Nuclear Waste
Excerpts from an article by Alexander Cockburn in The Nation (July 21/28, 2003) p. 11

The Enemy Within

"There's scarcely a state in the union that hasn't got tanks or barrels of nuclear waste, or decommissioned reactors saturated with radioactive materials. Most Interstates carry trucks hauling mobile Chernobyls around the country.

"We're talking sixty years of U.S. nuclear weapons research, development, testing and production, which has left us with staggering amounts of some of the most dangerous substances on the planet. And that's not even to mention the nuclear utilities...

"All you can do is try to store radioactivity safely and wait for the millenia to roll by until it naturally decays. But of course it's mostly stored in extremely unsafe and vulnerable conditions.

"You live in Texas? There's the Pantex plant, producing nuclear weapons. In Colorado? You've got Rocky Flats. Flee to the clean breezes of the Pacific Northwest? Whoa! Here's the Hanford nuclear reservation, with 177 tanks, each containing a million gallons of radioactive waste, of which sixty-seven are known to have leaked at some point. How about Idaho? Camp in the hills, cheek by jowl with the militia holdouts. Sorry, you've got the National Engineering lab up the road, where intensely radioactive waste was converted to dry form for "permanent" storage nearly forty years ago but now has to be extracted and repackaged.

"Head for the heartland, and you can find the Fernald plant in Ohio, whose career history includes cumulative "release" of at least 500 tons of toxic uranium dust, kept secret for many years. Turn south into Kentucky, and there, across the horizon, is the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Watch where you drink. A 1,300-acre underground plume of Technetium-99 (a uranium-decay product) is migrating toward the Ohio River at the rate of several inches a day. The DOE has identified more than 5,700 such plumes of various kinds of contamination under or near its sites across the country...

"And don't forget, we're heading for a new phase in the itinerary to Armageddon. The DOE now proposes building a new plant to manufacture 450 plutonium "pits" (nuclear triggers) a year...

"..the government has been doing its best down the years to damp troublesome public discussion of these dangers...

"Now that he's stepped down from his U.N. job, why not have a nonprofit foundation invite Hans Blix and a few other veteran inspectors to start touring the United States, assessing the risks posed by WMDs here? They could make well-publicized "surprise inspections," hold hearings, take evidence from local groups, issue public reports, build up pressure on the Department of Homeland Security to force the government to get serious about containing America's gravest and most deadly internal threat."


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