Las Vegas Sun

March 24, 2017

Currently: 76° — Complete forecast

EDITORIAL:

It’s simple, President Trump: Yucca Mountain project is too risky

Dear President Donald Trump,

By reputation, you prefer to receive information about complicated topics not in long reports or studies, but rather in synopsized memos and at-a-glance breakdowns.

To that end, we offer this map showing one of the train routes on which highly radioactive material would be transported to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository if the project were to be restarted. (Continue reading below map.)

Click to enlarge photo

Yellow represents the area that would receive routine radiation from rail shipments of radioactive material. This area shown is just a portion of the entire affected route. Within this area (along the entire route in the valley) live an estimated 220,225 residents, according to the most recent data available — a 2010 census.

In yellow, we’ve marked the area where there would be routine radiation emanating from trains carrying casks of high-level nuclear waste through the heart of the Las Vegas Valley. Despite use of heavily shielded casks, anyone within a half-mile of the tracks in each direction would be exposed to additional radiation as trains went by them.

Does anything jump out at you as a reason to keep Yucca Mountain from being revived and prevent these shipments from occurring? We’d encourage you to ask the same question to your friend and campaign contributor Phil Ruffin, the owner of Treasure Island.

As further food for thought, please consider that 90 percent of the material inside those casks would deliver a lethal dose of radiation to someone standing a yard away from it within five minutes, if unshielded.

And although the casks contain most of the radiation, to the point where people on the outer edges of the rail route would receive only a small dose as long as shipments moved smoothly, exposure would increase when trains stop — as they often do.

Plus, the radiation intensifies at shorter distances from the casks. For people within 6 feet — say, railway workers — exposure over an hour would be the equivalent of a chest X-ray.

Finally, there’s a matter of perception: Who would want to live, work or play along a route where radioactive material is being transported on a regular basis?

In the interests of brevity, we won’t get into what would happen in the event of a severe accident or a terrorist attack that breached a cask. To use one of your favorite words from the campaign, though, it would be horrible.

There’s a great deal more ground to cover, and we’re sure our state’s leaders would be more than happy to provide more details. But again, in the interests of brevity, we’ll close.

Sincerely,

The Sunday

P.S. On second thought, we can’t resist throwing in a few more tidbits: The most recent statistics available from the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects show there were 34 hotels with 49,000 rooms and 40,000 people visiting or working at any given hour of any day within a half-mile in each direction of the train route in Las Vegas. And that was based on a 2005 census — before construction of such projects as CityCenter, the Octavius tower at Caesars Palace and the Trump Tower.

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