be safely transported in solid form, in liquid form it is more radioactive and complicated to transfer.
Most concerning, in the event of a spill, liquid highly enriched uranium would be difficult to contain. A major contamination in the Buffalo-Niagara region could potentially result, exacting dire consequences on the Great Lakes, the Niagara Power Project and greater Buffalo-Niagara population.
Mr. Speaker, a plan that carries this level of risk should not be done without a thorough review. The Department of Energy must undertake a formal environmental impact statement before proceeding.
The Congressman made the request in a letter to Energy Secretary Moniz:
July 16, 2014
The Honorable Ernest Moniz
Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20585
Dear Secretary Moniz,
I write to express my concern regarding the proposed transportation of liquid nuclear waste from Ontario’s Chalk River Research reactor to the Department of Energy’s Savannah River site via the Peace Bridge, a major border crossing in my district.
In contrast to spent nuclear fuel, which can be reliably and safely transported in solid form, the prospect of shipping liquid nuclear waste is far more complicated. Such high level waste is more radioactive than spent nuclear fuel, and its liquid form could make containment in the event of a spill or other adverse event nearly impossible. Adding to these concerns, reports indicate that the type of nuclear material transport cask that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission plans to use has never been certified to carry this type of waste.
The potential danger of this proposed action is amplified by the high-risk nature of contamination in the Buffalo-Niagara region. An international border community, it is home to four international bridge crossings and the Niagara Power Project, which serves as the largest electricity producer in New York State. It also sits along two Great Lakes which represent the largest fresh water supply in the world and serves as the center point of a 500 mile radius that includes approximately 55% of the US population and 62% of the Canadian population.
A major contamination on or near the Peace Bridge would have dire consequences for the regional and national economies. Further, the proposed route would take this material through the heart of the City of Buffalo, a densely populated urban area where the consequence of contamination on public safety would be devastating.
Given these significant concerns, it is the responsibility of the Department of Energy and all relevant agencies involved in the process to thoroughly assess the safety of this action. Therefore, I urge your agency to undertake a formal environmental impact statement before proceeding. Thank you for your time and attention this matter.
Member of Congress