Transportation considerations were not paramount in the search for a dump site. The major generators of nuclear waste in Texas are concentrated in the eastern half of the state, and waste coming from Maine and Vermont will travel from Texarkana, on the state's eastern border, through Dallas to reach Sierra Blanca. Much of the rest will travel through or from Houston, Austin and San Antonio. The Authority's calculations, which according to a 1998 study commissioned by dump opponents have not been revised to include decommissioning waste from Maine, indicate that one truckload of radioactive waste will roll onto the Faskin Ranch every three days while the dump is in operation.
The accident rate for trucks carrying radioactive waste is very low (the Authority says there have been 53 accidents in the past 20 years). But even accident-free transport exposes humans to radiation, particularly at rest stops. Most vehicles carrying radioactive waste are permitted to radiate 200 millirems, or 20 chest x-rays, an hour, measured on the outside surface of the truck. Some can emit 1,000 millirems an hour.
As the dump opponent's study, conducted by Radioactive Waste Management Associates, points out, accidents do happen. And when they do, the public has little protection. Type-B casks, the strongest type designed for low-level waste, are designed to withstand a 30 mph crash into an unyielding object -- and half of all highway accidents happen at higher speeds.
-- Shaila Dewan