In response to Rick Frommer’s letter blaming South Carolina Democrats for failure of a private nuclear waste recycling venture at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River site, I don’t think it matters which party controlled the state.
I’m confident the U.S. public would not support allowing private corporations to handle and process radioactive nuclear waste that will still be deadly thousands of years from now. Not when that waste could be disposed or dumped secretly or repurposed for a weapon. The public wouldn’t vote for that. Not with a general safety record showing 1,400 energy company pipeline spills and accidents in the U.S. from 2010 to 2013. Not when 80 percent of these leaks are discovered by local residents and not the careless companies that operate the pipelines.
Not after the 2013 rupture of Exxon Mobil’s Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower, Ark., that dumped 7,000 barrels of tar-sand oil into the backyards of 22 homes in a quiet subdivision. The failed pipeline was 20 inches in diameter and was buried just 2 feet underground behind these homes. No one told the homeowners of the risk.
Not after the Exxon Valdez incident that ruined Prince William Sound and Exxon’s stonewalling on financial compensation for Alaskan fishermen whose livelihood was directly affected. Not after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig failed in the Gulf Of Mexico, resulting in the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history. The Deepwater Horizon disaster killed 11 people. It was caused by engineering failures and criminal short-cutting of safety protocols. This resulted in a gas leak, an explosion, a fire, and an uncontrolled release of crude oil that continued for 87 days.
This disaster happened even though the company was using state-of-the-art engineering and safety technology. It also revealed existing corporate remediation and cleanup technology had not been significantly improved since the 1950s.
More than three years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, scientists suggest it may be responsible for continuous and unstoppable oil seepage from the sea floor adjacent to the drilling location. Economic and ecological damage from the Deepwater Horizon disaster is incalculable, but BP has paid out $42.2 billion in fines and payments to a remediation fund. Of course, both Exxon and BP pass these costs directly on to consumers as a business expense.
I fear the cost in dollars and human lives these corporations might pass on to us when the potential failure involves nuclear waste that could produce an American Chernobyl. History shows when profit is a factor, rules, bookkeeping and diligence often go out the window.
In my neighborhood, I witness criminal behavior of recycling subcontractors who profit by dumping car and truck tires in empty lots, so I know the nature of the beast when it comes to corporate behavior. Tires and oil are bad enough. We must draw the line at nuclear waste.
The downside risk that could potentially exist for thousands of years is unacceptable, and this would be true regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans are running the show.