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Senate Bill 34 - storing nuclear waste in West Kentucky - Nuts

Senate Bill 34 is sponsored by two western Kentucky lawmakers, Bob Leeper of Paducah and Ken Winters of Murray. The bill changes current law in Kentucky from disposal of “high level nuclear wastes” to storage. It turns over to the Kentucky Public Service Commission authority to decide if the plan for storage complies with US regulatory law.

Let me say with nothing but love for the Honorable Gentlemen from the Purchase, the idea is nuts.

It was nuts before nuclear plants started melting down in Japan.

It was nuts before the ice storm shut down power in this region for days. It was nuts before the Kentucky Public Service Commission so aggravated the Kentucky Legislature that a bill was introduced to make it an elected body.

It is obviously, certifiably, incredibly, nuts now.

Paducah was known as the Nuclear City during the Cold War. Thousands of workers help construct the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Thousands of workers made and are still making living wages working at the Plant. It is one of the best employers in the region. So we can understand why Senator Bob Leeper is in favor of anything that helps the Plant.
 
Conversely, the clean up costs for disposing of nuclear wastes at the Plant is costing millions of taxpayer dollars. Clean up is anticipated to go on until 2032,  another twenty years.

James Bruggers, wrote in the February 14, 2011 edition of the Courier Journal: PADUCAH, Ky. — The “moon suits” and radioactivity monitors that workers wear while decontaminating long-idle buildings speak to the dangers that remain at the nuclear fuel factory outside Paducah.

And the worries about radiation, toxic gases in old pipes, and asbestos in building materials extend beyond the 5.5-square-mile Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant property.

“We all have health problems,” said Ronald Lamb, who lives two miles from the compound, which has been on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list of most toxic places since 1994. “That’s just part of living next to a place like this.” Tight budgets threaten pace of Paducah nuclear fuel plant,

Health problems at the Plant began back in the 1950’s when workers were exposed to beryllium during construction. Men and women that Bill Clinton called “Cold War warriors” died years later of cancers caused by exposure. Private industry that, callously or ignorantly or both, exposed workers to agents that caused their deaths are long gone. The tab for injured workers is being picked up by – drum roll here – the US taxpayer.

That tab will never be paid in full because the rules for recovery were made so wacky during the Bush administration that many injured workeJennifer Rukavinars couldn’t even apply for benefits. Workers or their survivors are required to produce a living breathing witness to their employment at the Plant. That’s in addition to the government already having their work histories. Try finding a co-worker fifty years after the job ends.

It would be bad enough if Senate Bill 34 was proposed by lawmakers from other parts of the Commonwealth. It’s worse that lawmakers who represent the most seismically active region east of the San Andreas Fault propose it. The 200th anniversary of the largest earthquake to hit America in recorded history is this year.  Surely two well educated men like Doctors Leeper and Winters have not forgotten the Great Quake?

Seismologists, geologists and planners haven’t. According to Jennifer Rukavina, meteorologist at WPSD Channel 6, there's a 7-10% chance of a 7+ earthquake along the New Madrid fault in the next fifty years.  Chances of a quake at 6 or below in the next 50 years?  25-40%. That’s the prediction of geologists in Memphis studying the fault.
The Sierra Club and other environmentalists have many reasons for opposing nuclear energy. After their first objection of nuclear terrorism, the second reason is disposal of nuclear waste. 

Watching the meltdown of a nuclear facility in Japan should remind us all that nuclear energy may have a place in US energy plans.  That place is not in West Kentucky.

Senate Bill 34 is languishing in a House Committee. It's not the first time this bill has been introduced. We can only hope it will be the last.

Because it is nuts.

 


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