Movers and Shakers including green minded and not so green minded folk are pushing ahead with the plan to open the Arnside Viaduct to walkers and cyclists. Whats wrong with that? Nothing apart from the fact that radioactive waste travels this route to Sellafield on a regular basis. Several flasks are sometimes taken across the viaduct at a time with at least two deisel engines required just in case one breaks down as the load is so very dangerous to the public ..and a target for goodness knows what.
According to Admiralty Tide Tables, the water heights at Arnside are up to 2.7m and 4.9m with the viaduct height stated as being 7.9m above the water. This makes it higher than the 9 metre drop test on nuclear flasks.
Along with Nuclear Free Local Authorities and Close Capenhurst, Radiation Free Lakeland recently put a series of questions to Direct Rail Services who operate the nuclear waste trains on behalf of UK Government. The replies have so far been unsatisfactory to say the least given that UK Government is putting public money into ever increasing nuclear waste flasks journeying to Sellafield alongside public access for walkers and cyclists sharing the same route over the Arnside Viaduct.
The enthusiastic press release sent to the Westmorland Gazette from Morecambe Bay Partnership does not of course mention that the Viaduct is the nuclear waste flask route to Sellafield. There are no plans to stop the nuclear waste trains – or even to re-route them to ensure the safety of walkers and cyclists over the viaduct.
“Morecambe Bay Partnership invites communities of Grange and Arnside to consultation events in November. Communities will be able to see the proposed route and the benefits it could bring, speak to the experts, ask questions, and share their views.
Drop-in events to discuss and talk to PJA consultants and other stakeholders are booked for:
Arnside: WI Village Hall, Orchard Road, Arnside on Tuesday November 8 from 3pm to 6.30pm.
Grange over Sands: Methodist Church Hall, Kent’s Bank Road, Grange, on Wednesday November 9 from 3pm until 6pm.”
The questions already asked of Direct Rail Services by nuclear safety campaigners – and so far unaddressed are:
The question set is as follows:
- Activists at a national gathering convened by the Nuclear Trains Action Group in March 2002 (made) specific practical suggestions to improve the safety of nuclear train movements:
- Nuclear trains should be routed, as far as possible, to avoid centres of population, viaducts over 9 metres high, tunnels and level crossings.
- Plans for emergencies involving the shipments should be made publicly available and emergency planning departments should be told in advance of times of nuclear trains passing through their area. Such plans should be subjected to actuality tests and the results published.
- Emergency Services personnel should be adequately trained to deal with accidents involving nuclear trains.
- Centres of population should be avoided to minimise the number of people affected by any radiation released in the event of an accident. Some viaducts are higher than the 9 metre drop tests on flasks. Tunnels allow fires to burn at higher temperatures and for longer than the flasks are designed for. Level crossings are a common source of accidents.
- The public, local emergency planning officers and services would be better prepared for dealing with nuclear emergencies if they knew the times of nuclear trains passing through their area. The excuse that these are kept secret for security reasons is rubbish, as their time slots are fixed well in advance and are already in the public domain. Emergency plans need to be realistically tested, and the results published so that the public can judge how effective these plans are.
- Nuclear accidents require specialist treatment, so emergency services personnel need specific technical training to deal with such accidents as quickly and effectively as possible.
- Please could you tell us how the following activities might impact the overall number and frequency of nuclear train movements in the future –
- The ending of reprocessing at Sellafield
- The defueling of Hunterston (we understand there are plans to despatch 4 rather than 2 spent fuel flasks from Hunterston every week to Sellafield during defueling) and in due course other AGRs
- The dry storage of nuclear waste at the future Hinkley Point C plant (if EDF Energy is successful in securing a variance to its agreed operating conditions).
- Are all cabs on DRS locomotives equipped with radiation meters, do drivers and crew wear film badge dosimeters or similar, and do train crew have access to any protective equipment if needed?
- What training do train crew receive relating to the dangers attendant to carrying nuclear materials and how they should respond in the event of an accident?
- Does this also extend to casual train crew recruited from agencies?
- Do train crew participate in any regular exercises to test their readiness to respond to an accident?
- Nuclear waste trains share track and stations with other rail operating companies, Railtrack and Network Rail.Do these organisations and their staff receive briefings on how to respond in the event of an accident involving a nuclear train?
- Is this training also made available to the emergency services or to motoring assistance organisations (RAC etc) responding to a crash involving a member’s vehicle and a nuclear waste train?
