Friday, November 16, 2007

Are you a potential Yucca Mtn downwinder? CNN bumps further discussion to cover the important diamonds or pearls for hillary issue ...

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: "No."
Russert: "Period?"
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?


Pursey Tuttweiler said...

I did not see this part of the debate. I only saw snippits. I am glad that Edwards is totally against nukes. I am not surprised to hear that Obama refuses to take a position. I read that the young girl who asked the frilly diamonds and pearls question of Hillary was going to ask about Yucca mountain but the handlers and CNN told her it had been discussed enough and to ask something else. Lightening round hardly counts as discussion. The public needs to hear more about this. Oh, and why is it okay for us to develop nuclear power and not okay for Iran?

D.K. Raed said...

Pursey: nuke storage was discussed enough? The snips I quoted are pretty near the entire discussion! And I HATE lightning rounds. I want real debate, in-depth responses to tough questions. I am so hungry for meaningful responses, I'll even listen to repubs getting equal time. The job of President of the United States should not be decided on a sound-bite interview!

Good question about Iran developing nuclear power -- let's attend the next debate & shout it out if it's not asked! I tried to attend the Vegas debate but was told there were no seats available unless I was a prior caucus delegate or confirmed current caucus delegate. Imagine my surprise as CNN showed many vacant seats, even a whole section on the left-side of the stage. Where is OUR input to these "debates"??? Aren't we real people with real issues?

Larry said...

Those who support this only do so because they aren't subject to living there.

After all their belief is simple" it's all about me."

enigma4ever said...

such a well written post...and so good that someone actually brings up how serious this is..I just cringe when anyone brings up nuclear as a "Clean Green Option".....when I lived in Washington...I had to do alot of research on this....this country is NOT capable of doing it safely or cleanly- they have failed in mulptiple locations around the country...

even attempting to dump rad waste in abandoned mines....

thanks DK- good job...

Cartledge said...

Yukka Mountain? Well named. Research here is showing some really viable alternatives to nuclear, such as natural gas/solar hybrids.
The concept works on smaller local power production sited near users. It is clean safe. But alas, the bigger is better concept is hard to kill off.
In the meantime there is still the question of existing nuclear waste, even before we start producing more,
Perhaps France would like to take it.

Fran said...

Right on dk- Nukes is the dirty, nasty energy source that keeps on giving- foul, dangerous, toxic afterlife. It makes no sense.
Yet they have Nuclear power plants on fault lines, and hell, the president can't even pronounce the word!
I saw a PBS piece on Germany's solar program.
the freeways are lined with solar collectors, the government is doing rebate subsidies, so previously marginal farmland that was not profitable, are solar farms now,,, with negative utility bills & putting out electricity for the muncipality. Major large businesses are installing whole roof solar panels. There is no reason most every house in the us should have solar... water heater, energy collector... it has not yet been made affordable in the US. Solar & Wind are about as clean as you get.

At some point earlier on I was working on saving the trees (big issue in the Pacific NW), one day it dawned on me- the Nukes Issue is the ultimate environmental issue- because what good is saving the trees, if toxic nukes kill the people & planet in the meantime?

This is not delivery of compost we are talking about-- you just know if they start a nuke waste dump (anywhere) it will just be a matter of time before some delivery truck, or railcar, has an accidental spill. You can't contain spilled nuclear waste like you can oil or other substances.

Answering such a serious topic in a lightening round is both insulting and useless at the same time. They may as well ask what is your favorite color?

Forget Yucca mountain-- I think a nuke waste dump would be better in Wyoming... somewhere very close to the Cheney estate, or perhaps Crawford Texas would be a good location?

OK that was snarky.... but let's face it- I think it is safe to say the dump is not going to be in some oil barron tycoon's backyard.

D.K. Raed said...

Larry, you are right, most don't live there ... but they don't have to because a radiation accident flows freely, even reaching those people who thought they were a safe distance/far away.

