On Wednesday, May 29, a mock nuclear waste cask arrived in Eugene, as part of the "No Radioactive Roads or Rails Tour". The tour has been arranged by Citizen Alert, a multi-issue organization that works for public participation and government accountability in issues of concern to Nevadans. The day before, the tour was warmly welcomed in Ashland. The tour stops in Portland in early June.
Other mock casks are making stops in other towns across the country right now. Activists plan to bring them all to Washington D.C. before the Senate votes on the issue.
I asked Jason, a Nevada activist accompanying the tour, what the reaction has been so far. Though some people have not taken it seriously, he felt that response had been mostly positive so far. When I asked him if they had run into any trouble with the law -- for an "unusual cargo" or something like that -- he said, no, but an ambulance had pulled them over earlier to let them know they had flat tire!
The purpose of the tour is to dramatize the dangers of a plan to move nuclear waste from all over the country to be stored under Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. If passed, the plan would move radioactive waste through almost every state in the country, bringing this deadly cargo within 1/2 mile of 50,000,000 Americans.
If moved by rail, spent rods from the Trojan plant in Washington State would go through residential neighborhoods in Portland and Eugene.
This is an issue that crosses partisan divides. Though the Department of Energy and pResident Bush approved Yucca Mountain as the storage place for the nation's nuclear waste, the citizens of that state are overwhelmingly opposed to the idea, regardless of their political stripe. Jason said that "you can't get elected in Nevada" if you support the Yucca Mountain plan, and said that the state's Republican governor had vetoed the plan. Thus, this situation offers an opportunity to activists to reach across political divides and bring the issues of nuclear energy and waste to many different people.
The bill approving this highly dangerous plan has passed the House of Representatives and goes to the Senate soon. Organizers of the tour are urging everyone in the nation to contact their Senators and urge them to vote "nay" to this plan.