Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Update: Indiana to Boston and Derailing Haz-mat Trains

I hear that in-laws are supposed to be frustrating and difficult to get along with. Luckily, I wouldn't know much about that: my in-laws are the most amazing, wonderful family. I thoroughly enjoyed my pre-Thanksgiving weekend catching up and sharing great food with the Phouns and Hsus. There were nine people in the Leesburg, IN house at its peak, and it was nothing if not cozy. I was lucky enough to visit with John and Lou Davis - John was AyJy's middle-school teacher that she has kept in contact with over the years. AyJy and I even got to tryout Ma Phoun's aqua-aerobics class at the local Y! Unfortunately, I missed out when AyJy met up with Chris, Amber, and fast-growing Grayson Lincoln - I'll catch you all next time.

This Tuesday night Amtrak's trains were delayed for six hours due to a freight train derailment near Bryan, Ohio. Unfortunately, this seems to be a common sort of incident. Here is a news report on the November 2010 derailment that delayed my Amtrak train by six hours, this is the June 2010 derailment, and this is the April 2010 derailment in the same relatively small region. Let's get our act together, Norfolk Southern! I hope the train system gets better before we ever see nuclear supplies on these kinds of tracks. Quote from Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States (2006):
FINDING: There are two potential sources of radiological exposures from transporting spent fuel and high-level waste: (1) radiation shine from... normal transport conditions; and (2) potential increases in radiation shine and release of radioactive materials from transport packages under accident conditions that are severe enough to compromise fuel element and package integrity. The radiological risks associated with the transportation of spent fuel and high-level waste are well understood and are generally low, with the possible exception of risks from releases in extreme accidents involving very long duration, fully engulfing fires. While the likelihood of such extreme accidents appears to be very small, their occurrence cannot be ruled out based on historical accident data for other types of hazardous material shipments...
And yes there were hazmats on our Ohio derailed trains. Is the freight train policy to just cross your fingers and hope the routinely derailing cars don't happen to fall off a bridge? This is 3 of 3 derailments I found in Ohio during 2010. This is a cursory first-time review, and Ohio isn't that big of a state...
"There is no hazardous materials on the cars affected," Chief Torbet said. "We found the hazardous materials farther to the east and is not on the affected part of the train." (my November 2010 derailment)

"There are two different sections that are derailed. We have at least five cars that we know were leaking denatured alcohol and it has an inhalation, toxic hazard and also flammability," said Williams County Emergency Management Director Tim Jonovich. (June 2010 derailment)

No one was injured, according to authorities but the derailed cars included flammable methanol. (April 2010 derailment)
Anyways, Amtrak managed not to derail, and I had a pleasant train ride despite its 26-hour length. Apart from working on application essays and reading "Will to Intervene," I enjoyed some hearts and "BS" with a motley group of train riders. We even put on some Bach and some "dubstep."

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