Nuke Waste needs more science, not less
“I know what I say at times is not very diplomatic….” -Nikita Kruschev
In Sen. Richard Bryan’s recent self-congratulatory column about his ongoing nuclear waste battle, he hit the nail on the head in saying, “I have spent the majority of my career in the U.S. Senate fighting against nuclear waste coming to Nevada.”
He has, in fact, perpetuated his senatorial career with our fear of nuclear waste. And Sen. Harry Reid and Congressman Jim Gibbons aren’t far behind! It’s a sure-fire reelection issue as long as the problem remains unsolved.
Now, it’s probably a plus that our Nevada representatives were successful in securing the votes to kill some lousy legislation. But one fact still remains. We, as a nation, have thousands of tons of nuclear waste to dump somewhere, and I don’t see our Washington, D.C., delegation taking a leadership role in addressing that issue. “This “We don’t give a damn where the nuclear waste ends up as long as it isn’t in Nevada” attitude is anything but statesmanlike.
Maybe it’s because all four of our Washington, D.C. representatives are lawyers, and lawyers are rarely prime movers outside the realm of the law. In other words, lawyers observe things and fight other peoples’ battles. They judge evidence and other peoples’ ideas but rarely have any of their own. I’m not suggesting nor expecting our lawyer-representatives to originate alternative solutions to nuclear waste storage but they could have made an effort to assemble the forces who do have the credentials to find acceptable alternatives to burying nuclear waste in Nevada.
Our Washington, D.C., delegation is in the unique position of having at its disposal in Nevada the finest lodging and eating facilities available anywhere to host a series of hi-tech work sessions composed of the best nuclear physicists and geologists in the country and at no cost to anyone thanks to the generosity of our gaming industry.
These work sessions on a once per month basis for no more than six meetings could have produced a credible list of the least dangerous place on earth, in proper order, in which to store or dispose of nuclear waste.
Keeping such sessions off limits to politicians, nuclear industry representatives, the DOE, environmentalists, and the media would have assured that the participants could function as an unencumbered scientific body of inquiry without outside pressures until the task be completed.
Upon completion of the site selections in the order of safety preference, the next step would have been another series of meetings with environmentalists and biologists from our best universities to rate the sites in the order of being the least offensive environmentally. Here again, employees of, or consultants to, membership supported environmentalist groups would have had to be excluded in order to preserve the purity of the scientific results.
Who would have paid these scientists? Nobody. I think it’s safe to say that in exchange for the honor of participation and the contribution to our nation’s well-being, each scientist’s academic employer would have been pleased to continue paying his or her salary, as well as transportation to and from Nevada. This could have been a stipulated condition of participation.
Now, at the conclusion of these scientific meetings and recognizing the fact that we would still have nuclear waste which must reside somewhere, either forever or until we decided to reprocess the stuff for re-use, and with the help of the media, I think the politicians and the DOE and nuke industry types would have had no choice but to reluctantly go along with the scientific findings.
The media would at this point have forced the issue, and we know how politicians respond to the media. Also, like it or not, we Nevadans would have had to willingly accept and abide by the findings of the scientists. This is probably what our Washington, D.C. delegation is afraid of.
Just think. Our Nevada representatives could have led the charge by going directly to the scientific community and bypassing the enemy politicians and bureaucrats, with the idea of showing the nation that Nevada wanted unvarnished facts and we’re willing to live with unbiased results. There may still be time to do this and go on the offensive for a change.
Personally, I’m confident that the scientific community would opt for the 35,000 ft. depth level in the Pacific Ocean as being the least hazardous over-allocation to permanently store nuclear waste. But if some day we want to reprocess the spent nuclear fuel, and that could be most profitable, then I think Nevada would likely be the scientist’s number one land-based choice for storage. Brace yourselves, good citizens, without scientific intervention, we’re going to get the stuff no matter how many defensive actions our Washington, D.C. delegation chooses to fight.
Bob Thomas is a Carson City businessman, local curmudgeon and former member of the Carson City School Board and Nevada State Assembly.