A socio-economic analysis regarding WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Project), the federal facility to permanently store transuranic wastes deep underground in salt beds near Carlsbad NM, completed by the University of New Mexico in 1981 quoted an official of the Department of Transportation's Office of Hazardous Materials with regard to radioactive shipments in general: "It is likely that someday some of these shipments will be involved in severe accidents." The Department of Energy (DOE) predicts that there will be at least 78 accidents with 7 releases of radiation nationwide during the life of the WIPP project.
We could really be talking about as many as 799 accidents with as many as 63 releases of radioactivity nationwide!
However, these figures are based on data that the Government Accounting Office estimates to be underreported by at least 70-90%, meaning that we could really be talking about as many as 799 accidents with as many as 63 releases of radioactivity nationwide! This does not even take into account the nationwide transportation now planned to Yucca Mountain, the Mescalero Reservation, or the proposed nuclear/chemical dump planned for Los Alamos National Labs, several miles from hikers and campers at Bandelier National Park.
The tourist industry in New Mexico generated over 55,000 jobs in 1995, according to the New Mexico Tourist Bureau. How would even a small release of radioactivity affect this industry or tourism?
Nevada state researchers reviewed an "incident in the city of Boiania, Brazil, population one million," as part of their effort to determine how a nuclear accident in or around Las Vegas might affect the local community and economy.
"The incident began in 1987 'when two people entered an abandoned medical clinic and made off with part of a machine used to treat cancer patients with controlled doses of radiation. They removed a stainless steel cylinder, broke it open and extracted a platinum capsule containing 91 grams of radioactive cesium chloride. The capsule was opened, exposing the luminescent material, and eventually was discarded. Children playing in the junkyard and workers took it home. Ultimately three people died, one had an arm amputated and several others suffered from forms of radiation poisoning.' "But the most significant effects of this nuclear 'accident' were the secondary consequences that occurred because of public reactions to the incident-reactions that resulted from the perceptions of the risk involved.
People who view a place as extremely negative or risky are more likely to avoid visiting that area or to choose not to live, work, or start a business there.
"Word of the contamination spread rapidly throughout the country. Newspapers and television presented the story in a dramatic light. Goiania became associated with radiation exposure, and people reacted in ways that had severe economic consequences.
"The value of agricultural products produced in the region dropped by as much as 50% and sales prices for manufactured goods produced in the area dropped by 40% as people avoided these sites, even though none had actually been contaminated. Hotel occupancy, normally near capacity in the area which attracts large numbers of tourists to its well-known hot springs and pleasant climate, dropped o about 40% for the six weeks following the news of the accident. Additional research showed that, during the three months following the incident, there was a very definite effect on the number of homes sold, home sale prices, rental prices and land prices. These effects tended to increase with proximity to the immediate vicinity of the accident, and price suppression effects continue to keep home sale prices below pre-incident levels. Nevada state researchers have found that people who view a place as extremely negative or risky are more likely to avoid visiting that area or to choose not to live, work, or start a business there.
"It is important to note that, in the case of the Boiania incident, the actual risks of contamination were quite small—only a handful of people were actually physically affected. The perception, however, that radiation exposure posed an unacceptable risk to the wider population led directly to major negative economic impacts—impacts far out of proportion to the immediate consequences of the accident."