A Dangerous Nuke Safety Plan?

Under exceptional security, a ship carrying nuclear waste from South Korea sailed into San Francisco Bay, reports CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone.

All shipping traffic through the Golden Gate was ordered to a halt and the airspace overhead was closed.

Jacqueline Cabasso of the Western States Legal Foundation says there is plenty to worry about along the ship's route, from possible refinery explosions to earthquakes.

"I think the federal government is taking a calculated risk with our lives," she says.

The radioactive material will be encased in heavy steel casks which have proved indestructible in earlier tests according to Dept. of Energy officials.

"Over the past 40 years there have been 2,500 spent fuel shipments within the United States. All without incident," says the Energy Dept.'s Oakland office manager, James Turner.

The purpose of the shipment is actually to make the world a safer place. It's part of a federal government program that brings foreign nuclear waste to the United States so it won't fall into the wrong hands and be used to make nuclear bombs.

Most of the spent fuel rods from overseas are destined for the Savannah River site in North Carolina. But five shipments from Asia over the next decade are scheduled to go through the heavily populated San Francisco area. Trains will then take them to a storage facility in Idaho.

However, getting there means going through rugged country in Northern California where the tracks wind along the Feather River through an area notorious for train wrecks. Until the last nuclear-laden train has made its way through here, many will not be convinced that this is truly the best way to make the world a safer place.


Reported by John Blackstone
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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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