Iowa Oil Train Spill Poses a Question

June 23, 2018

Silent drone footage from the Lyons County Sheriff Department:

On June 22, 2018 there was a 31-car derailment of an oil train in a flooded region of Iowa, leaking crude oil into the Rock River. The Lyon County sheriff admitted, “We don’t know how much is leaking or how bad it is.”

See also:

Two trains derail in SE New Mexico over the weekend

 ‘Chernobyl in a Can’
The previous month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a series of public meetings in New Mexico on a proposal moving through Congress – HR 3053 – that could result in thousands of metric tons of radioactive waste from the nation’s nuclear reactors being shipped across country to that state for ‘temporary’ storage. (see previous post)

Public opinion ran consistently 5-1 in opposition.  Many speakers cited the serious transportation risks involved.

Expanding on the theme of transportation risks, EON producer, Mary Beth Brangan pointed out that “Every one of these canisters that would be coming would contain roughly as much cesium alone, as was released in the Chernobyl accident.  Every canister.

“And so just keeping that in mind,” she continued, “I was looking at just three years from 2013 to 2016 of oil train accidents which might give us an idea about how heavy loads fare on our nation’s railways.

“In 2013, there were 11,636 accidents, 8740 injuries, and 700 fatalities.

“In 2014, 12,226 accidents, 8788 injuries, and 765 fatalities.  

“In 2015, 11,814 accidents, 9087 injuries, 749 fatalities.  

“In 2016. 10,927 accidents, 8050 injuries, and 805 fatalities.

“And those were trains carrying oil, not Chernobyl in a can.”

With unknown quantities of crude oil now seeping into the ground water, the Iowa oil train spill – shown in these excerpts from drone footage posted by the Sheriff’s Department – graphically poses the question: What if this train had been carrying high level radioactive waste instead of oil?

Proposed nuclear waste shipment plans call for highly radioactive nuclear fuel bundles inside thin-walled, welded shut steel canisters to each be transported inside a massive transport cask.  The thin-walled inner canisters are vulnerable to through-wall cracking. 

Even if the outer transport cask survived a train derailment in a flood zone like the one in Iowa, if flood waters leaked through cracks in the inside canister and reached the nuclear fuel, an uncontrollable fission reaction would occur – the fuel would ‘go critical’ with potentially serious consequences, with no plan identified to stop it.

This is because, unlike the water in nuclear fuel storage pools – which contain sufficient boron to prevent fission from happening – the flood waters do not contain boron.

No agency, including a sheriff or fire department like the ones in Lyons County, Iowa would have the training, equipment or resources to deal with or stop a “Chernobyl can” criticality.  A permanent evacuation of a large area may be the only option.

The nuclear waste generators and Nuclear Regulatory Commission say the accidents will be the responsibilities of the States and first responders, yet provide no method to solve them.

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