Nuclear transport trucks in US look surprisingly like regular old trucks

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118 Responses to “Nuclear transport trucks in US look surprisingly like regular old trucks”

  1. Quothz says:

    Years back, I did some work for the DOE folks who make these and there’s very little I can say about it. However, I think it’s safe to say that I think the various fears expressed in this thread are unfounded. As someone who’s seen a portion of what’s involved, I feel entirely secure with the design and procedures.

  2. hisdevineshadow says:

    I’m so disappoint with the usual posters, they have shown signs of enlightenment in the past but on this subject, they have gone off the reservation.

    As one poster said: “FUD, this time compliments of BoingBoing itself”

    Another said “You could decide whether to support policies maintaining or increasing a dependence on nuclear power” and I do.

    If you’re going to complain, complain that more plants need to be built that more efficiently use the energy produced. It never made sense to take room temp. water, flash heat to steam, then cool it back down by condensation. Also, that fuel isn’t fully depleted, reuse it in step down reactor or recycle in to MOX.

  3. Casual_Casualty says:

    @Ivan256 & Antinous/Moderator

    The thing is, that scenario Ivan256 just outlined, qualifies as an act of terrorism; just look up examples of eco-terrorism.

    I agree that some type of obvious hazmat marking, like a radioactive or biohazard -to simply warn unfortunate passerbys of any unforeseen leak, is not too much to ask, but those symbols should likewise be used on any and all trucks carrying hazardous material.

    Any markings suggesting specifics is asking for trouble. A more informed populace is not necessarily a smarter populace. Most people simply know very little about hazardous materials; which is why I have concern over Ivan256′s scenario. Most people really only need to know enough to keep them out of harms way.

  4. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Wow. What state do you live in where there are warlords running around hijacking trucks?

  5. Anonymous says:

    @99 Texas

  6. Anonymous says:

    Back to the “gram for gram” comment, a couple points for the people making the comparison:

    There are a lot more atoms of chlorine in a gram of chlorine than plutonium atoms in a gram of plutonium.

    If you’re going to worry about an accidental release, you should worry about what form is being released. It’s a lot easier to make a large toxic cloud of various chemicals than it is to make one out of plutonium (I suspect, haven’t tested this).

    Having talked to people who have driven explosives around: when you see a truck with a flammable symbol on it, don’t be the jackass tailgating it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    huh. so i guess this cameraphone image must depict something really terrible to be disguised as nuclear waste…

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/markgallagher/74160504/

  8. danlalan says:

    “Then you really ought to learn some science. Plutonium is the most deadly substance known. One *atom*, lodged in your lungs, will eventually cause cancer.

    Your teachers failed you. Or you were asleep that day. In either case, you missed that material.”

    Plutonium 239, the stuff of bombs, undergoes alpha decay (that is, it gives up a helium nucleus, 2 protons, 2 neutrons, +2 charge) with a half life of about 24,000 years. It decays into Uranium 235, which also alpha decays with a half life of about 703 million years into thorium 231, which then beta decays (gives up an energetic electron) into proactinium 231 in about a day, which alpha decays into actinium 227 in a mere 33 thousand years…and so on.
    While alpha radiation is extremely damaging to living tissue, a single atom would probably not decay during the lifetime of an individual human, and even if it did, a single ionizing radiation event is extremely unlikely to cause cancer.

    Science Rules!

  9. Takuan says:

    secrets eventually come out. Reckless nuclear use is only a few decades old.

  10. econobiker says:

    These trucks are never placarded, there is no DOT number, they have US government license plates just like any Federally owned vehicle. These trucks travel through various rural, suburban and urban areas via interstate. I have personally viewed three idling with drivers in a suburban mall parking lot and viewed two on the interstate near a major US city.

    And from the wired story:
    “According to a Department of Energy fact sheet on the “Safeguards Transporter,” the vehicles are “specially designed part of an 18-wheel rig that incorporates various deterrents to prevent unauthorized removal of cargo. Each shipment is accompanied by armed federal agents.”

    It is not about just the trucks but the fire power you have to get through to even get to the trucks.

    These are also the cleanest 10 year old trucks you will ever see.

    As for the FOE story it is wrong that this is the first released picture in 10 years. There is official gov’t info on the interewebz on the trucks if you know where to get it.

  11. schmod says:

    The amount of testing that these storage containers go through is insane. Both the US and the UK have performed numerous tests, hitting the flasks with high-speed trains, and placing them in burning pools of jet fuel.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mHtOW-OBO4

    Needless to say, the amount of force required to crack one of these open would do far more damage than the actual contents of the flask.

  12. stratosfyr says:

    Then you really ought to learn some science. Plutonium is the most deadly substance known. One *atom*, lodged in your lungs, will eventually cause cancer.

    That’s, uh, actually not true. Pretty much by definition of “radioactive substance.” Depending on the isotope, one atom may not release any radiation at all in your lifetime. If it does, your lungs will be hit by one entire high-energy helium atom, which will have (at a guess) a one in a billion chance of damaging one gene in one chromosome in one cell.

    Of course when I went to school, one of my teachers picked up a destroying angel from the side of the road and gleefully told us “Ingest even a tiny piece of this mushroom and you’ll die in agony!” And then he wrapped it up in a napkin and took it with him. This also turned out to be an overstatement.

  13. Ugly Canuck says:

    I’d rather have nuke power with its concentrated waste than burn fossil fuels, with its broadly cast waste.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I was driving through Nebraska just earlier this month and saw a truck at a rest stop with clear (visible from the highway) nuclear signage. The trailer was built like a tank.

    But as many have commented, the danger of a train wreck is scary once you realize what they haul. Or even a leak at a water plant. Chlorine would require evacuating several miles radius from the plant/train.

  15. Antinous / Moderator says:

    What I’ve extracted from this thread is: Concerns about radiation are FUD, but ZOMG Terrorists!!! How Bushian.

    Most people really only need to know enough to keep them out of harms way.

    Most people don’t need to know the MSDS symbols anyway, the best thing your average joe can do in an accident is stay the hell away while the professionals who know what the MSDS are can do their job.

    Painting a huge radiation trifoil on the trucks would hardly make them safer and would scare the pants off people who know nothing about radiation, except that it is bad.

    Who knew that so many BB commenters were fans of the nanny state? Why let the little people make an informed decision when the government can just make it for them? It’s true that having obvious radiation symbols on these trucks might cause such an upset that the voters would shut down nuclear power plants. But you know what – that would be how democracy works: informed voters make decisions. Withholding information so that the decisions don’t go against you sounds rather Stalinist.

    If the truck carrying the waste was marked, however, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if these people set up some sort of roadblock or other interruption to prevent the truck from passing through their community. Thus targeting the shipment for attack, and not being a terrorist.

    Setting aside the weakness of the ‘I wouldn’t be surprised’ argument, how many times have hazardous material shipments been attacked? Compare to how many hazardous material spills have resulted from accidents. Fantasy versus reality.

    GimpWii,

    I have no objection to nuclear power or to transporting the materials. I do feel that significantly hazardous cargo should be labeled with a symbol that makes it clear that all bystanders should immediately evacuate the area in the event of an accident. Would anybody argue that we should take the big FLAMMABLE off tanker trucks because it might scare the other drivers into hysteria?

  16. justinmm2 says:

    So these guys built a special, extra-safe, extra-secure truck for transporting dangerous material, and people are upset?

    Or they’re upset that plutonium is passing near their house in that same, safe, secure vessel?

    I will confess don’t know for sure that these have the greatest safeguards ever, but I’m going to give my government more credit than to just assume these are regular 18 wheelers with some big master locks on them.

    Or are these people just upset about nuclear power in general?

  17. malex says:

    I’m not normally one to defend the DoE, but quite frankly having these trucks look like every other kind of truck is probably safer than the alternative.

  18. Takuan says:

    how about no waste at all?

  19. Pye says:

    I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Clements. How exactly would painting a big sign on these trucks make anyone safer? I shudder at actually making this argument, but in this case it certainly is true; it would make them targets for those who are interested in attacking or stealing the contents. From a public safety point of view, the containers used have been extensively tested and to our knowledge there has never been an accidental release. What Mr. Clements wants to create is public fear – classical FUD – about nuclear energy. That’s the real reason he wants them clearly labeled. Me personally? I think nuclear energy is a perfectly acceptable part of our energy solution.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      it would make them targets for those who are interested in attacking or stealing the contents.

      Because nuclear terrorist incidents vastly outnumber radioactive leaks, right? Or were we talking about the real world?

  20. zikman says:

    did you expect any less?

  21. chip says:

    Why on earth should people “be aware what they look like”? It wouldn’t make anybody any safer if these trucks had “Radioactive waste transport” stenciled on the side. In fact, it would make them less safe.

    There are two ways that a truck could be compromised and pose a risk: Accidental damage or intentional damage.

    Accidental damage is going to happen either way. You can’t completely negate the possibility of an accident, that’s why they’re called accidents. The risk of accidental damage is the same whether these trucks are obvious or not.

    Intentional damage is only possible if a potential bad guy can find one of the trucks. By not making them obvious, these trucks are (slightly) more difficult to target.

    As for your “right to know”, so what? Maybe there are nuclear container trucks passing through your town, but probably there aren’t. If you knew there were, what could you do about it? You could make a nuisance out of yourself and hope they change their route, but that’s not likely. All it would do is cause you stress worrying about an accident that is very likely never going to happen. Ignorance really is bliss in this situation.