- Is any statutory guidance issued to first responders and local authorities about accidents involving nuclear trains similar to that issued about nuclear warheads convoys?
- Are the British Transport Police routinely notified in advance of nuclear train movements?
- Do you require DRS train crews to restrict their vehicle speeds below what is the norm in any situations, for example when passing other trains, through stations or along a tunnel or viaduct?
- Do other train companies also routinely curb their speed when approaching or passing nuclear trains?
- Nuclear trains have been seen passing through parts of London and other large conurbations, and there has been campaigning action on this since at least 1977.In considering train movements has any consideration been given to adopting routes which avoid centres of population, viaducts over 9 metres high, tunnels and level crossings? And, if not, would you consider doing so in future?
- Two routes used by nuclear trains – the West Cumbrian coast railway line used by nuclear waste trains serving Sellafield and Drigg and the line from Dungeness – can be subject to flooding and may be impacted by storm surges and coastal erosion caused by climate change. There have also been landslides at Seascale.Has any study been undertaken of the long-term structural viability of these lines and are there any plans, supported by NTS, to protect or redirect them?
- There is much footage on You Tube of trains carrying nuclear waste hitting walls etc, at speed, in effect simulating a head-on crash with another train.This is perhaps a less likely scenario than a nuclear train being hit by another train at speed at an angle, from the side, from the rear or with a glancing blow, or within a railway station or good yard by other rolling stock, or at unguarded level crossings by large goods vehicles.Have any tests been conducted of the survivability of the nuclear waste flasks in these situations and is footage also available of these tests?
- Passenger trains currently travel at up to 125 mph on the East Coast Main Line, Great Western Main Line, Midland Main Line, parts of the Cross Country Route, and the West Coast Main Line. On the HS-1 line from London to Kent and the Channel tunnel vehicles operate at up to 140mph. These limits will be exceeded significantly when HS-2 becomes operational.Have any special studies been conducted on the effect of an accident involving a high-speed passenger train?
- Nuclear trains have frequently been observed carrying multiple flasks, up to 13, and there seem to be no limitations on the number transported at any one time.Accident scenarios appear to assume that only one flask would be impacted, but the more flasks that are involved in an accident the more problematic it could become, especially as the flasks are not designed to hold fuel rods safely for more than 24 hours.Please could you tell us what accident scenarios have been modelled involving a train carrying multiple flasks?If the middle flask were to be damaged, but the other flasks were intact, how long would it take to clear the track/flasks to reach it?Would NTS/DRS consider reducing the number of flasks on any one train to a maximum of three to reduce the risk?
- The radioactive bombardment of steel in the flasks will over time change its property into radioactive Cobalt 60 making it hot and brittle.Is the structural integrity and composition of each flask routinely tested to ensure that it remains ‘fit for purpose’ and safe to use?
- Is there a statutory or regulatory finite life to flasks?
- As part of the approval process, prior to use, every flask has historically been subjected to four tests laid down by the IAEA:
- The Impact (Drop) Test – the free-fall of a flask from a height of 9 metres onto an unyielding target. The test covers not only the accidental free-fall of the flask, but also the force impact of a collision whilst the flask transport is in motion.
- The Penetration (Punch) Test – the free-fall of a flask from 1 metre onto a 15cm diameter bar. The bar is based on an equivalent section of rail section.
- The Fire Test where a flask is engulfed in a uniform flame temperature of 800 degrees C for 30 minutes – and then allowed to stand for 3 hours before any firefighting measures are applied.
- The Water Immersion Test involving, firstly, the immersion of a flask in water to a depth of 15 metres for 8 hours and, secondly, the resistance to a pressure equivalent to immersion at a depth of 200 metres for 1 hour.
- The ‘four tests’ appear to us inadequate when one considers that nuclear trains regularly travel over viaducts 40 metres high, travel at speeds of 45mph, when a 1984 railway petrol tanker fire in Summit Tunnel near Manchester, burned for 4 days reaching temperatures of between 1300 – 1500 degrees C, and when flasks can be transferred to and from ocean-going vessels and could well be submerged at far greater depths for much longer prior to retrieval.Has NTS/DRS chosen to purchase flasks that meet a higher specification that this minimum requirement, and, if so, what is this?
- Could you please identify for us the current domestic and international regulations applicable to the employment of flasks and the transportation of nuclear materials by train?