Letter to Friends of the Earth requesting a statement about nuclear waste
by Russell D. Hoffman, June, 2001
From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: FOE make a statement about nuclear waste?
To: Friends of the Earth
From: Russell Hoffman
Re: Nuclear Waste
Date: June 30th, 2001
To Whom It May Concern:
I wish to suggest that Friends of the Earth take a decisive stand on nuclear waste issues.
First, those who are producing it should pay for whatever we end up doing with it. That's not what's happening. Second, I would say don't move it at all, but nuclear waste near our coasts, near population centers, near rivers, near watersheds, and in lots of other precarious places, will need to be moved once, somehow, although to where, I can't imagine, and how they can move it safely, I know not that either (and will wager, neither does anyone else).
I have written extensively about this problem, for example here are some comments about Yucca Mountain written earlier this month:
And here is a complete table of contents for a set of essays, articles, and correspondence written this month (June, 2001) which culminate (at least as of today) with an FOIA to the NRC regarding crane safety at San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station in San Clemente, California:
As things now stand, the local nuclear power station (known as SONGS because the W (Waste) is ignored) has budgeted about $136,000 in a trust fund for maintenance of the sump pumps and such for up to about 140 Dry Casks of nuclear waste. Each Dry Cask will weigh about 400,000 pounds and be just sitting there waiting for a tsunami, earthquake, or other hazard to break them open and kill Southern California, one of the world's most beautiful coastlines. If that happens, Price-Anderson kicks in and is a fly on a elephant's butt in terms of covering the financial losses, and it won't do Jack to bring back our coast. It will just pay out some money to the families of those who died, and for those who manage to survive but permanently lose their homes, businesses, families, etc.. Fractions of a penny, or at best pennies on the dollar, and no lives or land are brought back by any payment.
But yet, day after day, these utilities create MORE waste, and make tidy profits for the companies that own them, who will never foot the bill for the long-term problem each new gram -- each new milligram -- of waste will be. We have as yet no technological solution to the waste problem after more than 40 years of researching it and millions and millions of dollars.
So I absolutely do think the Friends of the Earth should come out with a strong statement about nuclear waste.
Each day San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station stays open, it produces more than 500 pounds of High Level Radioactive Waste (HLRW) and about a ton of Low Level Radioactive Waste (which is just HLRW with filler added, like steel, cloth, plastic, brass, rubber, glass, etc. etc.).
Unit I was shut down in the early 1990s because a safety retrofit was too expensive. Units II and III are being pushed to the limit, to feed a hungry grid which won't wait the six months or so that it MIGHT take to implement enough renewable energy options to replace these two operating nukes with clean energy. For like it or not, the world needs and will find energy somewhere. Friends of the Earth can pretend the energy problem is solved, and let San Onofre stay open, producing its deadly "Spent Fuel", a euphemism for the deadliest, most complex, most carcinogenic, most fragile pile of junk on Earth. The number of "daughter products" approaches 300 different isotopes, nearly all of them unstable. It's nasty, nasty stuff, ready to burn viciously if it comes in contact with the atmosphere, which must be carefully handled at every step. For thousands and thousands of years.
This is not something Friends of the Earth should be equivocal or silent about.
Instead, it can support alternatives like offshore wind farms, which don't pull oil out of the water or risk irradiating our coasts, or solar panels on existing rooftops, which don't take any land, or solar panels on cropland, special new panels, which allow some sun through so shade crops can be grown right under a hot sun while at the same time energy is being produced for the whole farm and for feeding into the grid -- it can be done. Even wave energy is now feasible with modern pump and compressor technology. These solutions sure beat the alternatives -- coal, oil, and worst of all nuclear. The alternatives we now use for much of our energy production in America.
There is no need to let SON(W)GS continue to operate, daily creating more than 500 pounds of HLRW and about a ton of LLRW, and not even have the Friends of the Earth say "boo". And that goes for the 100+ other nuclear power plants across the country, and the 400+ around the world. The problem of nuclear waste is building rapidly, daily it is getting worse, and immediate action is called for.
Some activists down here in Southern California are working hard to get SON(W)GS to stop producing the waste. We desperately need national organizations to -- at the very least -- make some public position statements which (hopefully) will agree with our basic positions.
Here are some statements about nuclear materials, which were outlined by a friend of mine and reflect comments I've heard from many experts. I hope the Friends of the Earth position will reflect these basic concepts:
1. Nuclear materials are the most hazardous materials on the planet, they are toxic to all living things and in incredibly small doses.
2. Nuclear materials can not be contained, they destroy their containers at the atomic level, there is no force in the universe that can prevent this and thus they will always get out of whatever container they are stored in.
3. In order to build and operate nuclear power plants in such a manner as to prevent nuclear materials from getting away makes them extremely complex, expensive and very difficult to maintain, thus negating the reason for building them in the first place. Not to mention that a single mistake/malfunction in their operation can result in catastrophic results to either the plant or its surroundings or both and since they are operated by humans, eventually there will be these catastrophic mistakes/malfunctions.
4. There is no, and never will be, a satisfactory solution to the problem of disposing of nuclear waste.
-- Excerpted from Arthur Doucette's letter to Russell Hoffman, June, 2001 --
I hope Friends of the Earth will consider these issues and denounce the Nuclear Mafia and their Demon Hot Atom with all it's got.
For an in-depth look at clean energy solutions:
Similar letters were sent to the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations.
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First posted July 1st, 2001.
Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman