Letter: There is no solution to the problem of nuclear waste
Usually I ignore the false and misleading writings of those in the current and former employ of the nuclear industry, but the strange ideas put forth by Howard Shaffer on Nov. 21 ("Don't fall for the fear") stretch credibility too far.
The concept that the only problem with radiation is "an intentional fear campaign started to stop atmospheric nuclear weapons testing" is insane. Decades of research, as well as so many cancers and birth defects associated with radiation exposure, have shown again and again that ionizing radiation is not healthy. The atomic industry even has a self-created and science-free idea that low level radiation exposure is healthy. Shaffer says of radiation: "too much is deadly, just like oxygen," implying that radiation above that in our natural habitat is a necessity of life like the air we breathe. Really?
Shaffer also follows the company line when he refers to nuclear waste, the most toxic and long lasting poison in the world, as "used commercial fuel." The nuclear industry is now in retreat due to the fact that the power produced is far above the price we pay for renewable energy or that of natural gas, and that nobody wants a new reactor in their community. Those of us who are working for a clean and green future have been promoting renewables in part because they do not leave the legacy of plutonium and the many other lethal byproducts of the nuclear industry.
The very idea that apologists for this industry would claim that opponents block every solution is absurd. Having spent much time studying the limited alternatives available to the world for isolating this poison, we have no great solutions. Eventually disposing of our toxins "overseas" is not even being currently discussed. Our oceans are already laden with radioactivity, most disastrously from the ongoing dumping of millions of gallons of radioactive water at Fukushima. The industry is trying to solve this intractable problem as cheaply as possible, and without even admitting that isolating this garbage is a massive, endless problem with no perfect solution. Moving waste over roads, train tracks or on water is always risky. Storage in place can be done more safely than leaving exposed, low tech casks on the shore of the Connecticut River, and in fact is done better in Europe, and even in some other parts of the US. Moving the waste might be acceptable if it was going to a scientifically studied deep level repository, in a well compensated community, where this garbage will gone forever. However, the current administration would rather get huge tax breaks for the wealthiest than spend the resources needed to strengthen our transportation system, so transport has some serious dangers.
We will be discussing the fate of the waste on the river bank for years to come. We need to be honest about what it is and how to protect our community from exposure. We can do better than pretending this stuff is healthy for our children and grandchildren.
Putney, Nov. 21
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