ANSWER THIS QUESTION
A fundamental issue... |
Is it moral for our generation to benefit from the use of nuclear generated electricity
over the last 30 years, but saddle future generations for a period
of time longer than any regulations and laws have existed, longer than any nation has ever existed,
even longer than all of recorded history, and still longer than 100,000 years,
with the un-ending expenses and the forbidding task of controlling and maintaining nuclear wastes?
In the 1950's scientists told congress they would solve the waste problem within the next 20 years.
In the 1970's scientists told congress they would solve the waste problem within the next 20 years.
In the 1990's scientists told congress they would solve the waste problem within the next 20 years.
Nuclear Waste in Harrisburg (click for full size photo)
Now much of Congress wants to begin storing tons of highly radioactive wastes in temporary storage facilities in Nevada because the scientists still haven't solved the
waste problem and nuclear plant spent fuel pools are either almost full, completely full, or overflowing to the parking lot
in what is called dry cask storage.
Ralph Nader calls the nuclear waste problem the "conundrum of conundrums" because there is no clear and sound solution - PBS "Frontline."
(Real Audio 24kb)
The Nuclear Industry is the only commercial venture that received a permit to build the "House" without a design to build the "Outhouse."|
Jane Lee, anti-nuclear
activist 26 years, Etters PA
From the editorial staff of the
Sunday Patriot News
Failure to properly dispose of waste remains vexation of nuclear industry.
One of the great failures to the nuclear industry, as it prepares for an
onslaught of attention on this monthís 20th anniversary of its worse safety
mishap, is the still unresolved matter of properly disposing of the highly
radioactive waste generated by the nationís atomic reactors.
Some 40,000 tons off spent fuel rods, which will continue to pose a lethal
hazard to humans in the environment for thousands of years, are being stored
at nuclear plants in 34 states, including at Three Mile Island.
The government has spent many years and almost $3 billion studying the
feasibility of establishing a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in
But it is currently projected that such a facility would not be ready before
2012, if in fact it should ever pass muster.
Meanwhile, the Clinton administration recently floated the idea of the
government taking ownership of the wastes, but leaving them where they are;
a paper switch without a difference. Sadly, it seems it will require an
accident, a leak, a theft, and unanticipated crisis of some sort, before the
government finally moves to gain physical control of this dangerous material
in an environmentally sound and secure facility.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said that it is safe to store nuclear
wastes and at reactor sites up to 120 years or more, decades after the
nuclear plants themselves would have been shut down and decommissioned under
the most optimistic operating scenario. But, it is really in the best
interest of public safety to store this highly dangerous material at nuclear
power stations around the country for anything approaching this length of
One byproduct contained in these waste is plutonium, of which the ingestion
of as little as one-billionth of an ounce could cause cancer or genetic
defects. With a half-life of 24,000 years, it requires 240,000 years for
plutoniumís radioactivity to decline to background levels.
Than this then, is one of the most dangerous substances known to man, and
yet the end game, as it were, for the safe disposal of these wastes is
nowhere in sight. Yucca Mountain, 80 miles west of Las Vegas, which is
conceived as a warren of 115 miles of underground totals where the wastes
would be stored for 10,000 years (twice as long as recorded history) is the
only game in town. But, a number of scientific concerns have been raised
about its fitness, though no one has come up with an acceptable alternative
site or alternative method of disposal.
Nevada, which rigorously opposes the waste site, noting that it uses no
electricity generated by nuclear power and that 90 percent of the nationís
atomic plants are located east of the Mississippi River, wants the country
to spend at least 40 to 60 years looking for a scientifically sound and
publicly acceptable alternative to Yucca.
Nevadaís concerns - which include lack of confidence in the ability of the
government to achieve its criteria for safe storage and a potential for
release of the material during transport to the site - are understandable.
But it is far from clear why the public should have less concern with the
long-term storage of this highly dangerous material at dozens of power
stations that were never designed or intended to control this material for
decades or longer. Yet, the longer this material is permitted to remain in
storage at commercial power stations, the more acceptable its becomes to put
off making the difficult decision for permanent solution, and the more
likely it becomes that a serious accident or incident related to the waste
is bound to occur.
If everyone does their job, if nature cooperates and if someone would invent
a new and better technology for storing highly radioactive waste - in other
words, given an incredible run of luck - we just may be able to muddle
through for another 40-60 years.
So much for sound policy on this matter. And so much for the nuclear
industry and the Faustian bargain on which it was built.
Three Mile Island Alert Control Room