Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No More Nukes!


Glenn at Pax Americana informs that he's just begun a series of stories on nuclear waste. Check it out.

Thank you, Bart Gordon:
Tennessee Congressman Bart Gordon is urging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission not to allow foreign radioactive waste into the United States.

An American company called Energy Solutions wants to import 20-thousand tons of waste from decommissioned nuclear power plants in Italy. The material would be processed in Tennessee at Oak Ridge, then hauled to the company’s dump in Utah.

Gordon says that would set a precedent the nation can’t afford.

“It reduces our capacity to maintain the waste stream here in the United States, and quite frankly, we don’t have an adequate amount of storage here. Makes no sense to me that we would waste our limited storage capacity on foreign waste when virtually every country in the world does not allow foreign waste to come into their countries.”

And Gordon warns, if the existing American facilities fill up, there will again be pressure to create a dump in Oak Ridge.

You know what I love about this story? That there’s a company calling itself Energy “Soutions” claiming it’s

“solving the problems of global warming and energy dependence in addition to cleaning up the environmental consequences of the cold war.”

No, you’re not! You aren’t “solving” anything. You’re moving nuclear waste around the globe. That’s not a solution, that’s a huge problem! How’s this stuff supposed to get here, anyway--container ship? And since when has America The Beautiful been Europe’s radiocative dumping ground, anyway? It’s bad enough we have China dumping their toxic waste here in the form of pet food and children’s toys.

Calling nuclear energy a solution to global warming is laughable. At its most basic, global warming is a waste problem: greenhouse gases are the waste produced by burning fossil fuels. What’s the big problem with nuclear energy? Dealing with radioactive waste. Europe hasn’t figured out how to do it--that’s why they want to send their junk here. There is no “solution,” not yet, and until there is one, we shouldn’t be trading one global energy waste problem for another.

Nuclear energy is also one of the most heavily subsidized industries we have. Free market advocates take note: Without the intervention of the U.S. government nuclear energy wouldn’t exist. The reason is the Price Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act, passed into law in 1957 and renewed ever since (most recently in 2005). The act basically acknowledges the potential for widespread, catostrophic damages from a serious nuclear accident, the cost of which would be far beyond the reach of any energy company to pay for. Price-Anderson provides a pool of money, primarily from the government although industry contributes, to cover the costs of insuring nuclear reactors.

When this legislation was first conceived back in the 1950s, nuclear energy was a scary new technology that no private insurance company would touch. Everyone expected that to change once the nuclear industry proved itself with a strong safety record, so the bill was set to expire in 1967. Except, of course, nuclear energy never did prove itself not to be the scary technology we all have every right to fear; the bill has been renewed repeatedly, because private insurance companies won’t go near it.

Have I mentioned I hate insurance companies? Here’s one case where I think they’re right on. Say what you will, but the insurance industry knows about risk.

Back when I was a young pup, working toward a degree in environmental science, nuclear energy was a hot button issue. Industry types and politicians tried to tell us it was our only path to energy independence. I call bullshit. It is a path, but not the right one. It has all the same problems that we have with fossil fuels, save the fact that “our” uranium isn’t under “their” sand. Instead, it’s in Australia, Niger and Namibia. And the open-pit uranium mines are an environmental disaster:

Lovely, yes?

(h/t, Volunteer Voters)