    • Anonymous says:

      why would it be more unsafe for people to know what they look like? they coould take more caution around them if they knew what they looked like. DUH

  22. mashei says:

    >it would make them targets for those who are
    >interested in attacking or stealing the contents.

    Because nuclear terrorist incidents vastly outnumber radioactive leaks, right? Or were we talking about the real world?

    How does making them significantly more visible help reduce the number of radioactive leaks? And that’s a pretty rude tone, btw.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      How does making them significantly more visible help reduce the number of radioactive leaks?

      It’s conventional to label hazardous materials.

  23. Anonymous says:

    @ANTINOUS,

    How should the radioactive dyes for nuclear medicine tests get from Chalk River, Ontario, Canada to San Francisco then?

    Boat means a leak could not be contained. Flying is technically safer, though most people refuse to believe it. Wouldn’t labelling it result in drivers acting in ways *more* likely to cause an accident? Abolishing nuclear medicine doesn’t seem right… in-hospital microreactors?

    I respect you and your opinion on a lot of things, which is why I ask.

    -GimpWii

  24. stratosfyr says:

    Well, as long as they’re not open in the back so big ol’ barrels of radioactive waste can just fly off and into the eyes of youngsters as they push blind old guys out of harm’s way.

  25. danlalan says:

    “Who knew that so many BB commenters were fans of the nanny state? Why let the little people make an informed decision when the government can just make it for them? It’s true that having obvious radiation symbols on these trucks might cause such an upset that the voters would shut down nuclear power plants. But you know what – that would be how democracy works: informed voters make decisions. Withholding information so that the decisions don’t go against you sounds rather Stalinist.”

    These trucks are placarded (the little signs that tell what kind of hazmat load is on a truck) exactly like all other hazmat trucks, btw. They certainly do not try to draw attention to themselves, but neither are they some kind of black op.

    To claim that treating this kind of hazardous material like other kinds of hazardous material constitutes withholding information and a Stalinist tactic is a bit over the top, dontcha think?

  26. Anonymous says:

    Maybe there are nuclear container trucks passing through your town, but probably there aren’t. If you knew there were, what could you do about it?

    You could decide whether to support policies maintaining or increasing a dependence on nuclear power, based on knowing just how many trucks full of nasty stuff barreling down the highway such decisions imply.

    You could decide whether to make a fuss about the safety precautions surrounding such trucks, based on your own assessment of how many of the things are out there.

    Both of those seem like worthwhile things to have as many people as possible do.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Trucks, schmucks… Have you ever SEEN what was being hauled by the trains that pass through your back yard on a daily basis? I’m more worried about a train derailment than a nuke truck just based on the odds of a catastrophe.

  28. phoomp says:

    @ #1
    And, we were also told that the Titanic was unsinkable.

    Should these vehicles be clearly marked? Probably not, as they would likely be targeted by many groups, both domestic and foreign, with less than honest intents.

    Should these vehicles be traveling through areas not expecting nuclear waste traffic? Probably not, as they are putting those people at greater risk than they are at risk of terrorist attack.

  29. Takuan says:

    care to bet a lot of these movements are about money rather than utility?

  30. Takuan says:

    government lies, business lies.

  31. mdh says:

    These trucks are placarded (the little signs that tell what kind of hazmat load is on a truck) exactly like all other hazmat trucks, btw.

    placards? So where are they then?

    I should be able to see at least two of them from these angles.

  32. t3knomanser says:

    They do not look like any other truck. They will, quite clearly, have emergency response information displayed in the standard locations that will reveal them as being loaded with radioactive substances. Like all the other hazardous materials that pass through our cities every day.

    Gram for gram, I’ll take an accidental release of plutonium over an accidental release of chlorine or fluorine any day.

  33. Camp Freddie says:

    Here’s an idea. Rather than idle speculation, why not look at the law.

    http://www.unece.org/trans/danger/publi/adr/adr2007/07ContentsE.html

    Check out chapter 5 for labelling.

    Transport of dangerous goods is covered by the UN ADR regulations. This includes nuclear material (class 7 hazards).

    Trucks must be labelled. The label is the ‘nuclear symbol’, that should be recognisable by pretty much everyone. The labels are on the outside of the truck and on any containers stoed inside.

    The labelling required is much the same as for any other hazardous goods. The requirements for container durability are somewhat higher than other goods!

    The photo-op truck probably wasn’t carrying anything, so it wasn’t labelled.

    TL;DR?
    If you see a truck with symbols showing flames, explosions, melting hands, jolly rogers, nuclear or biohazard symbols – don’t tailgate it. In the event of a collision the truck is unlikely to leak. However, hazardous quantities of haemoglobin may leak from your own, rather-less-robust, vehicle.

  34. t3knomanser says:

    @Phoomp: Why should nuclear waste traffic be any different from all the other hazmat traffic?

  35. Anonymous says:

    Despite containing rods of uranium, the fuel isn’t radioactive at all yet

    Uhhh, sorry, but Uranium is radioactive all the time. It doesn’t produce significant energy until you cram a bunch of rods together and they start generating heat but Uranium is radioactive in the raw ore state and when it’s refined.

  36. Antinous / Moderator says:

    To claim that treating this kind of hazardous material like other kinds of hazardous material constitutes withholding information and a Stalinist tactic is a bit over the top, dontcha think?

    Actually, technocratic dictatorship is rather a hallmark of the Stalinist era. A lot of atrocities were done in the name of ‘science’. It doesn’t really matter if the science is valid or not if the government is just using it as an imprimatur. I think that it might be referred to as ‘scienciness’.

    These trucks are placarded (the little signs that tell what kind of hazmat load is on a truck) exactly like all other hazmat trucks, btw.

    Unreadable to the average motorist who stops at the scene of an accident. Nor does the four-part diamond convey information about radioactivity, which does have fairly specific precautions. The radiation symbol, the biohazard symbol, the flame symbol are a much better warn-off.

  37. Takuan says:

    what’s the half-life of fluorine?

  38. Anonymous says:

    Government transport routes are obviously not available to the public, but this website shows at least a general idea of where the “waste” is traveling…

    http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/states/us.htm

  39. Takuan says:

    these shipments ought to be so rare that roads could be closed for them.

  40. Takuan says:

    so that’s where Beavis and Butthead came from.

  41. Pye says:

    @7 – what are you talking about? Your comment makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Are you proposing that the trucks be well marked so concerned citizens can go testing them for radioactivity leaks? ….ok….whatever..

  42. Pye says:

    More FUD, this time compliments of BoingBoing itself:

    Just this week, a similar vehicle carrying missiles overturned — so, safety concerns are in the air right now. Snip

    Yeah, and if you read the link the truck was carrying parts – not nuclear materials making it no different than a dozen truck accidents that occur every day.

  43. Fett101 says:

    #10, the Titanic wasn’t crash tested into ice bergs while going 100 MPH. These radioactive flasks have been. (no, the flasks haven’t been crashed into icebergs. You know what I mean)

  44. Spike the Dingo says:

    I also hear that these trucks run on the tears of puppies, kittens and small 3rd-world children(!).

  45. Takuan says:

    only in Australia.

  46. n5berm says:

    Sorry, T3KNOMANSER, those trucks are incredibly void of any hazmat signage. And they do, for the most part, look like any other rig. But if you know what to look for, they are readily identifiable.
    Those of us who lived on their regular routes knew them on sight and gave them plenty of courtesy. Not because of their cargo, but because of the security that accompanied them.
    I never had any concerns about them. I always felt safe.

  47. Hal says:

    This is scaremongering. All sorts of stuff from live animals to electronics travel in “regular” looking trucks. What really matters is that local emergency services know what trucks are carrying. Mark linked a while ago to the DoT ‘Emergency Response Guidebook’ for the curious.

    http://boingboing.net/2008/06/19/rosetta-stone-for-do.html

  48. Zergonapal says:

    Most people don’t need to know the MSDS symbols anyway, the best thing your average joe can do in an accident is stay the hell away while the professionals who know what the MSDS are can do their job.

  49. civver3 says:

    ZOMGNUCLEARPOWERRUNEWEREALLGONNADIE!!!!

  50. Anonymous says:

    Frankly, I’d love to see someone try and crack into one of these things…. they weigh many tons and are designed to withstand all kinds of punishment. Plus, the trucks just might be tracked rather carefully….

  51. sheffeazy says:

    I agree that these trucks looking like every other truck is actually a smart move by the government. It is better than the alternative. Rolling Targets.

  52. Takuan says:

    yes, we are. But I would like to delay that as much as possible.

  53. Anonymous says:

    These trucks are rolling tanks-literally. Penn and Teller had some footage where a high-speed locomotive slammed into the side of the truck-the contents were untouched.

    At least, that’s what they claimed on their show.

  54. Takuan says:

    looks expensive. Maybe they just chuck in a river instead.

  55. mdh says:

    danalana – It seems pretty self explanatory to me. Is this really confusing or unclear to anyone?

    yes. the rules are clear.

    the following OF those rules in this instance, not so much.

    Where are those placards – and I mean “on the truck in the picture released” – specifically?

  56. danlalan says:

    There have been a handful of leaks of radioactive material in the US since the 50′s, and, as with any substance that is potentially harmful, they were and should have been taken seriously.

    There have been, however, zero leaks of radioactive material from transport casks. Ever. While it is of course conceivable that something could rupture one, there are more dangerous things to go luddite over. Painting a huge radiation trifoil on the trucks would hardly make them safer and would scare the pants off people who know nothing about radiation, except that it is bad.

  57. CapnSoggy says:

    Rational plan. Hide in plain sight.

    I’m glad a majority of Boingers agree.

  58. Takuan says:

    what kind of hands do you have? As for transport cask leaks; there have been zero PUBLISHED leaks.

  59. danlalan says:

    “Actually, technocratic dictatorship is rather a hallmark of the Stalinist era. A lot of atrocities were done in the name of ‘science’. It doesn’t really matter if the science is valid or not if the government is just using it as an imprimatur. I think that it might be referred to as ‘scienciness’.”

    wow.

    Going from disagreeing with how a hazmat load is marked to implying that this somehow constitutes a slide into a technocratic dictatorship misses a few essential steps, methinks.

    This is the placard required for such loads:
    http://www.worktruck-outfitters.com/images/radioactive-placards.jpg

    It seems pretty self explanatory to me. Is this really confusing or unclear to anyone?

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Is this really confusing or unclear to anyone?

      Not at all. If that’s how these trucks are labeled, why are we arguing?

  60. Antinous / Moderator says:

    When concern for proper labeling of hazardous materials is equated with Luddism, scare-mongering and whininess, science ceases to be a discipline and becomes an attitude. That’s scienciness.

  61. danlalan says:

    This picture is one released by Friends of the Earth as “the special trucks that transport nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons components and “special nuclear material” such as plutonium and highly enriched uranium.”
    There is no claim that the truck in the photo actually has any such material onboard, and if it is a photo taken by DOE as claimed, it probably wouldn’t have any when taken out for a photo op…no load, no placards…specifically on the truck in the picture released.

  62. Takuan says:

    and then there are the declared missing bombs, when wil they qualify as “accidents”? (ie: leak)
    http://www.cdi.org/Issues/NukeAccidents/Accidents.htm

  63. Takuan says:

    anyone ever get a clear answer how Cheney almost got away with shipping six thermo-nuke cruises to Israel?

  64. Takuan says:

    groups like this around the world now. Think they were always told the truth?
    http://www.naav.com/

  65. IWood says:

    Providing a vast trove of information to people who lack either the inclination or the critical abilities to parse it properly is the epistemological equivalent of giving a chimpanzee a flare pistol and locking him in a warehouse stacked to the ceiling with plastic milk jugs full of gasoline interspersed with diapers soaked in the urine of female chimps in estrus.

  66. Takuan says:

    you mean the NRC?

  67. wackyvorlon says:

    Brilliant plan! Lets make the nuclear transport truck full of fissionable material look completely unmistakable, so anyone who should wish to steel said fissionable materials has no trouble finding it.

  68. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    Is the transportation of nuclear materials a Brand New Thing in the States?

    Because it seems to me that if Wolfiesma and others can look up the routes of the trucks, then so can the terrorists and warlords.

    Do you really suppose that these trucks haven’t been hijacked before through a lack of adequate signage? And these are the same terrorists you are afraid of?

    Either there is a realistic threat or there isn’t, and these trucks have been running for some time. I don’t think the truck’s paintjob is the issue.

  69. danlalan says:

    “Not at all. If that’s how these trucks are labeled, why are we arguing?”

    Not sure. Caught up in the moment, I think.

    I worked in the nuclear power industry for a number of years, and many people object to it for the wrong reasons. It is, in my opinion, not the direction we should be going to solve our energy needs as it is an overly complex system that came out of the 50′s love affair with all things atomic.

    The pressurized water reactors and the sodium cooled reactors used in the US and France respectively are reasonably safe as industrial plants, at least as safe as any large chemical plant, and we have pretty well solved the safety issues around transporting the material.

    The problems with nuclear power are more fundamental than transportation and the like. The fuel is an exhaustible resource, just like oil, and if we went completely nuclear for power the known reserves would not last long. Even more troublesome is the high level radioactive waste produced. Moving it can be done with reasonable safety, and all we have to do to keep it safe is keep everyone away from it, BUT we would have to keep it secure for the next 30-40 thousand years, or roughly the same amount of as has passed since human beings started doing cave art.

    As we have ways to produce power that do not rely on any consumable resource, like solar and wind, it seems to me that we would be foolish to continue pursuing any energy source that will eventually be used up. But while we are making the transition, I don’t think there is any danger to the public from moving radioactives around under the regulations currently in place.

    sorry for the luddite comment

  70. presterjohn says:

    Everytime we start considering Nuclear as method of power generation, the FUD starts up again.

    We need to be dependent on Oil so that our leaders can justify the military interventionism around the world. It is war for Oil, but if the Oil wasn’t there, it would be more overtly war for control of the world instead.

  71. ivan256 says:

    Setting aside the weakness of the ‘I wouldn’t be surprised’ argument, how many times have hazardous material shipments been attacked? Compare to how many hazardous material spills have resulted from accidents. Fantasy versus reality.

    I see your point entirely, and I don’t claim to be an expert anyway. I’m just some idiot posting his opinion on the internet.

    However, look at this thread.

    How many hazardous materials shipments have been attacked? It doesn’t matter. This isn’t any old hazardous material. It’s Nuclear Waste. And the ‘N’ word prompts special behavior in people, justified or not.

    Personally, I’m more worried about a chlorine gas tanker being involved in a train wreck 500 meters from my house. But “Nuclear” and “Rational” don’t go together. People treat Nuclear as if it’s the worst possible thing in the whole world.

    I don’t see flyers on the wall asking me to protest all that other hazardous stuff. Just the nuclear stuff.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      People treat Nuclear as if it’s the worst possible thing in the whole world. I don’t see flyers on the wall asking me to protest all that other hazardous stuff. Just the nuclear stuff.

      Part of the problem is that we now consider virtually everything to be hazardous. When you have MSDSs for rubbing alcohol and hairspray, who even notices them? It’s much harder to evaluate realistic threat level when everything is treated as a threat.

  72. technogeek says:

    It’s a truck. It looks like a truck. If you want to be afraid of every truck you see, feel free. Otherwise, learn to read the material safety symbols provided for emergency responders — which usually don’t tell you exactly what the contents are, but do say roughly what kind of hazard it poses and how serious the hazard is.

    Other than that: Great, more needless FUD.

  73. acrocker says:

    That’s right! keep the pollution in the air and not our highways. Down with nuclear power, and up with Coal!

  74. cortana says:

    These trucks ALWAYS have semi-discreet escort vehicles with them at all times, too. You’ve never seen anything funnier than a cop who tries to pull one over, and gets ignored by the truck while a black van pulls up beside him to let him know his mistake.

  75. Salviati says:

    I can’t speak for any nuclear weapons related material, but do know a thing or two about commercial nuclear material.

    If it is fresh fuel headed to a commercial nuclear plant, there really is nothing to be concerned about at all. Despite containing rods of uranium, the fuel isn’t radioactive at all yet. Nuclear fuel only becomes radioactive once a critical mass has been activated inside the nuclear reactor.

    And in the US at least, all spent nuclear fuel still resides at the same site it was used. For most of these plants, 30+ years worth of fuel can be stored in cooling pools adjacent to the reactor itself. If they do run out of room in the pool, dry cask storage is utilized on-site.

  76. Takuan says:

    now let me make this perfectly clear: there are NO errors in the transporting of nuclear waste. Why, even to suggest such a thing could happen with such a dangerous cargo is ludicrous. Rest assured, your government is responsible and up to the job, and with the help of the great American private industry sector, you should all rest comfortable that everything is OK!
    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/09/05/loose.nukes/index.html

  77. Takuan says:

    try opening a toxic waste incinerator in your town and see how many start protesting.

  78. danegeld says:

    Getting off coal in the short term, and getting onto wind and solar, combined with reducing consumption should be the goal.

    Getting onto renewable energy sources is a vast undertaking, because wind and solar are dilute forms of energy – The USA needs to build one wind turbine per ~500 people, meaning that the best part of 1 million wind turbines are required to keep the current lifestyle.

    Burning coal, gas or oil uses finite resources that could also be used to make plastics and medicines. There is no major civil use for uranium other than power generation, so we may as well use it for that purpose.

    Nuclear power is an incredibly concentrated form of energy, and power stations based on fast breeder technology to recycle uranium-238 into plutonium should play an important role in supplying energy whilst the renewable infrastructure is built.

  79. Anonymous says:

    Standard practice for any safety crew is to stay away from a truck/trailer until they’ve seen the manifest. As such, the driver usually grabs it on his way out the door, assuming he is capable of doing so.

    If you’re really curious, just look for the R-permits displayed in plain sight on the truck. That means they’re certified to carry radioactive materials, but may not actually be doing so. Cortlandville in New York actually forbids R-permits for the same reason. Does it work? Nobody knows.

    But I’m quite firmly against clearly labeling or announcing that a truck is carrying anything to do with a nuke. Seriously, that’s painting the bull’s-eye on your forehead.

  80. dculberson says:

    “shipping nukes on freeways is a horrid idea!”

    Says someone ignoring what the freeways were built for.

