Wednesday, June 18, 2008

McCain and Nukes: A Supersized Bad Combo

I am rarely surprised to read a politically inept comment, but I admit my jaw dropped today when reading McCain's statement proposing more nuclear power for the United States--his proposed "interim" solution to the energy problem included this statement: "It's a NIMBY (not in my backyard) problem, and a waste-disposal problem. It is not a technological problem," he said.

McCain proposes 45 more plants by 2030 (WAY too late, by the way), and another 60 "later". If it wasn't so life-threatening, it would be laughable both in terms of doing NOTHING (in reality), and proposing something so stunningly bizarre and antiquated.

In the world of credibility, McCain just dropped 100 floors at the speed of gravity. Why? Because his vision is plain wrong for both economic and environmental reasons, not to mention that there simply is not enough uranium to support his nuclear fantasy... unless, of course, one has reprocessing in mind to extend the absurdity a little farther, creating a whole bunch more waste and environmental problems. And this assessment avoids his obvious lack of vision. I accuse him of all three things.

Here, I want to deal pretty much exclusively with the waste issue. THAT is not a technological problem. It is an impossible problem. As my dad, who worked on the Manhattan project, told me before he died, "We never thought about the waste."

Yep, I know Dad. You left that to your daughter. Thanks.

Welcome to the late 1940s-1950s folks. Whip out your nuclear toasters. Sit down, and shut up because we're in for a helluva ride. Never mind those little snafus that we already know about. Keep your arms in the car and put your blinders on.

McCain's vision is no vision. Worse, it is a lie. It is the rehashing of failure dressed in false hope with justice's blindfold pasted awkwardly on the past. One can only surmise that McCain is either incredibly stupid (entirely possible), has extremely out-of-touch (not true), but well-connected industry policy makers and policy wonks (absolutely true), is a liar (true, imho), or he absolutely has NO PLAN for dealing with the (hardly new!) energy crisis and global warming realities because he cannot drag his sorry butt into this century and face the severe current realities which have existed for decades (true).

Drip. Drip, drip, drip. Drip.

The best way to describe nuclear power and it's far-reaching absurdities in terms of waste is to picture your kitchen sink trap with a constant leak that you cannot see or repair. Drip. Drip. Drip, drip, drip. Drip. The puddle cannot be wiped up. It cannot be pumped out. It cannot be decontaminated (whatever is used to pump and/or decontaminate one thing or area is waste which contaminates another). Drip. Drip. No amount of plugging, lining (which actually makes things worse in some instances), lying, praying, or talking it to death helps. Drip. Drip, drip, drip. It is carried by water, but contaminates otherwise, as well. Water rich environments are a disaster. Dry environments, while having different problems, are likewise a disaster.

It is a fact that every single so-called "low-level" radioactive waste dump (and dumps are what they are) in the United States leaks. Period. Drip. This low-level waste, by curie, originates largely from nuclear power plants (just about everything but the fuel rods themselves). Drip, drip. This shallow land burial approach has completely failed, and new "low-level" dumps have been fought off successfully in every state where proposed, despite the absurd state compacting concept where one or more states sometimes far... far... apart (e.g. Texas and Vermont) would compact together with one of the states proposing a dump for their state. (Note in this case, Texas, under Governor Ann Richards, was the culprit. Ironically, it WAS Governor George Bush--yep, true--that stopped it but not without years of work by Texas citizens. Even Kay Bailey Hutchison was opposed... I know--I drove halfway across Texas to deliver the information to her door in her first run for office. I never thought of Ann Richards as stupid, but in this case, I changed my mind. Her staff was strangely immovable on the matter.)

And why are failed radioactive waste dumps bad? Because plants uptake the radioactivity, animals then uptake it as well, and eventually humans. It gets into groundwater and poisons it.

Radioactivity is not visible, not detectable to the nose, tongue or ears. It is a silent killer. And unlike radioactive waste's transparency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is anything but transparent.

For decades, for instance, small savvy anti-nuclear groups like NIRS (Nuclear Information Resource Service), based in Washington DC, Committee to Bridge the Gap (Santa Monica, CA), and groups of scientists such as the infamous John Goffman (UC Berkley) and Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D., president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (Washington DC), and international environmental groups such as Greenpeace have taken the NRC to task to protect the public's health and safety because the NRC either can't or won't. Your tax dollars at work.

Further, entire underground water basins can be rendered undrinkable for eternity. Drip. And this when global warming threatens the already dry states where water wars are well known (e.g. the Colorado River wars and Los Angeles v. Mono Lake) and the majority of water storage and future water is subterranean where these kinds of dumps, because of more desert environs, are usually proposed. Drip.

Not coincidentally, these dumps are often, also, proposed on Native American lands or their sacred lands. This has been true in the Southwestern Low Level Radioactive Waste Compact (CA, AZ, ND, and SD), in Utah, and in Minnesota just for starters. The Nevada "high-level waste dump also involves native lands as does the New Mexico facility. Drip, drip.

The US still cannot get the US/Native American sovereignty relationship right. First we kill them, then we take their land, then we make sure they live in poverty, then we take their kids, then we steal their BIA funds, then we pollute their land. Drip. Drip. Add more social and environmental genocide via their proposals on Native lands for radioactive waste dumps.

McCain has also advocated for more shelf drilling on the coasts, which should make the California hotel/motel/tourista industry take notice as they did when previously proposed under CA Governor Wilson (who was a San Diego Mayor prior to this, um, "role"). In California all I can say is... it ain't gonna happen. Our crowded and water polluted beaches don't need more oil. Further more, 80% or so of the permits that are already approved are not being acted upon. There are serious infrastructural problems with off shore drilling.

I remember Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (from the wacky "behind the orange curtain" California county) standing with his back to the 1990 oil spill in Huntington Beach in a television interview advocating for more oil rigs off the coast while white-toxic-suited volunteers were plucking oily, dead or nearly dead sea birds and mammals off the shoreline. But then, consider the source. When you have a history of Bob Dornan (aka "HIV is caused by airborne spores") and Rohrabacher, it pretty much invalidates any heavy lifting being done by the cerebral cortex in their vicinity.

So... can we move on now and just call McCain what he is? Out of touch and 60 years behind the curve. Most certainly, he is not the visionary we need for the next president. I got off his bus when he supported torture, but he just keeps piling on the reasons.

Go McCain go. Just keep talking. You are handing the election to Obama.