Friday, May 22, 2009

Slipped Under the Radar


It has been a busy week in the political news with President Obama taking hits for doing what he promised to do which was close Gitmo, and Cheney defending his right to torture. All juicy fodder for a political blog. But while the talking heads and OpEd pieces were covering these headliners another more worthy subject almost slipped under the radar: Yucca Mountain. Obama is not going forward with plans for it to receive all the nuclear waste in the United States.

For decades the sparsely populated mountain west has been seen by politicians as wasteland suitable only for depositing of nuclear waste. This goes back to Los Alamos and the making of the first atomic bomb and black barrels of questionable materials just flung into arroyos to drift down stream during our rare gully washers, to Rocky Flats where it is all kept in metal buildings on the edge of a now huge town like Boulder.

There have been some improvements. Now the government touts the employment opportunities of huge waste management places like WIPP near Carlsbad, New Mexico or Yucca Mountain. Yes, they are putting more thought into the internment of nuclear and toxic waste but in my opinion not nearly enough research. There are questionable earth stability issues in both places. And out of sight/out of mind always bothers me. WIPP lets the earth encase the dangerous materials in salt layers. Isn't salt corrosive? And once encased you cannot go back and check things out.

But my primary concern is transportation. I was at a town meeting in Tennessee once where they were closing down a nuclear facility. The local residents wanted all the "trash" moved. There were considerable problems with the route trucks would take as the towns on the way did not want it passing through. I lived in one of those towns. One citizen stood up and offered the suggestion that why didn't the military just fly it out in one of their C130's.

Well, if there is anything worse than a nuclear accident from a truck crash in a small town, or a train collusion going through Kansas city it is the crash of a C130 heavily loaded with nuclear waste say in Dallas, Texas.

Yes, maybe WIPP and Yucca mountain are totally safe, though those of us in the fallout zone might not think so, but getting it there is stupid in my opinion. There are no good options short of not moving it at all. You want a nuclear power plant then you get to keep the waste. Part of the expense of building the facility should be building the tomb for the byproducts. In short: Keep your shit.

And you might want to consider water at these remote entombment sites. It is mostly underground. Or it goes downhill to places like Phoenix that even built a special canal to take it all from the Colorado River. More and more desert areas with endless golf courses and retirement villages seem to want the mountain water. This could be the same water you are contaminating with your nuclear waste stored out of sight and out of mind under mountains over vast underground aquafers.

We won't know until we all glow in the dark.