Supes look to reroute nuclear traffic |

Supes look to reroute nuclear traffic

Those who oversee train shipments of nuclear waste through Nevada County have been offered a suggestion: reroute them through Portland.

So said the board of supervisors last week to federal officials who monitor the waste, which originates from foreign countries that have agreed not to develop nuclear weapons in exchange for uranium produced in the United States.

Trains have transported the shipments through the Truckee area for 30 years or more, county officials said. Truckee Town Manager Steve Wright said he was not aware of the transports and there is not a notification process that he knows of.

A majority of Nevada County residents, however, passed Measure N, the Nuclear Free Zone Act, by a margin of almost 1,500 votes. Wright said town councilmembers adopted a similar resolution in 1994, declaring Truckee a nuclear free zone. “But (the resolution) doesn’t cover federal shipments.”

California officials, however, are reportedly considering a legal challenge to the shipments.

The reported challenge prompted a board discussion about trying to sell federal officials on an alternate route through Portland – an idea those officials have previously studied and rejected. Supervisor Fran Grattan argued that Portland is a more direct, less mountainous route to the shipments’ destination – a laboratory in Idaho – and poses risks to smaller populations along the way.

Supervisor Peter Van Zant noted an accident involving radioactive waste along the Truckee route would shut down the busy Interstate 80 corridor and cause economic repercussions. Furthermore, the Portland route is more isolated once it leaves that city, Van Zant said.

“Of course, there goes our partnership capability with Oregon,” he quipped.

Supervisor Sam Dardick, who represents Truckee, also expressed support for an alternate route.

Board Chairman Rene Antonson, striking a patriotic note, argued the country has promised to take the spent fuels and that California is still part of the United States. He noted there have been no serious accidents known to have occurred with the shipments.

“I am not willing to say the people of Oregon are less important than the people of California,” Antonson said. “We do have a responsibility to the country to do this.”

County officials said the shipments could be expected to last for another dozen years, with perhaps one trip a year.

Meeting with Dardick about the shipments a few weeks ago, federal officials detailed extensive safety precautions, including armed escorts and fuel containers designed to resist damage in crashes, fires and other potential threats.

– Dan Foscalina contributed to this story.

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