By David Withers, Outpost contributor
During the 1950s Nevada was the nation's nuclear testing ground. The federal government detonated atomic bombs and other nuclear war heads. Nuclear waste was given to humans and liquid waste was poured directly into the ground for quick storage.
40 years later the fight to keep nuclear waste out of Nevada rages. Reno joined the fight by declaring itself a nuclear free zone in August 1996.
"I felt that this was an important step," said former Reno City Council member Jim Pilzner. "When I found out about the trains and what they were transporting, I brought it to the City Council. We could make a statement to the federal government."
In the early part of 1996 the Southern Pacific Transportation Co. and the Union Pacific Railroad Co. merged and will now transport nuclear waste that the federal government is expected to reclaim nucthat it gave to Asia. This nuclear waste was given to Asia with the promise that the U.S. would take the spent fuel back. The route would begin in Concord, Calif., and travel to Sparks, NV where trains would refuel en route to Idaho. The train tracks travel through the downtown portion of both cities.
"We face a much greater danger in terms of the railroad," Reno Mayor Jeff Griffin said. "We face a much greater danger and a much more likelihood of an accident from materials other than nuclear waste."
The Surface Transportation Board (STB) did an independent study of the railroad merger. The STB found that the train traffic would increase from 11 trains a day to 38. The speed of the trains would increase from 20 miles per hour to 38 miles per hour. The average train length would increase from 4,000 to 6,500 feet and stacked one on top of another.
Reno is just one of 194 cities nationwide that have declared themselves nuclear free zones. Worldwide 4,500 locally declared nuclear free zones exist in 25 countries around the world. The declaration is a symbolic gesture made by these cities and countries to the governments about storing and transporting nuclear waste.
The Reno City Council actually reaffirmed an 11-year-old resolution when it declared itself a nuclear free zone. "For the city of Reno or for other communities that have done this kind of thing, this is really an expression of our interest and our concerns," Griffin said.
Citizens Alert initiated a lot of the work on the proposed resolution. The group heard about the possible transportation of nuclear waste through Nevada at a City Council meeting.
"It's not appropriate to carry nuclear waste through heavily populated areas and endanger people," Pilzner said. "I did what people thought. It was appropriate for a government body to make a statement to the federal government about nuclear waste.