Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Reply to Minot Daily News Editorial: "Nuclear storage solution"

Dear Editors:

I have to laugh at the idea that such a complex subject can be reduced down to NIMBYism and 6 paragraphs. Let's start with a couple of points to ground your readers about this 60 billion dollar plus project. The republican governor of Nevada along with the Democrats in that state are united in opposition to the proposed dump. I imagine your paper has covered this story a few times over the last few years. The major papers in Las Vegas and Reno have had thousands upon thousands of articles (the average is over 2,000 articles per year) on this issue. Having tracked this issue for the last 7 years, just 5 newspapers in Nevada have published nearly 95% of all the stories published in the entire U.S. about this issue. The rest of the country might need a bit of an upgrade on what it thinks it knows about the subject.

Now why would a state that voted for George Bush and aren't exactly known for being a bunch of environmentalists cover this issue like no other place in the country?

Could it be the idea that nearly a 100 shipments a day of the most deadly material ever produced will be arriving for years upon years, a large part of which will be on a freeway that runs through Las Vegas? The Insurance industry in the state took a look at the possibilities of accidents when thousands of trips will all be passing through their area. Their assessment that it would have a dramatic effect on the property values of anyone living anyone near the transportation routes.

What happens when the scientists hired by the state of Nevada took a close look at the waste container that has only been used a few hundred times and found flaws in the safety tests that the NRC did. Your readers are probably not interested in Las Vegans concerns that this would mean if a terrorist succeeded at breeching one of these cannisters with armor piercing weapons. No, just one shot wouldn't succeed, but a Bin Laden would know this. There are real post 9-11 dangers uncovered about these containers by the state. This is one accident that must never happen. Not 99.99% isn't enough when just one accident would mean something far more damaging than what happened on 9-11. If its not 100% safe then would you trust it?

And note since the shipments will be passing through major cities across the United States on nearly a daily basis for over a decade, it would just take one failure to contaminate miles of the surrounding communities if such accident or attack was successful.

What would you think about the censorship of the fact that Nevada's scientists discovered that thee promised 10,000 year barrier promised by the special storage containers was false, with the EPA acknowledging that they might only last 500 years, and then that even amount of time might be in error. Here's one, have we ever created a container that has ever lasted more than 50 years yet? Remember this stuff will remain physically (thermally) hot for 10,000 years.

(The Nuclear Energy Institute probably are the ones that sent you at the Minot Daily the slick promo on this. Don't be fooled by the name, its the public relations wing for the proponents of the dump, not a real institute as the name implies.)

I suggest to you that you take a look at the history of nuclear waste storage in the United States, and you will find that every single solution the government or private industry has ever proposed and put into place, with the same kind of promises of absolute certainty that there would never be any problems afterwords, was not only wrong but very, very costly to those of us who pay taxes. Your readers might want to take a look at what happened in Hanford, Oak Ridge, Savannah River, Paducah, Fernald, Rocky Flats, West Valley, and other lesser sights at just how good the science was last time they made claims like they are doing this time. The clean up costs for these storage mistakes are beyond astronomical.

Nevadans take the issue very seriously, not just because they were ganged up on by the rest of the United States and unfairly singled out as the host for this, the most deadly material ever created by man, but because when they started to look a little deeper at the technologies being proposed they started finding flaws on top of even more flaws in the claims being made by The Department of Energy.

Now, that it has been disclosed that some of the very scientists who were making their promised claims of about the how great their science was have been found to be openly lying about some of their claims, could it be that more serious claims might also be untrue?

We have yet to develop the scientific skills to land a man on Mars, or beyond, yet government scientists can claim they have found a solution that will last 10,000 years, just 1/24th of the projected lifetime of the plutonium and other waste planned for Yucca? Dear editor, why would anyone want to trust a government agency who has failed every time it has ever stored waste. That's a Zero per cent success rate. ZERO! Nevadans have a real personal experience with this success rate as they have already been the victims of a low-level waste site that leaked, and leaked badly.

The DOE's out of site out of mind agenda for this waste is not wise. There may come a day when a real solution for handling this deadly waste may be found. But dumping it all in Nevada may be just the most un-scientific, dangerous idea that ever came from people who have a hard time imagining what changes will happen in the next 2,000 years let alone fifty. Where's the patience? Moving this stuff around on our highways is not a good idea. Yes, it will cost more to store it onsite, but a far penny less if there is just one single accident. The commercial industry that produced it want it off their hands. That industry was allowed to pass the costs of building Yucca onto the America's electric rate payers. The 60 Billion dollar price plus price tag for this project, makes it one of the most expensive single construction projects ever undertaken in history. That's a lot of money. Our money. If they are wrong how much more will it cost to fix? There is no answer for this one.

We have come a long way, but not so far to think that we have a real answer to such a dangerous problem. I'm sure, like most people, its easy to accept a promotional claim by the NEI, as factual, but you might just want to contact the other people on the other side of the argument, looking a bit closer at just what Nevadans are thinking. Most state governments don't spend millions of dollars investigating an issue, for nothing. The rest of the country just hasn't been very serious about how important this issue is. I would say most of the country has let the political solution of ganging up on Nevada to make it the home for this nasty brew from hell is not only unfair, but seriously unsound. I dare you to talk to Mr. Loux, the head scientist for the state of Nevada about the nasty tactics or good science being used against the Nevada. Their opposition is heroic and be given more respect than a cheap sound byte about NIMBYism..

This is not a sound byte issues. It is as complex as anything humans have ever had to face. Not convinced. Then I suggest you at least be fair and go the state's website where scientific documentation as well as the legal struggles are fully documented.

Roger Herried
San Francisco, CA