Monday, October 01, 2007

Radioactive Material Could Travel Through the Middle of Nashville's Urban Neighborhoods

Sue Sturgis imparts news from the Knoxville News Sentinel that the U.S. Department of Energy is going to start as early as this week transporting "strategic nuclear material" from several sites around the country through Tennessee to a South Carolina facility.

According to reports, the weapons-grade plutonium could be shipped from Washington State, California, and New Mexico along the I-40 corridor, which would take it straight through Nashville's inner core neighborhoods. The map above pin-points neighborhoods along the plutonium's possible transit line through Nashville.

According to the News Sentinel:
DOE has evaluated the potential impact of a severe accident while transporting plutonium in certified containers with high-security trucks, known as Safe Secure Transports or SSTs. In the worst-case hypothetical scenario, involving crushing force, long-term fire and release of 10 percent of the radioactive material, DOE estimated that an accident in an urban area could cause as many as 114 cancer fatalities.
The transit project is scheduled to run through 2010, which seems like a long time to risk a DOE nuclear accident and possibly endanger the lives of Nashvillians.

CORRECTION: I located Hadley Park blocks too far to the West on the map above. It should be closer to TSU. Apologies both to my Hadley Park friends and those who live around West Park, over which I superimposed "Hadley Park."


  1. This post is irresponsible and alarmist.

    "Endanger the lives of Nashvillians"?? Do you have any basis for that, or just a knee-jerk reaction to the word "nuclear"? Perhaps you can tell us the number of nuclear transportation injuries we've seen versus, say, deaths from sun burns, car accidents, creosote-treated phone polls, etc.

    "Nuclear." Boo!

  2. Actually, it's a knee-jerk reaction to the term "weapons-grade plutonium." Few sun burns, car accidents and phone polls (except for those darned Republican push "polls") that I know of are ear-marked "weapons-grade." And ms's comment is pretty disingenuous: the reason that the government is giving the plutonium special storage is to guard it better than they would the sun, cars or phone polls. Guarding it well implies greater risk. [Boo!] Otherwise, they would just leave it stored on various western sites.

    Why is it perfectly fine to distrust the government on every other issue besides how it transports nuclear weapons? Why do they suddenly become absolutely trustworthy and above and beyond criticism when they are willing to expose certain communities to what they define as an acceptable risk of collateral damage?

  3. "Endanger the lives of Nashvillians"?? Do you have any basis for that, or just a knee-jerk reaction to the word "nuclear"?

    Um, it seems like his basis would be the DOE worst case estimate of 114 cancer deaths.

    One wonders if the I-40 corridor might include 840 as a detour around the urban core. If not, it should.

  4. What's 114 lives if not statistically insignificant?

    Yes, there is the specter of 114 deaths, but that multiplies exponentially if you measure the other lives negatively affected by those deaths. For instance, what if two of the deaths are parents of a family of five. At that point, three kids are orphaned. The fallout (for lack of a better term) would be broader than just those 114 (on average!) otherwise significant lives. This is weightier than "death-by-sunburn."

  5. The statistical odds of having one of those shipments wreck with the way people drive in this town is roughly 1 in 2. I have never seen in my 32 years of driving (30 of them in the NYC metro area) the hellish style embraced here. I've never seen the laws of physics defied in so many ways based on the wrecks I've seen and read about. Truckers falling off of elevated on-ramps, 2 cars meeting head on despite the fact that there are 3 lanes in each direction, NOBODY but me using turn signals, the inability to look before changing lanes, and the 10 second law for red lights. The last one is where *you* wait 10 seconds before moving through a green light to make sure that you don't get T-boned by the red light runner...

    I like to refer to the driving style here as the NASCAR syndrome.