Nevada Congresswoman Uses Misleading Evidence in Bid to Stop President Bush from Opening Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository; Video Shows Anti-Tank Missile Penetrating a Cask Used for Shipping Spent Nuclear Fuels, But Cask in Video was More Fragile than the Genuine Article

A dramatic video being circulated by U.S. Representative Shelly Berkley (D-NV), which purports to show an anti-tank missile penetrating a cask used for shipping spent nuclear fuel, is deceptive in the fact that it is not representative of normal nuclear shipping materials. Environmental and energy experts affiliated with The National Center for Public Policy Research say Representative Berkley’s claim that the video proves “it is inherently dangerous to transport… toxic nuclear waste” is a disingenuous attempt to stop the Bush Administration’s plans to open the nuclear fuel repository built at Yucca Mountain near Las Vegas, Nevada.

“The real message of the test and video, as described by the Las Vegas Sun and other media, shows the level of deception some will use to advance a political agenda,” said Tom Randall, director of The National Center’s John P. McGovern MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs.

The alleged nuclear shipping cask used in the video was made of cast iron, which is many times more fragile and brittle than the steel alloy used in real nuclear fuel shipping casks. Furthermore, the damage to the phony cask was actually created by a carefully placed explosive device intended to simulate an anti-tank missile. It is also reported that the “test” shown in the video was sponsored by International Fuel Containers, a company attempting to sell material for protecting casks.

A more accurate test of the safety of nuclear casks was conducted by Sandia National Laboratory in 1982. In this test, conducted on a regular steel cask, damage was limited to a hole the size of a softball. Other Sandia tests subjected casks to intense fire and collisions with trains and trucks at over 70 miles per hour. No significant damage resulted. Contradicting reports and claims made by Nevada officials, nuclear physicists have told The National Center that it is highly unlikely that such damage would result in any human harm.

Randall noted that the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository, once opened, will be an important tool in making the nation less vulnerable to terrorism: “The real vulnerability of nuclear material to terrorist attack is leaving spent fuel on-site at nuclear power generating facilities.”

National Center publications that discuss the safety of nuclear facilities and materials and analyze the risk to humans of an attack on a nuclear power plant include “Terrorism and Nuclear Power: What Are the Real Risks” ( and “Yucca Mountain: The Right Place For Spent Nuclear Fuel” ( Additional information can be found at

The John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs is a project of The National Center For Public Policy Research, a non-partisan, non-profit education foundation. For more information, contact Tom Randall at T773-857-5086 or [email protected].

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.