Nuclear waste transportation: Is Georgia at risk?

Anti-nuclear activists gathered in Decatur Thursday to protest what they believe is a potentially disastrous plan to transport more than 1,500 shipments of nuclear waste across the state on the way to a federal disposal site in Nevada.

The event by Nuclear Watch South is part of a coordinated national campaign protesting a plan under consideration in Congress to transport nuclear waste across the country to a disposal site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The Yucca Mountain plan has been on the books for years but tied up in litigation and political debate. President Obama shelved the plan after his election 2008, but some Republicans in Congress have tried to revive it.

Credit: Chris Joyner

Credit: Chris Joyner

The "representative" transportation routes that would take spent nuclear fuel by rail to the disposal site converge in Atlanta before heading west.

“Georgia is not ready for mass transportation of nuclear waste — we can barely handle rush hour and regularly become crippled in severe weather,” Glenn Carroll, coordinator of Nuclear Watch South, said in a statement.

For its part, the federal government touts a long safety record in moving nuclear waste.

"Over the last 40 years, thousands of shipments of commercially generated spent nuclear fuel have been made throughout the United States without causing any radiological releases to the environment or harm to the public," the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission states on its website.

That type of transportation is usually from one nuclear plant to another one that has space to store the waste. Moving massive amounts of waste regularly across country to central site like Yucca Mountain is another proposition altogether.

Credit: Chris Joyner

Credit: Chris Joyner

But the international nuclear community also backs the safety record of transporting radioactive waste, saying rare accidents have never resulted in nuclear disaster.

It's worth pointing out that the folks in Nevada aren't excited about any revival of the Yucca Mountain plan either.

"This stuff should not becoming across the country and never to Nevada," Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said Tuesday, according to KLAS-TV.

You can see the Georgia waste transportation map here.