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Published: Friday, 10/10/2003

Councilmen want details of reactor's Toledo trip

Two Toledo councilmen yesterday demanded that a Michigan utility be more forthcoming about its apparent plans for shipping a radioactive nuclear reactor through the city en route to a disposal site in South Carolina.

“The citizens of Toledo have a right to know what's coming through their community in the middle of the night,” Councilman Pete Gerken said. “This is beyond the level of courtesy.”

Councilman Frank Szollosi said they're upset no local officials appeared to have been notified by Consumers Energy, which is in the process of shipping the reactor from its decommissioned Big Rock Point nuclear plant near Charlevoix, Mich., to Barnwell, S.C. for disposal in one of the nation's only low-level radioactive waste dumps.

This is believed to be only the fourth time such a device has been put on a multi-state journey. Another shipment involved a reactor from California being sent by boat through the Panama Canal to the South Carolina dump, according the Nuclear Information & Resource Service.

The Washington-based group was the source of information for the city about the shipment.

The Big Rock reactor is 25 feet long and weighs 580,000 pounds. It held highly radioactive nuclear fuel for 35 years, but is not considered by the government to be anymore dangerous than medical supplies, dental X-rays, nuclear plant clothing, and other low-level radioactive waste.

For that reason, Consumers is not obligated to release details to affected communities more than 24 hours in advance, said Rob Glenn, an Ohio Emergency Management Agency spokesman.

The Ohio EMA learned yesterday that the shipment is expected to cross into Ohio late next week, he said.

The councilmen said the city should not have to rely upon an activist group for information about the shipment, even if the radiation level is considered low.

Tim Petrosky, utility spokesman, has said Consumers decided to be cryptic so anti-nuclear activists don't have as much time to gather and cause delays with protests.

Mr. Szollosi, who lives in East Toledo, said the thought of the reactor coming through the east side via rail “kind of gives me the creeps.”

The reactor was last known to be in the vicinity of Gaylord, Mich., being transferred from truck to rail. It's so big it is not expected to travel faster than 25 mph.

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