Saturday, October 11, 2003

Radioactive reactor might be coming through Cincinnati

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A radioactive reactor from a closed nuclear power plant in Michigan will be taken by rail through Ohio en route to a disposal site in South Carolina, and one of the possible routes includes Cincinnati.

Details are not being revealed for security reasons but the shipment probably will be made late next week, according to a spokesman for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

Consumers Energy of Jackson, Mich., is shipping the reactor from its Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Plant near Charlevoix, Mich., to Barnwell, S.C.

Tim Petrosky, spokesman for the utility, said the public will not be at risk.

"To quell any fears," he said, "the general public will see zero dosage ... It's just a big package."

But environmentalists are concerned. That such shipments are being made in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks is "very, very disturbing to a lot of people," said Chris Trepal of the Cleveland-based Earth Day Coalition. "... It's pretty scary."

The concern is that the container protecting the reactor could be breached and local emergency personnel who respond could be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.

Trepal outlined three possible routes across Ohio:

• From Toledo to Lima, Dayton and Cincinnati.

• From Toledo to Fostoria, Lodi, Canton, Coshocton, Zanesville and Athens.

• From Toledo to Marion, Columbus, Chillicothe and Portsmouth.

Rob Glenn, spokesman for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, said state officials were notified Thursday of the shipment.

The reactor is considered low-level radioactive waste, not unlike medical radioactive waste, which is shipped across the state all the time, he said.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Transportation have inspected the package numerous times, Glenn said, and deemed it safe for rail travel.

Petrosky said Consumers Energy, to comply with federal requirements, notified radiological officials along the route on Sept. 26, and the company will issue further notices 72 hours in advance.

The only unusual thing about the shipment, he said, is the size of the reactor and its protective package. The reactor is in a steel container 25 feet long and 131/2 feet in diameter. The steel walls are as much as 7 inches thick.

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