Given the number of shipments of nuclear waste travelling around the country, "Pregnant women and the fetus and the womb should not be exposed to any ionizing radioactivity if it can be avoided. This is going to happen. Given these kinds of shipment numbers — many thousands — there's going to be exposures to pregnant women in this country," says Kevin Kamps, a radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear.
Nuclear waste is shipped past Americans all the time without many of us knowing it. Even waste passing by on a train is emitting radioactive particulates, and some of those can have negative consequences over time.
"It's like an X-ray. It will cause harm," Kamps said. Nurses often ask patients to wear protective aprons while taking X-rays to minimize exposure to the radiation, since X-rays are technically a carcinogen according to the World Health Organization. Medical News Today has reported that approximately 0.4 per cent of cancers in the US are triggered by CT scans. (CT scans use X-rays and computer imagery to generate pictures of the body to help doctors with diagnoses.)
Transporting nuclear waste products is a risky business for public health outside the US, too.
"If you have exterior, or external contamination, on the shipment — which has happened hundreds of times in France, 50 times in the US that we know of — those dose rates increase significantly. In France, on average, it was 500 times the permissible [amount of contamination] on one-third of the shipments. In one case it was 3,300 times [the] permissible [amount]. So if that's one to two chest X-rays per hour, times 3,300 times permissible, that's 6,600 chest X-rays per hour," Kamps told Loud & Clear.