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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
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
"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
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
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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