  81. Dean W. Armstrong says:

    As N5BERM and CORTANA pointed out, these are always accompanied by serious guys in vans or SUVs. I saw one in New Mexico many many years ago and there is really no point in not declaring the hazard since it is obvious that the truck is carrying Something Important.

    Many commenters here are confusing these trucks with the differently designed used nuclear fuel waste cask trucks, which as far as I know, aren’t being used (I don’t know of any transport of spent nuclear fuel at the moment). Instead of waste these trucks, as the post says, are carrying weapons and/or plutonium materials.

  82. Thebes says:

    I’ve known about this for years from a trucker I spoke with at some length about hazmat shipping.

    He wouldn’t ship hazmat anymore, it was too stressful he had said. But he had a lot of old time trucker friends who did for the excellent money.

    One, he said, sometimes hauled around nukes in completely normal looking trucks that weren’t privately owned or with the major fleets. That friends also said that he never saw the inside of the trailers but sometimes HEARD the armed guards in them.

    Everytime since then that I’ve seen a jack-knifed or rolled truck I’ve cringed. I don’t care how bloody safe the trucks supposedly are, shipping nukes on freeways is a horrid idea!

  83. Brainspore says:

    A “hazardous materials” sign is probably a fair and rational idea. A truck that screams “hey terrorists- carjack this guy!” is not.

  84. wolfiesma says:

    I remember reading about this transportation issue several years ago and actually looking up the truck routes and seeing that in fact the tankers would be going right through the neighborhood. You pray they drive very carefully.

    But you know what it is really toxic about these trucks? The *diesel fumes* coming out the exhaust pipes. The particulate matter shooting out into the air is some nasty shit and we all get to breathe it!

    Every time I see a truck roll down the road snorting its plume of smoke I have to ask myself, “Why aren’t these trucks required to utilize the latest in catalytic conversion technology?” But *I’m* the crazy one talking to myself and the people going about their business breathing the air as if everything is okay- they’re the *normal* ones.

  85. Anonymous says:

    trucks hauling a lot more hazardous materials drive through cities and towns as well.

    potassium cyanide,
    Amonia
    sulfuric acid
    Caustic Soda

    not to mention explosives for the military
    and priate contractors

    here in the central valley (california) you get used to the Has Mat trucks running though town…

  86. Quothz says:

    Camp Freddie, your link is to rules for international shipments in Europe. If you accuse others of not reading stuff that’s too long, you’d better make darned sure you read through the first freaking page of your references.

  87. moosehunter says:

    nobody complians about all the other trucks carrying much more nasty stuff-

    like military hardware, or jet fuel

  88. Takuan says:

    nuclear material LASTS.

  89. KurtMac says:

    @#6 Maybe there are nuclear container trucks passing through your town, but probably there aren’t.

    An ultimate real-world example of Schrodinger’s Cat, radioactive material and all. Quantum physics tells us that any unmarked semi-truck passing through your town does indeed contain nuclear waste AND does not contain any nuclear waste, simultaneously.

    Problem solved or problem exacerbated?
    Yes.

  90. gollux says:

    Looks pretty much like the long haul truck down the street. gonna have to start hounding all the guys who bought this style of truck with sleeper cab now. Yep, sho nuff. Get out the friendly beanbag shooting squirrel guns, padlocks and chains so we can have a protest for every one of them, despite the fact that .0001 percent of the trucks identified will have a massive no-breach container that is reasonably safe in comparison to ALL the other chemical carriers out there.

  91. Anonymous says:

    “And that’s a pretty rude tone, btw.”

    Never thought I’d read that on the internet.

  92. technogeek says:

    The scary thing is realizing how many people are going read this and be convinced that ever rig with a teal cab and unpainted trailer — and only those — is “nookyoulur” and will give them Radio Poisoning just by driving by on the highway.

  93. ivan256 says:

    it would make them targets for those who are interested in attacking or stealing the contents.

    Because nuclear terrorist incidents vastly outnumber radioactive leaks, right? Or were we talking about the real world?

    I didn’t see the word “terrorist” in there…. The interstate highway ~.5 miles from my house is an “official Nuclear Waste transport route” (I-495 in Massachusetts). There are frequently flyers at the local general store for (poorly attended) protests when there are scheduled shipments. If the truck carrying the waste was marked, however, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if these people set up some sort of roadblock or other interruption to prevent the truck from passing through their community. Thus targeting the shipment for attack, and not being a terrorist. Crazy, huh?

  94. Anonymous says:

    …and just to Devil’s Advocate, nowhere in our Constitution or Bill of Rights are you going to find a “Right to Know”.

