As hard as it may be to believe – especially for those of the Republican persuasion – every time President George W. Bush has a brainstorm, I get a splitting headache.
Take the Bush Administration’s latest master stroke of alternative thinking – the acquisition and recycling of other countries’ radioactive fuel wastes.
According to a recent Washington Post report, the multidecade plan would involve reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from other nations’ civilian reactors to help bolster the United States’ nuclear energy capabilities in the future.
See what I mean? A splitting headache every time.
This might be a great idea if the United States were another country on, perhaps, another planet in a different time. We are, however, talking about the good old U.S.A. right here and now – a country that has had more than its share of problems recycling things like aluminum beer cans, discarded hamburger containers and leaky automobile batteries – not to mention our grandparents’ old black-and-white TV sets.
Let’s face it, amigos, even on the simplest of levels, recycling is something we frequently talk about but seldom accomplish with any reasonable success.
Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and the homeless, I’ve found, are usually the most enthusiastic and effective recyclers to be found anywhere, but somehow I don’t think they’re ready to start handling large quantities of spent nuclear fuel.
I’m sure that some of you are thinking that we may be able to best safeguard the process by getting the military involved in the spent nuclear fuel recycling program.
Sounds good on the surface, but have you noticed that every time we close a domestic military base it takes about 10 years to clean up all the hazardous waste left behind? Hell, it takes years just to identify it…
(“Well, colonel, the container says ‘tomato sauce,’ but it has quite a glow, doesn’t it?”)
Even if we somehow find some safe, economical method to store and reprocess tons of spent nuclear fuel, where are we going to do the reprocessing?
This is, after all, America, and nobody wants a spent nuclear reprocessing operation in his or her backyard, on his block or in his state.
In fact, if you read the headlines, nobody wants much of anything within 150 miles of anywhere.
Citizens routinely turn out to protest such neighborhood eyesores as golf courses and softball diamonds. Ditto for convenience markets, archery ranges and (shudder!) apartment buildings.
Propose erecting a white picket fence in front of your modest Cecilville cottage and 150 neighbors you didn’t even know you had will be marching back and forth in front of your driveway with torches and pitchforks demanding that the monstrosity be removed.
And what are we going to do with the spent nuclear fuel that we can’t immediately reprocess? Maybe we can use it to reinforce the levees around New Orleans.
George, were you listening? C’mon, George, that was a joke. Really. Just a little harmless hyperbole. George? Come back here right now! George?!
Originally published February 26, 2006