LAS VEGAS – Delegates attending the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen’s (BLET) First Quadrennial Convention were warned of the dangers of transporting spent nuclear waste and discussed ways of ensuring their safety as well as the safety of the general public.
Scott Palmer, the BLET’s Oregon State Legislative Board Chairman, told delegates that rail workers do not receive proper training to handle spent nuclear fuel and do not receive the same protections that are afforded other nuclear industry workers. In addition, there are no plans to record, monitor or track rail worker exposure levels, he said.
"It’s our goal to not only track but to lower exposure levels and to keep them as low as possible," Palmer said. "Right now, no carrier even has a program that will protect pregnant workers from radiation. If you show up to work, you cannot turn down a shipment of radioactive material. Rail is the way they’re going to move it."
The general public should be concerned as well, Palmer said.
"Right now, there are no requirements for safe parking areas," Palmer said. "Right now, these trains could be parked across from elementary schools or hospitals."
The Department of Energy is embarking upon a 50 year shipment plan to transport spent nuclear fuel, which will begin in the next few years.
Palmer represents the BLET on a Department of Energy working group to determine policies for shipping nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. The BLET is the only labor organization participating in the group.
Other participants include the DOE, Department of Transportation, and the Association of American Railroads.