Friday, February 27, 2009

The fallacy in Obama's logic regarding Yucca Mountain

February 27th, 2009

Dear Readers,

So far, I like the Obama Administration. It's not just that "nobody could possibly be worse than Bush!" which, I think, is pretty close to true, but I approve of Obama's stated ideas on many topics. And, of course, he's intelligent, articulate, eloquent, and he's the best man for the job, undoubtedly.

And I was pleased as punch when nuclear power didn't even get a nod or a wink in his big budget speech to Congress this week.

As the topic -- or would-be topic -- approached, we held our breath. We listened. Wind energy. Check. Solar. Check. Motionless, we waited. NO MENTION! It went unsaid! He's on to autos and fuel efficiency and so on -- it's past. The moment it would have been said has past! He didn't even say nuclear has to be "part of the mix" or anything! Yeah! We high-fived. We cheered.

But will his actions even begin to match his unspoken words? Within a day or so, a new ruling on Yucca Mountain came down: Stop everything. Well, almost everything. Everything except the license applications filed in the last year (say what?). Well, anyway, stop something. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is happy. He, of course, being from Nevada, never liked Yucca Mountain and basically has been elected over and over, on that platform.

Harry Reid's response to citizens who are worried about Yucca Mountain is this: Safe on-site storage of nuclear waste is the way to go. Those states that produced it should eat it. (Okay, he didn't say "eat it" in his letter to a constituent I was shown, but he did say that states can and should keep their waste "on site" which AMOUNTS TO THE SAME THING.)

On-site storage of nuclear waste is extremely hazardous and should not be permitted anywhere. Doubt me? You can actually read a number of technical reports about "dry casks," and spent fuel pools. You can read about the transportation vehicles which would have moved the waste to Yucca Mountain (and might yet). You can read about the size of a potential accident, and it can be quite overwhelming to think about. And yet.

And yet, what you read will be a lie, because, if you dig DEEPER into the records, you'll find that the "postulated accident" only releases, for example, 0.01% (less than a single percent of a single percent) of the total fuel inventory being transported in ONE container, or being stored in ONE dry cask. And a vastly smaller portion of a spent fuel pool is EVER postulated to be exposed to air, to catch fire, to burn unquenchably.

These studies are not realistic. They do not reflect every-day hazards our dry casks, spent fuel pools, and spent fuel transportation vehicles can experience. They are LIES.

So that's the first reason that Obama's "stop-work" order regarding Yucca Mountain is insufficient and thus, illogical and dangerous.

The second reason is that the Yucca Mountain scientists were told they could come up with anything -- THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO STICK TO THE YUCCA MOUNTAIN PROPOSAL.

The Yucca Mountain team considered deep sea disposal (no retrieval if it isn't working), space-based disposal (way, way, WAY too risky), different kinds of geological burial and ice burial (it would -- duh -- melt the ice), and EVEN on-site storage.

In fact, the only thing they weren't allowed to study was a similar disposal plan in a different location.

Now remember, we had already spent tens of billions of dollars trying to solve the waste problem before Yucca Mountain was first picked as the nation's ONLY nuclear waste repository. And we've spent around $100 billion altogether now, and Obama wants us to start the whole search over again, as if no progress had ever been made?

As Thomas Edison famously said, we've learned thousands of things that don't work. In terms of nuclear waste storage, we've learned that vitrification doesn't work, storage tanks don't work, pools don't work, casks don't work, nothing works. And so-called "recycling" or reprocessing is a hoax -- a dirty way to get bomb-grade isotopes and some very dirty reactor fuel called MOX out of the waste stream.

But the questions is: Why haven't we learned to stop making more nuclear waste? (The answer is greed.)

And the third reason Obama's logic has a serious fallacy is that there is NO safe solution because of sound scientific reasons. ANY containment would be destroyed by the radiation contained within. A simple look at any energy spectrum diagram shows the problem quite clearly.

So what CAN you do besides, as the saying goes, "truck it 50 miles onto Indian territory and dump it!"

The only logical thing to do right now is to stop making more waste.

Instead (for example), at the South Texas Project (STP) nuclear facility, the French government, in collusion with the nuclear power plant's current owners and other local businesses, is planning to build two new and very large nuclear reactors. This isn't to save money for the local residents, it's to make money for the local businesses, at the EXPENSE of the local residents -- and all others. Making more of the very waste we already have no idea what to do with is how AREVA / EDF / FRANCE will make money and, perhaps more importantly for them, CONVINCE CHINA to also buy some of the same reactors.

What they are doing is a simple and well-known technique: They go to China and say, "See what a GREAT IDEA THIS IS -- after all, they're doing it in Texas!" and at the exact same time, they go to Texas and say, "See what a GREAT IDEA THIS IS -- after all, they're doing it in China!"

Meanwhile, they tell the whole world, "See what a GREAT IDEA THIS IS -- after all, they're doing it in both the United States and in China! So obviously, it MUST be a good idea!"

So you see, we have to stop STP. Not just the two proposed new reactors, but the currently-operating reactors, too, which are producing waste with nowhere to store it. Even in a state as big as Texas.

Texas has wind. Texas has solar. Texas has rivers. Texas even has oil. What do they need nuclear for?


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA