Rep. Brian Higgins opposes use of Peace Bridge for uranium shipments

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Congressman Brian Higgins does not want to see uranium shipments come through western New York.

The congressman says the risks posed by uranium “are too great” due to recent flaws in containers and the lack of an environmental or threat assessment.

In October 2015, Ontario’s Chalk River Laboratories experienced an incident where a fuel caddy failed and cracks were found in the welds of end plates. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission said the incident was not properly reported to American or Canadian agencies “in a timely manner.”

The same company which had the inadequate welds will be responsible for transporting uranium into the United States later in the year.

“Recent equipment failings and the lack of current environmental or threat assessments raise very serious concerns about the risks associated with the transport of this hazardous material,” said Higgins. “With too many unanswered questions, the risks are just too great for this community and we are asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to keep these shipments out of Western New York.”

Higgins is asking the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to not use the Peace Bridge as a way to transport uranium across the border from Canada. The commission plans to take up to 150 uranium shipments from Chalk River Laboratories to South Carolina.

The congressman says a “terrorism driven or accidental disaster” could greatly impact the Peace Bridge, the Great Lakes and the Buffalo-Niagara region.

In a letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Stephen Burns, Higgins said:

“The liquid nuclear waste that DOE plans to begin shipping is highly radioactive, and complicating matters, it has never before been shipped by truck or in the transport cask that your agency recently approved. Furthermore, in contrast to solidified spent nuclear fuel, the material’s liquid form could vastly exacerbate the consequences of a spill and the ability to contain it. A recent component failure during preparation of another spent fuel shipment at Chalk River, reportedly due to faulty welding, demonstrates that the risks of an accident are far from remote.”

Higgins has been looking into the issue for a number of years.

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