Senator Leeper and Senator Winters may be forgiven for having forgotten Kentucky’s last foray into nuclear storage- a lil ole spot in Fleming County called
The Maxey Flat Nuclear Disposal site is located in eastern Kentucky near Hillsboro in Fleming County. From 1963 to 1977, the State, under authorities granted by the U.S. Government, licensed private operators to dispose of low-level radioactive wastes from military ships and facilities, hospitals, universities, and corporations in landfill facilities on the property.
An estimated five million cubic feet of material were disposed of at the site. Some highly radioactive wastes were included with the lower-level radioactive wastes. Approximately 533,000 pounds of source material consisting of uranium and thorium or ores containing them; 2.5 megacuries of by-product materials; and 950 pounds of special nuclear material including plutonium and enriched uranium were buried in an area known as the Restricted Area.
During the operation of the facility, workers capped each disposal trench with a layer of soil after it was filled, but the earth eventually collapsed into the ditches. Water collected in the trenches, leaching radionuclides into the surrounding environment. An approximately 40-acre Restricted Area is situated entirely on top of the flats; the fenced and patrolled Restricted Area encompasses the disposal trenches, "hot wells" (sealed concrete pipes containing plutonium and uranium), waste storage buildings, and an evaporator facility. Including the acquired Buffer Zone properties, the site occupies 900 acres.
Threats and Contaminants -Ground water, surface water, and soils area contaminated with heavy metals, radioactive compounds, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pesticides, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Senator Leeper and Senator Winters, conservatives when it comes to government spending, should not forget that the cleanup at Maxey Flat. Clean up is estimated to cost the US taxpayer $60 million dollars and is taking several decades.
Storage of radioactive materials is at the heart of Senator Leeper and Winters Senate Bill 26. The bill changes current law from disposal of nuclear waste to “storage of high level nuclear waste”. Storage means “retention of high-level nuclear waste, spent nuclear fuel, or transuranic waste with the intent to recover the waste or fuel for subsequent use, processing or disposal”.
The legislation requires the Kentucky Public Service Commission to decide whether nuclear plants would require disposal in “low level nuclear waste disposal sites in Kentucky.” Since the bill is sponsored by West Kentucky legislators, it is safe to assume they intend their districts to be the storage sites.
Short term storage has been under discussion for years. It’s accelerated in recent months. The storage site at Yucca Mountain is no longer an option. Yucca Flats turns out to be not as geologically safe as first assumed. An undiscovered underground river runs through the site. Proposals to store nuclear wastes at 100 different locations around the country are being floated. Some experts define short term storage in as ninety years. That’s long enough for institutional memory to disappear on why the site is where it is and where it should be going. That’s long enough to damage several generations. Further, short term storage is assumed to be above ground- not inside a mountain like Yucca Flats.
Maxey Flat was an above ground nuclear waste storage site. It leaked long before ninety years went by.
Some scientists argue that above ground storage of nuclear waste makes little sense-leaking or no leaking.
“…Neither reprocessing alone nor a bunch of new, advanced reactors can eliminate the need for a permanent underground storage site.”I would say there is no possibility of avoiding geologic repository somewhere, regardless of your fuel cycle," says Ewing. Joonhong Ahn, a nuclear engineering professor at the University of California-Berkeley, agrees: "In any case, you are going to need a geologic repository." US News & World Report March 16, 2009
If Ahn is right, then why are two Kentucky senators proposing storage in their districts that have no geologic repositories, but are the nexus of the largest river system east of the Rocky Mountains, have a huge aquifer that is relied upon by millions of people for their drinking water and is near the New Madrid fault?
Can legislators in the State Capitol look into the camera and tell the public that there will be adequate oversight (unlike Maxey Flats and the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant), that mistakes won’t be made, that shortcuts won’t be taken, that there won’t be another New Madrid shake?
Can they look into the camera and tell the public that if there is an accident that they will take full responsibility for setting the sleeping dragon of nuclear waste storage in our midst?
Or will they screech “jobs, jobs, jobs” until we are deafened to all else?