September 22nd, 2016
To the Editor, Orange County Register:
The following letter was sent to Teri Sforza yesterday, after her latest article about SanO's waste problem was published.
"...Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee – who dearly wants to see more reactors as part of a clean energy future..."
There is nothing "clean" about nuclear power. You could have worded that sentence this way (change in CAPS):
"...Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee – who dearly wants to see more reactors as part of a WHAT HE BELIEVES WOULD BE A clean energy future..."
But you didn't.
You also claimed that the Texas and New Mexico proposed "temporary" (I use that word sarcastically) nuclear waste sites "could be up and running while the prickly question of finding a location for a permanent repository...is hashed out."
There are at least two problems with that statement: First of all, there is no reason to believe the "temporary" sites will actually ever come to fruition-- if if they do, that they would in fact be temporary. There are changes to a variety of laws protecting citizens for outsiders imposing waste dumps on them that would have to be made, and the transportation infrastructure would need to be rebuilt to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars for the roads and rails to be safe enough for such transport. Additionally, liability for the waste would have to be transferred to the storage locations, or the utilities will refuse the deal, since, as Tom Palmisano has stated, in his refusal to consider even sending SanO's waste to Palo Verde (with its much sparser population density, and no tsunami risk and very little earthquake risk), which SCE is a part owner of, that SCE does not want to be held legally responsible for the waste when they cannot control how well it is managed. So either the "temporary" site will have to accept the liability along with the waste -- which no sane company would do -- or there would have to be significant and complex changes to the laws governing liability for nuclear waste.
And this all ignores the additional fact that the majority of citizens of every state in the union do not desire to become the nation's nuclear waste repository.
Second of all, what you call the "root of the present paralysis" in finding a permanent waste site is not something that can simply be "hashed out." Rather, it is something that cannot be scientifically resolved at all! It is, in a word, impossible to find a safe permanent solution. Your article strongly implies otherwise. But if you were around (which as far as I know, you weren't) for the Yucca Mountain hearings, you would have heard about the ~300 science-based objections to Yucca Mountain by Nevada's experts, and dozens more by California's experts, and hundreds more by citizens around the country -- and if you had been around even longer ago, you would have learned that Yucca Mountain was chosen because every other site in the country had already been rejected for other reasonable reasons: Too close to population centers, unstable ground, water tables flowing past them that provide drinking water to millions of people, tornadoes, tsunamis...and yes, there was also, and always will be, enormous public opposition to having a site nearby. Nobody wants this waste and that's never going to change.
Also disappointing and indicating bias was your statement, regarding reactors in California, that: "All are shut down, or will close shortly..." DCNPP is not scheduled to close until 2025, and there is in fact no binding agreement that guarantees it will close even then. In the meantime, it will produce, if it doesn't melt down, millions of pounds of additional nuclear waste, none of which has any possibility of safe storage. The fact is: DCNPP is neither "scheduled to close" and certainly not "shortly." It has made an offer, which it does not have to act on ever, and which Mothers for Peace, for example -- the longest-running intervenor at DCNPP (or perhaps anywhere) refused to be a party to, in part because there's nothing binding about it.
Lastly, I was disappointed that your article didn't discuss a topic which Tom Palmisano had said, at the most recent SCE/CEP meeting last week, was the most critical issue in storing nuclear waste: Avoiding criticality events. None of the "temporary" sites have any plan whatsoever to render a criticality event impossible: They are all (including the ~70 current "temporary" waste sites in America, including all in California) vulnerable to airplane strikes and terrorism, not to mention earthquakes and, for coastal "temporary" sites (like SanO and DCNPP), tsunamis. Any of these events are capable of causing a criticality event in spent fuel, because "spent" fuel is only financially no longer viable fuel: There is still plenty of fissile material in it.
But neutralizing the U-235 and Pu-239 WOULD make criticality events impossible, and that can be done using laser-produced photons in the 10 to 15 MeV range. Doing so would not only make criticality events impossible, and render extraction of bomb-making material impossible too, but it would also reduce the required storage time from about half a million years to a "mere" 600 or so -- nearly three times the life of this nation so far, but still a far more manageable and understandable length of time than how long any other waste "solution" must be projected out. (After that time, the fuel would be only about four times more dangerous than so-called "depleted" uranium, still not puff-pastry, but far less dangerous than fission products and/or fissile materials.)
Without neutralization, we are talking about lengths of time far longer than the pyramids have stood. Far longer than man has walked erect. Far longer than any imaginable building or facility will last.
Instead, Dianne Feinstein is demanding that some poverty-stricken community take the waste -- for a bribe ($25 million has already been set aside by the DOE for downpayments on those bribes) -- in order to somehow cause the rest of the country to "accept" nuclear power and believe it is "safe" in spite of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima and 1,000 close calls besides those events.
The real lesson of Yucca Mountain is that safe storage of nuclear waste is impossible, and creating more of it is irresponsible.
If you're going to write pro-nuclear articles, you should apply for work with the Nuclear Energy Institute, the World Nuclear Association or the International Atomic Energy Association, the latter of which has always claimed to be unbiased, but isn't, in part due to the information it considers. As a recent article in the Times of London put it, nuke plants are guilty of "not reporting to national regulators [about accidents], regulators not reporting to the IAEA, & the IAEA not reporting at all." They'll accept your biased statements without question. The OCR should not.
If you are going to write for an American newspaper, please be fair and balanced, factual and unbiased in any direction.
Link to Times article cited above:
Link to OCR article: