For me, one of the many disappointing things about the Nov 15th CNN Democratic "Debate" in Las Vegas was the exchange about Yucca Mountain, currently being constructed apprx 90-miles NW of Vegas. Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository is a planned one-stop nuke shit-site for our nation's nuclear waste. If it ever becomes operational, you will be shipping all your locally produced nuclear waste products thousands of miles by road & rail to be buried in the Nevada desert. You may think that once it is gone from your neighborhood, you are safe. Let me assure you, nothing could be further from the truth ... because there is NO safe solution for nuclear waste!
Yucca Mountain is located within the Nevada Test Site, where almost 1,000 above- and below-ground nuclear tests were conducted between 1951 and 1992. The "sneeze map" above shows actual nuclear fallout as it escaped the Test Site during some of those years and entered the prevailing jet stream. And don't think you are safe in central California up through the Pacific Northwest just because you didn't get sneezed on during those years. The winds do not always blow west to east, as the recent California Wildfires fueled by Santa Ana winds prove. This map only shows airborne fallout patterns. Any nuclear storage site will also be subject to leakage and seepage, both above and below ground, with contamination effects lasting over 24,000 years (to put that into perspective, we were painting wooly mammoths on the cave walls of Lascaux 20,000 yrs ago). Leaking containers, rotting structures, earth movement, subsidance, water table changes, floods, major climate changes, deliberate sabotage & terrorist magnets are only some of the problems that could compromise a storage site in a 24,000-yr timeframe. And that doesn't even begin to address the basic problem of shipping nuclear waste through America's small towns & big cities, the possible accidents along the way that could result in vast contamination areas.
I guess you can tell that I have a personal interest in this matter. Having grown up in Las Vegas and currently residing in SW Utah, I have some knowledge of the continuing problems faced by Downwinders. The atomic tests were a fact of life for me. Hey Mom, what's that noise, why is the ground swaying? Oh, they are conducting a test today, want to go watch the next one? Everybody is invited! You can read a few eye-witness accounts and resultant health nightmares from people who were considered "a low use segment of the population" in an excellent well-referenced article called "Killing Our Own" (warning: scroll thru the references, but it's still a lengthy article that you won't be able to stop reading). The photo at the beginning of this paragraph is the most infamous of the above-ground radioactive blasts, dubbed Dirty Harry, a 32-Kiloton device fired from a tower at the Nevada Test Site on May 19, 1953, as part of Operation Upshot/Knothole. See photos of other nuclear tests here. Such pretty pictures, such a deadly heritage.
Back to the CNN Blitzer-hosted "debate": What irritated me was the soft-nuke answers provided by the two candidates who actually were allowed to answer. Obama said "I don't think nuclear power is necessarily our best option, but it has to be part of our energy mix", later citing "solar, wind, biodiesel, clean coal and superior nuclear technology". Richardson, drawing on his Secretary of Energy experience, wants to "turn Yucca Mountain into a national laboratory ... to find a way to safely dispose of nuclear waste". Sorry, Obama and Richardson, I see NO solution to the disposal of nuclear waste; therefore, I do not think nuclear power or Yucca Mountain are options at all.
A little more pleasing was this exchange, in September, when Tim Russert moderated the Democratic Candidate's "Debate" at Dartmouth. From the 30-second lightning round:
Russert: "Mr. Edwards, would you be in favor of developing more nuclear power here in the U.S.?"
Edwards: ... "in less than 30-seconds."
Russert: "Obama, nuclear power?"
Obama: ..."can't take it off the table ... have to store it properly & safely ..."
Russert: "Congressman Kucinich?"
Kucinich: ... "they never factor in the cost of storage, which continues FOREVER ..."
Well, I'm afraid we need much more dialogue than that! I'm afraid there is too much temptation to consider nuclear power as just another alternative energy source & possible solution to global warming. Many do not want to face up to the reality of the cost and technical challenges of waste disposal. We all need to understand that ill-thought out choices today will leave future generations with a legacy of nuclear waste that could even dwarf global warming issues.
America is certainly not alone in this situation. France keeps a low profile on its nuclear program, emphasizing only the positive aspect of independence from fossil fuels. However, France is no nearer than we are in deciding what to do, either with their own nuke waste, or other European countries' waste they were originally so eager to store. At least Europe is also investing heavily in solar, wind and biofuels. Russia and its former satellite republics have huge stocks of nuclear waste, most of it military. China? Well, call me dubious, but I don't trust a country that sends us lead-painted mercury-filled toys & goods produced in contaminated worker environments, to safely store their nuclear waste, either.
In my opinion, nuclear power is neither viable nor an option. No community wants to live near a nuclear power plant or deal with the waste. And attempting to route our nation's nuclear waste to Nevada is not a solution. Think of what is already in the Nevada ground and ready to be reborn should the Yucca Mountain project ever suffer an accident. Look at the sneeze-map again. Ah-chooh!
And, what if there is a radiation transportation incident in your area? Each state has its own program, but here is the Dick & Jane style three-point DHS and DOT (I'm-seriously-not-making-this-up) advice on how to limit your exposure:
TIME: Limit time spent around the radiation source.
DISTANCE: Increase distance from the radiation source.
SHIELDING: Increase shielding from the radiation source with protective barriers such as building walls ---------------------- D.K. note: that comforting advice sounds like, get into your lead-lined DeLorean & drive like a bat out of hell, BEFORE the radiation incident occurs, so you can get BACK! to the Future!!! Oh ho-hum, I suppose they will also raise the terrorist alert level to RED, which should help a bunch. What do you think?