To the Editor:
It was theoretically possible that a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami might hit Japan. Engineers did not and do not design for theoretical possibilities. Unfortunately, a reality surfaced resulting in an unplanned nuclear event. A 9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi power plant causing engineer-designed fail-safe systems to fail.
There are no fail-safe systems designed or in place for any of America’s 121 temporary nuclear waste storage sites located in the 39 states that accumulate spent nuclear fuel and other radioactive waste material. It is theoretically possible that a tornado might touch down at one of these locations causing an unplanned nuclear event. To avoid a potential catastrophe, this nuclear waste must be permanently stored.
A fee of one mill, that’s one tenth of one penny per kilowatt-hour of nuclear-generated electricity is collected specifically to permanently store nuclear waste. It’s included in your electric bill. Approximately $750 million is accumulated annually. The current total in the government’s specific, unique bank account for permanently storing nuclear waste is close to $25 billion, growing, and waiting to be spent by the Department of Energy (DOE). DOE, however, cannot spend the money without Congressional authorization.
Congress needs to take action to permanently store the 60,000 metric tons of U.S. commercial, used nuclear fuel accumulated over the past 35 years, as well as the 13,000 metric tons the U.S. government has generated. Permanently storing old nuclear waste should be a fait accompli before Congress embarks on any new nuclear program. If the Congress can’t demonstrate that it is taking care of today’s nuclear waste, how can it assure the American people that tomorrow’s new nuclear generated waste can be adequately protected?
I cannot overstate the need for a permanent nuclear repository in America.