Protecting rail workers from nuclear threat

Delegates attending the BLET's First Quadrennial Convention were warned of the dangers of transporting spent nuclear waste and discussed ways to ensure their safety as well as the safety of the general public.

Scott Palmer, the BLET's Oregon State Legislative Board Chairman, alerted the delegates about the serious threat of transporting spent nuclear fuel by rail and the possible threat of radiation poisoning.

Palmer, who has studied the issue in depth, advised the delegates that rail workers do not receive proper training to handle spent nuclear fuel and do not receive the same protections that are afforded other nuclear industry workers.

In addition, there are no plans to record, monitor or track rail worker exposure levels.

"It's our goal to not only track but to lower exposure levels and to keep them as low as possible," Palmer said. "Right now, no carrier even has a program that will protect pregnant workers from radiation. If you show up to work, you cannot turn down a train of radioactive material. Rail is the way they're going to move it. It's going to be dedicated trains, and it's going to be 210 feet behind you."

The general public should be concerned as well, Palmer said.

"Right now, there are no requirements for safe parking areas," Palmer said. "Right now, these trains could be parked across from elementary schools or hospitals."

The Department of Energy is embarking upon a 50 year shipment plan to transport spent nuclear fuel, which will begin in the next few years.

Brother Palmer represents the BLET on a Department of Energy working group to determine policies for shipping nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. The BLET is the only labor organization participating in the group. Other participants include the DOE, Department of Transportation, and the Association of American Railroads.

BLET members who have concerns on this subject should contact Palmer by e-mail at: .

Scott Palmer, Chairman of the Oregon State Legislative Board, addresses delegates regarding the dangers of transporting nuclear waste by rail.



© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen