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Radioactive dirt and a truck fire: Critics call it a disaster in waiting

(Shawn Richard)


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GRANTSVILLE — Anti-nuclear activists say the Thursday fire of a tractor-trailer hauling radioactive dirt shows just how dangerous Utah roadways stand to be because of the transport and storage of nuclear waste.

“Luckily, the radioactive material container held up in this instance, but there are many examples of truck and train accidents involving toxic substances that have spilled,” said HEAL Utah’s Executive Director Scott Williams. “Transporting radioactive waste, in any form, poses serious, irreversible health hazards should there be an accident."

The trucker escaped injury in the 7:15 a.m. accident on I-80 between the Tooele exit and Grantsville. Westbound traffic was closed for about an hour and crews also had to extinguish a small grass fire that erupted, said Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Todd Royce.

Officials believe it was some sort of mechanical malfunction that sparked the blaze.

Nationally, Congress is deciding whether to allow Yucca Mountain, Nevada, to become the country’s high-level nuclear waste repository.

HEAL Utah says if it does, 10,000 truck and train shipments of the toxic substance would come through Ogden, Salt Lake City, Provo and St. George on their way to Yucca Mountain.

Williams said Utah's risk would be heightened through those transports, an irony since the state has no nuclear power production facilities.

The state is also mulling a request by EnergySolutions to bury depleted uranium in the western desert of Tooele County at its facility at Clive.

The proposal has been under consideration for years.

Contributing: Pat Reavy

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Amy Joi O'Donoghue

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