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Derailment of train hauling nuclear waste called sabotage

(The following story by Joe Snapper appeared on the Saginaw News website on June 19.)

FARWELL, Mich. — The derailment of a train carrying radioactive material from the defunct Big Rock Nuclear Power Plant appears an act of sabotage, railroad officials said today.

"We feel strongly there was some tampering, some vandalism going on," said Mike Bagwell, chief executive of Tuscola and Saginaw Bay Railway.

Seventeen of the train's 38 cars left the tracks about 1:15 a.m. Friday as it traveled through a switch near the Renosol Corp. plant in Surrey Township, Clare County officials have said.

Authorities have no specific suspects, but the cars jumped the line midway through the switch. Two locomotives and four cars traveled safely through the line change when the switch suddenly diverted the train, Bagwell said.

The switch operates manually, but Bagwell said it was not likely that someone was present to make it occur. A green light tricked the engineer into thinking the switch was safe, he said.

"It was set to change," Bagwell said. "It gave the appearance (it was safe) and then something changed."

None of the six cars carrying crushed concrete and soil from the Consumers Energy-owned Charlevoix nuclear plant that shut down in 1997 overturned, Bagwell said.

Workers carefully sealed the radioactive shipments and they were tamper-proof, he said.

Bagwell was unsure what degree of radioactivity the shipments possessed. He was also at odds with reports from Clare County's emergency management director that the shipments were actually wastewater once used to cool the plant.

Bagwell also said that despite the sabotage, he did not believe the train was targeted because of the radioactive shipment. No one was injured in the wreck.

The Saginaw News could not reach Clare County Sheriff Jeffery V. Goyt or 911 Emergency Management Director Sgt. William J. Larson for comment this morning.

Bagwell said railway crews were en route this morning to retrieve the remaining cars. Workers completed rebuilding about 500 feet of track Saturday.

Monday, June 26, 2006

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