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Flawed Video Showing "Vulnerabilities" of Casks to Terrorists

O.K., political hat off....Engineer hat on.

Nevada politicians got wind of a video done in 1982

where a company did a test on a simulated fuel cask. 

They "showed" that the cask would fail miserably in an

explosion.  The Las Vegas Sun Times has run an article

and Nevada is going National with this video to try

and push their point...

The link is:


See my comments below.  Anyone else have any comments?


WASHINGTON -- In an attempt to grab national attention

and rally opposition against the Yucca Mountain

project, Nevada's congressional delegation today

released a videotape showing an anti-tank missile

blowing a hole in a nuclear waste shipping container.


Simulated charge placed on a cask - not an anti-tank

missile fired at it.  This is a misleeding statement. 

More to follow.


Nevada officials say the footage makes the case that

it is too dangerous to ship nuclear waste across the

country to Yucca Mountain for permanent burial because

the metal waste containers used to transport waste are

vulnerable to a terrorist strike.


The video is inherently flawed.  More to come.


"The (video's) message is that it is inherently

dangerous to transport 77,000 tons of toxic nuclear

waste to (a site) 90 minutes from a major population

center in the state of Nevada," Rep. Shelley Berkley,

D-Nev., said. "There is no guarantee that these

containers can be protected under the circumstances of

a terrorist attack."


Again, video is inherently flawed.  If the company

marketing a product to "protect" a waste container

from a terrorist attack does the test, surely, it is

going to be doctored a bit.  It was.  More to follow.


Highly radioactive uranium rods, after being used to

fuel nuclear reactors around the country, would be put

in one-foot-thick steel casks and put on trains or

trucks destined for Yucca Mountain.


Note - steel.  Important.  Read more.


The video released today, which was done as part of a

privately sponsored test in 1998 done in conjunction

with the Army at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in

Maryland, shows a simulated missile attack on a

shipping cask.


Ah, simulated.  What, they couldn't get the Army to

shoot a real missile at it????


Nuclear industry and Nuclear Regulatory Commission

officials acknowledge that a missile could put a hole

in the casks but argue that potential health and

safety dangers would be small.

A missile would displace very little radioactive waste

material from the cask, nuclear industry experts say,

although Nevada officials and their scientific

consultants disagree.

"It is handleable," said John Vincent, a senior

project manager at the Nuclear Energy Institute, the

industry's top trade group. "It does not create a huge

exposure with thousands affected. That does not


Experts point to a 1982 Department of Energy

full-scale test at Sandia National Laboratories in

which an explosive charge put a 6-inch hole in a waste

container. If the test container had been hauling real

radioactive waste, up to seven people could have died

from cancer caused by exposure to the displaced

radioactive material, according to early estimates.

More recent estimates suggest up to 48 people could


Consultants hired by the state of Nevada say even more

people than that could be affected.

"They are constantly saying that it's not as bad as

you think," said Bob Halstead, a waste transportation

expert hired by Nevada. "I don't believe it."


7 people injured, 48 people...how many does Nevada

think?  Surely, if a terrorist had such a missile here

in the USA and was going to use it, wouldn't it be

great if casualties could be kept as low as possible? 

God help it if that missile were used to blow up an

airplane and kill hundreds of people or a sports

stadium and kill tens of thousands of people.  Given

the alternatives of where that missile could be used,

I'd say we'd be lucky if they chose a waste transport



The 1998 video shows two experiments sponsored by

International Fuel Containers. In one, a missile

charge is attached to a cast-iron cask and detonated.

The explosion put a softball-sized hole in the cask.

The cask is similar in strength to casks licensed by

the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for waste shipping.

The charge was manipulated to simulate a fired missile

strike, IFC president Thomas Kirch has said. Missiles

are relatively common in use worldwide.


O.K., here is the problem.  No casks used, proposed,

thought of, etc use cast iron - they are all steel. 

Why?  Cast iron is brittle and depending on it's type

and grade, it can be extremely brittle.  Some cast

irons are so brittle that they will crack if you hit

them with a moderate amount of force with a hammer! 

Cast iron does not yield by plastic deformation like

ductile steels.

Why didn't they use an actual cask or at least

something made of the same material as the casks to be

used?  Why did they use cast iron?  I guess the answer

is simple: cast iron will fail much more easily and

more spectacularly than steel will.

You cannot consider a model test done with irrelevant

materials to be anything equal to an accurate and

viable test.  The nuclear industry performs their

testing on either full-scale actual casks or scaled

down models of actual casks USING THE SAME MATERIALS

as the real casks.

