June 21, 2002
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Nuclear-waste plan irks mayor
Shipping route puts city at risk, Coleman tells U.S. government
Friday, June 21, 2002
Dispatch City Hall Reporter

Fearing a worst-case scenario, Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman told the federal government he doesn't want nuclear waste shipped through Columbus on its way to a Nevada dump.

"The transport of nuclear waste through our community would put the 1.5 million citizens of our metropolitan area at unacceptable risk and increase the danger of making Columbus a target for terrorist actions,'' Coleman wrote in a letter to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.

The federal government wants to ship the waste by rail through the heart of the city, cutting through Clintonville, the University District, and the East and South sides.

Trains also would pass close to Downtown.

"I don't want this coming through our city,'' Coleman said yesterday. "My concern is the health of our residents.''

Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate passed a resolution this week supporting the Bush administration's proposal to store the waste at a facility near Yucca Mountain.

Columbus City Councilwoman Maryellen O'Shaughnessy said she plans to introduce a resolution against the proposed routes at Monday's council meeting.

Chris Trepal, executive director of the Earth Day Coalition in Cleveland, called Coleman's action "very, very encouraging."

Other Ohio cities have taken similar stances, she said.

"Post-9/11, I don't know how we can put these wastes on hundreds of moving targets,'' Trepal said. "It just absolutely seems totally insane.''

The federal proposal calls for transporting nuclear waste from around the country to Nevada and would include routes through northern Ohio, Columbus and southern Ohio. The proposed routes pass within a mile of 2 million Ohioans.

An average of five shipments a year of radioactive waste have passed through Ohio during the past decade. Under the Yucca Mountain plan, that would increase to an estimated nine per week, according to the state Emergency Management Agency.

The Ohio Senate's resolution, which supports establishing a federal dump at Yucca Mountain, was sponsored by Sen. Robert A. Gardner, a Republican from Madison in Lake County.

His county is home to the Perry Nuclear Plant, which is owned by Akron-based FirstEnergy.

Marianne White, a Gardner aide, said Perry's nuclear-waste site is almost full.

"If they can ship it out, Yucca Mountain is made to hold a lot of waste,'' White said, adding that Gardner thinks it is safe to ship nuclear waste cross- country.

Trepal doesn't agree.

"For the senators to take a stand on this was definitely premature,'' Trepal said. "We're not talking about transporting feathers.''

Coleman said he would lobby central Ohio's congressional delegation to oppose the routes.

U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi hasn't seen Coleman's letter and hasn't taken a position on the proposed routes yet, said Tiberi spokesman Bruce Cuthbertson.

He said Tiberi, a Columbus Republican, voted for the legislation to proceed with the development of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear-waste dump. The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the program this summer.

U.S. Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Upper Arlington, also supported the program, said her spokeswoman, Michele Apostolos. She said Pryce will look at the mayor's concerns.

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