When organizers put on their annual Cool Desert Nights car show and parade in Richland, they need a permit.
When the Department of Energy and its contractors want to truck radioactive waste short distances, they need the very same permit.
Transportation of various levels, including high level nuclear materials, requires no more that a Special Events Permit issued by the City of Richland.
The hazardous waste shippers are asked a series of questions: Will there be alcohol for sale? Will there be food? Vendors? Will it be merchandise or an inflatable play area?
The agencies and companies use the permits to block intersections or create rolling stops while a truckload of radiation slowly creeps out of Hanford to a nearby contractor who will package it up and send it back.
Sometimes the permits are issued for three-month periods and can be used any time after heavy traffic hours.
In one case, a contractor moved hazardous transuranic waste with a parade type permit because meeting federal transportation packaging standards would be “cost prohibitive for this one time movement of this material."
KING 5 contacted the U.S. Department of Transportation on this practice. They said: "If a road is blocked by persons having the legal authority to do so, and public access to the involved section of road is thereby effectively precluded, the shipment is not in commerce and thus not subject to our Hazardous Materials Regulations."
It's perfectly legal. DOE officials say the shipments are just as safe under the city permit as they are under the federal rules.
Spokesman Geoffrey Tyree points out: "There hasn't been an accident involving the shipment of waste to and from the treatment facility located next to the Hanford Site by the Department of Energy's contractors since the treatment facility opened.'
Handlers did, however, recently discover one shipment violated radioactive safety standards, leading to a temporary suspension of the shipments.