Thanks, Enigma. I know you know how awful N-Waste can be. It is not clean & certainly not green. The leukemia & thyroid cancer clusters tell the tale. Exposed p.g. women's fetuses disolve in utero! You'd think some of the pro-lifers might be interested in that aspect.

Cartledge: Yucky Yucca! Before being renamed Yucca Mtn, it was known as Frenchman Flat & before that Jackass Flat, so take your pick. I'm surprised the govt euphemism committee hasn't come up with something nice like, Healthy Dream Cache Site.

D.K. Raed said...

Fran: here's an awful truth ... as I'm typing in "nuclear" in this post, I keep almost typing "nuculear" ... I tell ya, the whole country is losing their damn brains after listening that cowboy-hatted mini-brain for 7-yrs!

I am so with you on non-nuke alternative power, esp SOLAR here in the sunny SW. If the Germans are having good success on marginal farmland, we should be wildly successful here -- Germany is not known for its bright, sunny days. I keep thinking back to the first gas shortages in the 70's, how alt energy was all the talk -- and that's how it stayed -- just talk, 35-yrs of talk. If our govt was serious about alt energy, we'd be seeing serious tax credits & incentives for the end-user.

We attended a Solar Home Show here recently & were amazed at what is available. For a $15K initial investment, you will literally be selling electricity back to the utility company every month. Think how many people paying $400/mo to heat their homes in winter would jump at that IF most of the initial cost was subsidized by credits & rebates. Here, we've also got godawful $400/mo summer A/C, so we are also looking at geothermal HVAC units, digging down a few feet underground to tap into those constant 72-degree below-ground temps & blow them through the house.

Oh, an N-Dump near the Cheney or Bush ranch? When we were fighting Divine Strake (the proposed 700-ton open-air bunker buster bomb test) in public meetings here, someone asked why would this admn be pushing blasting at the NV Test Site, kicking up known radioactive dust there; if we need to test a bunker buster, why not test it someplace without so much radioactive soil, such as Texas? To which some squeaky Redhead in the audience had to shout, because the Crawford Ranch is in Texas! Nicely done, almost as if we had been in collusion. Snark moments like that are stress relievers to be treasured.

Fran said...

Ahh so we are in agreement.... Nuke dumps in Crawford & Cheney's back yard. For security reasons, we can say the Nuke dumps are in an undisclosed location. Intriguing!

Pursey Tuttweiler said...

D.K., Fran,
I believe that solar and wind energy are affordable and we just say it is not. There are wind turbines you can buy for a home that powers the electricity as long as the wind is 7-10 miles per hour. If it is under that, the electricity from the power company kicks in, if it is over that, you can watch your little meter selling it back out to the power company, just like you mentioned in the solar. Unflipping believable that Americans are so gullible. I love the solar panel story about Germany, Fran.

enigma4ever said...

I have been looking at this map...and there is one problem..if they had to do an overlay map of Current HOT spots...then they would have even a bigger problem...tracking new vs old fallout....

They'd have to give out geigers to everyone....

D.K. Raed said...

Pursey, here it costs $20K to solarize an avg existing home as quoted by numerous experienced contractors. The panels need a large expanse of southern exposure & are subject to numerous HOA rules about visibility. It's not really something you can do yourself. Our state has a current rebate program that credits about $5K of that. These rebate programs are subject to renewal EVERY year, so virtually no one takes a chance on installation toward the end of the year. But that's still about $15K out of pocket & I'm afraid at that rate, the min payback period of 5-yrs is something most people aren't willing to do. Rental housing owners are MUCH less likely to install it. I really know nothing about wind power; I should read up on it. I've seen the huge wind farms outside of Palm Springs & other places. I think these are public power enterprises.

D.K. Raed said...

Enigma: I saw those current maps of US hot spots. They look like a grid with varying shades from light to hot pink, hot pink being the most contaminated. Sadly, there is hardly a place in the US that is uncontaminated now. I chose to use this old map because it simply tracked the fallout from the Yucca Mtn area & is a pattern we could expect to see again if there was an accident there. Geiger counters ... maybe they should be installed next to the power meters on every home/apt?