Going Nuclear: Radioactive Waste on the Rails
Due to major breakthroughs in extraction technology and oil removal methods, oil production in the U.S. continues to soar. The primary reason for these advances is major increases in production in North Dakota and Texas, which show no signs of slowing. There are literally millions of barrels of oil produced each day, using a process in which water is shot into bedrock to create cracks through which the oil is extracted. The rail industry continues to play a major part in this process, shipping the oil across North America and helping remove the byproducts of the extraction process.
Some of the dross left over in this process includes naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM), a catchall term that refers to any radioactive element found in the environment, such as potassium and uranium. While NORMs bear little resemblance to the nuclear waste power plants produce, one thing they share in common is that exposure to either can pose a significant health hazard.
At drilling sites, NORMs are present in waste water after it flushes out the petroleum, and other related substances such as mud and sludge. A recent study in Environmental Science and Technology points to major problems associated with oil extraction related to the
NORM-rich wastewater it produces. Data in the study indicates that at one such site, radium concentrations were 200 times higher than normal. Ultimately prolonged exposure to NORMs can result in heightened risks for cancer in humans, with a variety of harmful consequences to the environment as well.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are strict safety regulations in place for trains that transport NORMs and other radioactive materials, such as special casks and containers, designated shipment routes, and emergency radiation safety training for personnel. With around three million radioactive packages sent throughout the U.S. each year, vigilance in rail safety is critical.
When industrial rail accidents and their fallout cause serious harm, rely on legal representatives that can fight for the damages you deserve.