A good analogy is striking a half inch thick piece of

glass with a hammer and saying that the same effects

would occur if that same hammer were to strike a piece

of steel with the same force.  Ain't gonna happen,


The same could be said even if they used steel in

their model test.  What type of steel?  Has it been

annealed, hardened, fatigued, etc?  A material will

fail when it gets to the end of its stress-strain

curve (fracture point).  The curve for cast iron is

very short and does not extend much past the yield


Grade 30 cast iron (the most common used) has an Su

(Ultimate yield strength) of 30,000 psi.  Standard

grade 1040 steel has a value of around 100,000 psi

with many stainless steels having an Su of over

150,000.  And they saw fit to use cast iron with an Su

of only 30,000.  Heck, even the highest grade of cast

iron (assuming ASTM A30 grade, which is "cast iron")

of class 60 still has a Su of 60,000 psi and I'll be

willing to bet that they did NOT use class 60 cast

iron (and even if they did, it would still be way off


Now, toughness is a numerical value used to determine

a material's ability to withstand stresses and strains

and is the area under the stress-strain curve.  For

ductile materials (like steel) it is equal to Su * Ef

- where Ef is the egineering strain at fracture.  For

brittle materials, it is 2/3 that value.  I forget the

actual values, but the Ef for steels is 8-10 times

higher than that of cast irons.

So, to put this into numerical persepctive, we have:

Toughness for AISI 1040 steel:

Ut, steel = 100,000 * 8 Ef(cast iron)

Toughness for cast iron:

Ut, cast iron = 2/3 * 30,000 * Ef(cast iron)

The ratio of the two is equal to 100,000/ (2/3 *

30,000) or 5.  in other words, steel is over five

times tougher than cast iron and therefore can abosorb

5 times more energy before fracturing than cast iron.

And they expect us to fall for their garbage...


In the second experiment, a concrete compound "flak

jacket" material marketed by IFC protects the cask

from the blast. The missile charge did not breach the



Big deal.  The test was flawed from the get go.  Of

course their product is going to protect the cask

otherwise, why market it?


The video was produced by IFC as a promotional tool to

sell its concrete flak jacket product to nuclear power

companies, which store waste from their nuclear

reactors in on-site storage areas.

The concrete material is too heavy to wrap around

waste containers for shipping.

Nevada's lawmakers released the 4.5-minute videotape

to local broadcast news outlets and have offered it to

national media.


Are they going to release a statement about the

inherent flaws of the test and that it is not

applicable to real spent fuel casks?  They might as

well used paper mache to do their test.


Nevada officials say the video demonstrates why waste

should be left at nuclear power plants, where it can

be adequately protected, and not shipped across 43

states for permanent burial in Nevada.

Berkley obtained the videotape from IFC's Kirch in

early February, shortly after she first heard about

the Aberdeen test. The video was reviewed by the Sun

and described in a story Feb. 12.

Nevada officials have been reviewing the tape and

mulling over how it fit into their anti-Yucca

strategy. They are trying to interest national news

media in the video, sources said.

Nevada officials say the video counters claims made by

nuclear industry officials who say shipping waste is

safe. Industry officials say they have a long record

of shipping waste without radiation releases.

NEI has been promoting a video of its own that shows a

waste container passing tests in which it is burned,

dropped and hit by a train.

Nevada officials plan to send the Aberdeen videotape

to local news outlets along rail and highway routes

that would be used to haul waste to Nevada, said Bob

Loux, director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear


"It's very dishonest for the industry to send out

tapes of Sandia tests that only show tests where the

containers successfully survived," Loux said.


I think it is very dishonest of the anti-nuclear

industry to be releaseing videotapes of a cast iron

cask being blown up and passing it off as anything

remotely equal to hte real casks being used.  I think

it is dishonest to use totally different materials to

perform a test to "prove" that the actual casks would

fail.  I think it is dishonest to use a marketing

video to try and prove that a real cask is vulnerable.

 How was the cask handled before the test?  What

procedures were in place to ensure an unbiased and

conservative test?  What quality control standard was

the test cask made by?

All of these are questions that are not easily

answered by backers of this video.  My guess is that

the original company, IFC, never intended this to

prove any vulnerability to the actual casks (if they

did, they were engaging in deceptive advertising and

should be investigated for fraud) but to sell a

product.  We all know that a product demonstation test

can be doctored very easily becuase there are no

conforming standards that must be followed.

The full-scale and model tests performed by Sandia

were done in strict accordance with established

procedures where many witnesses were present at all

phases (I doubt IFC had witnesses present to critique

their test set-up and procedures!).  The tests are

clearly spelled out in the CFRs and everything is

documented very well.

No tests done by Sandia indicate that harmful amounts

of radiation would have leaked.  Only one test that I

am aware of had any simulated radioactivity release

and it was due to a fire scenario where a lead shield

partially melted.  Very small amounts of simualted

radioactivity "were" released.  The shield was

redesigned, the cask tested, and it passed with flying

colors.  That is why testing is done - to find any

flaws and correct them.

The other tests performed correlated EXTREMELY well

with the computer models and simulations (almost to

the tee).  In short, those casks simply *will not*

fail in any accident that *could* occur at highway




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