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Press Release April 26, 2002

for further information:
Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148

for release April 26, 2002

Documents Reveal Energy Dept. Plan To Truck Rocky Flats Plutonium To Savannah River, Lawrence Livermore In Unsafe Containers; DT-22 Canisters Cannot Pass Nuclear Regulatory Community Crush Test

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) intends to truck plutonium parts from its Rocky Flats, Colorado plant to Savannah River, South Carolina and the Lawrence Livermore (California) laboratory in uncertified containers that cannot pass a government-mandated "crush test," according to documents obtained in a lawsuit against DOE's shipping plans.

On April 15, 2002 DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham notified the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that plutonium would soon be shipped from Rocky Flats in safety-certified "3013 containers" on 76 Safe Secure Transport (SST) trailers. But a presentation to DOE's Rocky Flats Citizens Advisory Board by site contractor Kaiser-Hill eleven days earlier admitted that the SSTs would also carry 432 forty-five gallon DT-22 containers filled with plutonium parts. The two destinations listed are Savannah River and Lawrence Livermore. DT-22 containers are not certified for transporting plutonium parts because they cannot pass a "crush test" required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A July 2000 DOE memorandum analyzing the proposal to move plutonium from Rocky Flats in DT-22 containers concludes: "If an SST was hit by a train the crush environment would occur. If an SST was hit from behind by a large, heavy vehicle, the crush environment may occur."

"In plain English, DOE is admitting that the DT-22 containers holding plutonium could get crushed in any highway accident and would definitely get crushed in a collision with a train. That could disperse deadly plutonium particles across the highway and into the atmosphere." explained Marylia Kelley, Executive Director of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment (Tri-Valley CAREs), a Livermore group which has sued to stop the shipments.

"In a rush to meet its own arbitrary deadline for closing Rocky Flats, DOE is pursuing a plan that flaunts common sense, public safety, and environmental protection. It is curious, at best, that DOE Secretary Abraham's required notice to Congress failed to mention that some of the plutonium shipments would be in uncertified containers," Kelley continued.

An October 1999 DOE memo warns that the containers cannot pass the mandatory crush test. The DT-22 containers "have not been tested to, and do not demonstrate compliance with, the current 10 CFR 71 performance requirements (most notably the dynamic crush test)," states the memo. It further specifies that, therefore, no DT-22s "may be purchased or fabricated after April 1, 1999, as specified in 10 CFR 71.13."

The documents were obtained by Tri-Valley CAREs through a lawsuit filed earlier this year seeking to block the shipments to California because DOE failed to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on the plan as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The group is represented by attorneys from the non-profit legal firm Earthjustice in its federal court suit.

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Copies of documents are available on request.

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