  95. Scuba SM says:

    Wolfiesma,

    Look up the EPA and CARB 2010 rules. Those toxic fumes have been reduced to “near zero” in CARB’s own words. Ever since 2007, heavy duty diesel engines have been running EGR or diesel particulate filters, or both. They’re also required to use ultra low sulfur diesel fuel, which is pretty much all you can buy in the states these days. With 2010 rules, every heavy duty engine manufacturer is going to SCR catalysts for NOx reduction, in addition to EGR and DPFs.

    As for the the dislike of nuclear for power generation, you have to realize everything’s a trade off. If we want to prevent climate change, and get atmospheric CO2 back to geologically historical levels, we need to severely reduce the use of fossil fuels. As one person pointed out, the US would need a million wind turbines to meet energy needs. Unfortunately, the output from wind is not consistent or reliable for any given location at any given time (it’s weather, after all). Solar, obviously, doesn’t work at night. A fact of power generation is that we need a base load supplied day in, day out. France gets most of it from nuclear power stations. We get ours from coal power stations, coal that is domestically mined (incidentally, only 1% of petroleum goes to electricity generation). Nuclear is arguably less bad than coal, because your waste is easily contained (except for waste heat, which is a whole other issue), and can be kept, watched and contained until we figure out what to do with it. CO2, not so much, not to mention coal ash. Of course, it still doesn’t do anything about oil, but power generation accounts for slightly more CO2 per year than cars in the US these days…

  96. danlalan says:

    You’re right, Takuan, zero published leaks. Because of course the government, which is ever so successful at keeping secrets, covered up the thousands of actual leaks, right?

    Of course, it was the same group that managed to cover up the Navy missile fire that shot down TWA 800 and those that are ACTUALLY responsible for 9/11. Those guys are really good at it.

  97. RedShirt77 says:

    When driving through Wyoming I drove past a truck on the highway that had armed escort. A Humvee in front and behind that had manned guns on their roofs and teams of men with assault rifles inside and an armed chopper circling overhead.

    I assume it had a bomb inside.

  98. TheCrawNotTheCraw says:

    @14, t3knomanser

    “Gram for gram, I’ll take an accidental release of plutonium over an accidental release of chlorine or fluorine any day.”

    Then you really ought to learn some science. Plutonium is the most deadly substance known. One *atom*, lodged in your lungs, will eventually cause cancer.

    Your teachers failed you. Or you were asleep that day. In either case, you missed that material.

  99. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Standard practice for any safety crew is to stay away from a truck/trailer until they’ve seen the manifest.

    Standard reality is that, in an accident, the first people on the scene are untrained bystanders. And a big rig accident could easily take out the support vehicles as well. Most people can’t read an MSDS symbol. A lot more people can recognize ‘radioactive’ and ‘biohazard’ symbols.

    There have been plenty of accidents involving radiation. Radioactive terrorism, not so much, unless you include Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So why the red herring?

  100. Anonymous says:

    I think they should be in large trucks Labeled Plutonium that would be much safer

  101. Takuan says:

    how do they transport biological and chemical weapons?

  102. Anonymous says:

    @ 59

    A quick look at the wikipedia for plutonium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium) shows that you don’t know what you’re talking about either. The “atom” lodged in your lung “eventually” causing cancer is nonsense (we will use Pu239, the most common fuel isotope, whose decay product is an alpha particle) – alpha decay is really only a problem if it is lodged in your lung. The particles can literally be stopped by paper. Regardless, the Plutonium fuel isotope that emits alpha radiation (Pu239) can only decay once – so it shoots one particle, and has a half-life of 88 years (meaning that over 88 years there is a 50% chance that it won’t decay). If this particle gets lucky, it might cause DNA damage, which is likely to be repaired. Even if it is not, then it will result in at most a a one base-pair change, which is hardly enough to cause cancer (most cancers require a six-stage mutation process). Even with 5,000 particles “lodged in your lung” the change of developing cancer is less than 1%.

    I encourage you to at least read Wikipedia before yelling at other people on the internet about science.

  103. regeya says:

    Amazing that people are just now catching on to this. Yeah…I’m not usually one to give into scaremongering, but yeah, let’s paint huge frickin’ “NUCLEAR WARHEADS INSIDE” signs on these trucks. to make it convenient for minor petty warlords to try to hijack the things. No, it’s probably a lot smarter to do what we do now, which is to put this cargo in regular-looking trucks, with real truckdrivers.

    I didn’t read the link, but I’m assuming the load of missiles was being driven by, say, Air Force chuckleheads instead of real drivers…

    If people really knew what kind of stuff was going on around them–conventional, nuclear, biological, chemical weapons and whatnot–people would probably pee all over themselves with constant fear.

    Fortunately, at least with nukes, the things are designed to be as close to impossible to detonate accidentally as it’s possible to make the things.

  104. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    Atop ICBMs? That’s how I’d do it, anyway :)

  105. Takuan says:

    yeah but then you can’t get the deposit back for the container.

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