Letters to the Editor

Nuclear waste must be dealt with

In response to The Tribune editorial of Sunday, March 3, “Nuclear storage: An issue too long on back burner,” San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace offers these comments.

We thank The Tribune for bringing to public attention the immensely complex problem of long-term storage of highly radioactive waste. More than 2,000 metric tons are currently stored at Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, with more being generated each day.

The reasons for abandoning Yucca Mountain as a site for long-term storage were safety related. Geologists discovered that after years of storage, radioactive toxins would seep through the permeable soil structure into the Colorado River watershed, the source of drinking and agricultural water for all of the Southwest United States. The structure of the underground soil does not meet criteria for storing radioactive wastes that will be lethal for 250,000 years.

Now, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking “consent-based” siting for the waste, i.e. asking a community to accept the lethal wastes for a considerable sum of money. Most likely, that site will be on impoverished Native American land that has already been contaminated and desecrated by uranium mining and milling.

The implementation of either an interim or long-term storage facility involves the transportation of the lethally radioactive fuel rods on our roads and railways — posing threats to those along the routes. And this desperate search for a storage site ignores the obvious step of avoiding worsening the problem by shutting down the source of the poison — the 104 nuclear reactors that are daily adding to the more than 70,000 metric tons of waste that has already been generated.

Forty years ago, when San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace first filed objections to operating a nuclear plant on our beautiful but earthquake fault-riddled coastline, we pointed out to the NRC that there was no plan to safely store the radioactive waste. The NRC figuratively patted us on the head, reassuring us that they had “confidence” that there would be a place for the waste when it was needed.

Forty years later, Mothers for Peace still does not share that confidence and advocates that the NRC do the following: Shut down Diablo Canyon and begin the decommissioning process; deny license renewal; move the radioactive fuel rods out of the densely packed storage pools into dry casks; and closely monitor the poisonous nuclear waste.

The NRC’s fundamental responsibility is to provide for public safety for the present generation and for a thousand generations to follow. Its proposal to transport radioactive wastes on our byways while allowing more toxic poisons to be generated only perpetuates the problem. There is no perfect solution to this problem, but at the very least we must stop generating the wastes and store existing wastes on site in the most robust dry casks available.

Linda Seeley is a spokesperson for San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace.