Spent fuels and the future

In "Our View: Dealing with the aftermath," there are several misstatements regarding spent fuel generated at Diablo Canyon Power Plant. Editors wrote:

"The majority of the nation’s spent commercial nuclear waste goes deep beneath Yucca Mountain 80 miles outside of Las Vegas.” The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository never opened, after federal funding was cut off in 2011.

"There really is no solution to nuclear power plant waste, some of which will decay into a harmless state in hours, while other materials can take up to 25,000 years to reach safe levels.”

Though “safe-level" estimates in popular culture vary anywhere from 20,000 to 7 million years, all are invented. Spent fuel will indeed remain dangerous for several hundred years until it decays to levels beneath the background radiation of the soil you walk upon every day. Of the various radioactive elements produced inside a nuclear reactor, the most dangerous are the ones that decay the fastest. Plutonium-239, with a half-life of 24,000 years, is safe enough to hold in your hand, It will be slightly warm, and unexpectedly heavy.

Unlikely that spent fuel will stay in storage for long, however — it's too valuable. The spent fuel stored in canisters at Diablo Canyon would be capable of generating 900 years of carbon-free electricity in an advanced "fast" reactor.

"In other words, there really is no solution to the problem of storing nuclear fuel waste.”

Storing spent fuel safely hasn't been a problem for half a century — no casualties, no harm to humans, plants or animals.

The more time we waste dwelling on dangerous myths generated by environmental fear factories, the farther we set ourselves back in the fight against climate change, a danger of incalculably higher risk to humans and species diversity. There's no time to lose.

Carl Wurtz


Californians for Green Nuclear Power

More wells, more risks

A recent letter in the Times touted the wonderful history and benefits of oil development in the Cat Canyon area.

The writer criticized the “few” opponents of the proposed extreme extraction projects in the canyon, which will triple the number of producing wells there. He also notes the “micromanagement” of the oil industry by several agencies.

To top it off, the writer claims there has been no groundwater contamination by oil operations in the 100 years of production in the area. These three criticisms would be very impressive — if they were accurate.

I’ve attended several gatherings in Santa Maria where 50 to 150 unpaid volunteers took off work to attend hearing to oppose the above dangerous oil projects. Another similar number would have come if they could have managed it. Several thousand folks stuck their necks out and signed several petitions against the recent extreme-extraction proposal in Cat Canyon.

As a health inspector, I’ve inspected dozens of these facilities over the years and rarely have I seen much strict enforcement, let alone micromanagement. Most regulators I encountered did not want to disrupt oil operations, and tread pretty lightly during inspections.

Finally, the writer is flat wrong about groundwater pollution by oil. Recent federal studies of current North County oil production have found groundwater contamination by nearby oil extraction activities. The oil industry’s self-serving groundwater studies don’t look hard enough and miss pollution that other studies find.

Let’s get the facts straight before we allow further poisoning of our precious water supply by new dangerous oil operations.

Larry Bishop


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