Letter: Seeking an honest discussion about nuclear waste
There are so many errors, half truths, and omitted issues from the opinion column "end the nuclear waste fiasco" by industry insider Herbert Inhaber (August 8) , it is hard to know where to begin.
First, the hopefully permanent death of the proposed Yucca Mountain waste storage site was due to more than the objections of the people of Nevada, including serious issues with using sovereign Native American land for transport. Scientists studying the site have found that groundwater intrusion could infiltrate the site, become radioactive, and pollute the water table, within a period less than 1,000 years, making it unsuitable.
Inhaber also states that we need only plan to isolate this waste for "a millennium," due to the fact that 1,000 years ago, "the New World was just a Viking legend." How is that statement relevant in any way to the many thousands of years of toxicity of nuclear waste? Political changes will never alter the ugly fact that this man-made substance is toxic for at least 10,000 years. If there is life on earth, this poison needs to be isolated from the world.
Most importantly, Inhaber neglects the same issue all industry supporters try to forget: the terrible condition of the United States' infrastructure. If this waste is transported, it will be in casks weighing multiple tons. The Department of Energy's plan is to use the aging, accident prone, and unimproved railroad lines going over old and unimproved bridges to transport this stuff thousands of miles. Most train lines travel through the center of major cities. One accident could cause the evacuation of millions of people. As many lies as trump told on the campaign trail about improving our crumbling infrastructure, not a dime has been allocated in more than six months or Republican rule. And they hate trains.
The very idea that a state government will "win" an auction bid to host nuke waste is completely ignoring the facts of environmental injustice. A state government could sell a site including traditional Native American land, or a site near a poor, powerless community. This does not make it a reasonable process, unless the "auction" were to include the voices of those who would be forced to live with toxic nuclear waste, or to leave their homes. Those people should also be the recipients of this bribe.
There is no good solution for nuclear waste, as it is too toxic for a flawed civilization to protect through eternity. But, we can at least hope for an honest discussion and a government and industry that care more about health and safety than expedience.
Putney, Aug. 8
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