A U.S. judge has denied a request by a Richmond-based anti-nuclear group to halt shipments of radioactive wastes through Virginia because of psosible health and safety hazards.

In a four-page ruling District Court Judge John Garrett Penn rejected the request by the Virginia Sunshine Alliance for a preliminary injunction against the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, which approved the shipment. In his ruling last week, Penn said the Alliance's charges that the shipments constitute a potential health hazard are "based on speculation" and an "extremely remote possibility."

James Dougherty, an attorney for the group, said yesterday that an appeal is planned.

In a suit filed last month in District Court in the District of Columbia, the Alliance sought to block the planned annual transport of about 55 large casks from Portsmouth, Va., to a South Carolina processing plant.

According to the suit the 25 ton casks containing radioactive wastes, mostly from nuclear power plants, could be "an attractive target for sabotage or threat" and should be rerouted through less populous areas.

In rejecting the request Penn cited several NRC studies which he said show that "the unlikely breach of the casks would cause only minimum health effects."