Prague Twin

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Skull Valley Utah

In case you haven't heard, Utah's Skull Vallley Goshutes have won approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow a private consortium of out-of-state utility companies known as Private Fuel Storage to store some 40,000 tons of nuclear waste on their land. (Here are some fun facts.)

The Goshutes do not have to meet the same standards as private land owners because of their reservation's sovereign area status. However, the Bureau of Land Management has stepped in to block the proposed deal.

Most recently, Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett have blasted PFS's security plans for a transfer station.

The plan looks to be dead largely due to the government's objection to having it close to Dungway Proving Grounds, the United States center for chemical and biological defense. This is an extremely sensitive area for the government, and they probably don't want a lot of added attention being focused there. Imagine all the protests when the waste actually starts being shipped just 45 miles south of Salt Lake City. Also, evironmentalists are trying to fear-monger suggesting that the nearby Utah Test and Training Range tests fighter planes over that area, and one could crash into the storage facitlity. As unlikely as that is, initially it got some traction.

The Las Vegas Sun reports...

In an interview, Carpenter said the BLM cannot make a decision to authorize the construction of a Skull Valley rail line over government land because of restrictions Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, wrote into a 2000 defense appropriations bill.

Hansen's provision blocked the bureau from changing a land-use plan to grant a right of way across government land for the rail line. The Bureau of Land Management can't act until the Pentagon studies how proposed wilderness areas for Utah's west desert might affect operations at the Utah Test and Training Range. The Pentagon is nowhere near starting the study.

So the BLM was trying to block the project by creating wilderness area on the transport route, but the Pentagon first has to show that this will not affect their operations. Since this will probably never happen, Hatch and Bennett are trying to kill it with security concerns: more fear-mongering.

I'm not a huge fan of nuclear power because of the waste. 20% of the United States' electricy is generated by nuclear power. However, there is currently 77,000 tons of waste that needs a home for the next 10,000 years. The consortium trying to get the contract to store some 60% of that estimates that the cost to store it for the next 40 years will be 3.1 Billion dollars. Is nuclear power really that cheap when you consider waste desposal?

This case shows how everyone, including the Feds, are suffering from NIMBY syndrome. No one wants the waste in their back yard, not even if your back yard is the place where you develop and destroy chemical weapons. (Sounds like a pretty good fit to me.)

It also shows how the debates around these issues, and the government reactions to them are largely straw-man arguments being stood up in lieu of the real concerns that need to be addressed. So instead of taking on the issue as a whole, we argue about whether or not a proposed transfer point where the steel casks of nuclear waste are loaded onto trucks is safe from terrorist attack.

Is that really the issue here?


  • There's so much hypocrisy on the energy issue. Orin Hatch is one of those senators who would be applauding the deal if it were happening in Alaska or Washington State, but he's not so big on having it near him and his voting constituents. Ted Kennedy is a big proponent of wind power but he's fighting the installation of wind turbines in Cape Cod because they will ruin the visual environment and place birds at risk. The reality is that wherever the turbines go they will ruin the visual environment and place birds at risk. Kennedy just doesn't want them near him and his voting constituents.

    As you say, NIMBY. I can understand that. I don't want to live near a nuclear power plant either. I suppose that makes me a hypocrite too (althought I'm not a big proponent of nuclear power - I would prefer to pay more for energy and use safer sources.) On the other hand, my sister lives down the street from a nuclear power plant and doesn't seem to give it much thought. God bless her. Every time I looked out the window and saw the plant I'd be thinking about Jack lemmon in The China Syndrome.

    By Blogger reality-based educator, at 3:17 PM  

  • The point you make about Hatch is a good one. That thought was floating around in my head, but I didn't really explore it that much.

    The thing about NIMBY is that, yes, of course it is understandable. So when we propose a system, we have to realize that this system doesn't occur "over there," it occurs in an American's back-yard. Refineries are the best and most currently important example of this basic problem.

    I went to school up in Humboldt where they have a reactor in a 30 year shut down mode after they discovered it had been built on a fault line. As crazy as that sounds, you get used to it being there. At first you are like "Holy Shit!" but after a while you just accept it. Why anyone chose the north coast of California (or pretty much anywhere in California) to build nuclear power plants is beyond me. If the big one hits, whether or not it is actually on a fault line will be of little relevance.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 8:03 PM  

  • Somebody built a power plant on a fault line in Humboldt County?

    Yikes! I gather they didn't know there was a fault line present until after the plant was built. How long was it in operation before it went into shut down mode?

    I attended Stony Brook University for a couple of years, which is near Shoreham nuclear power plant. Shoreham is in shut down mode to because millions of people would be stuck on an irradiated Long Island if anything ever happened to it. SB also has it's own little reactor which was found to be leaking a little while ago. And the old SB president, John Marburger, is now George W. Bush's chief science officer, where he actively works to promote global warming (snark).

    I have a friend in Humboldt County, btw, works as a general practioner. He's originally from LA, he did his residency in Portland and moved to Humboldt. He loves it there. I always wanted to visit. If I ever do go, I will definitely visit the power plant built on the fault line.

    By Blogger reality-based educator, at 4:33 AM  

  • Yea, they found out later. It is right on Humboldt bay not far from the Junior College that I went to. They use the bay to cool the reactor. For a while, it heated up the bay so much that the salmon flooded the bay, and you could pull two foot salmon out with a basic rod standing on the shore all day long.

    Of course, now the salmon are pretty much gone, but for a variety of reasons, logging being the major one.

    I think it only ran for a few years before they had to shut it down, but the shutdown takes like 30 years or something. Then you still have to take all the materials off sight, which is extremely difficult.

    It is great up there. I loved it. The only bad thing was the "chog" from the paper mills (the cloud of smoke that floated over the city). I hear those are closed down now.

    That and about 200 days of rain per year (at least).

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 11:20 AM  

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