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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Up and atom out of Walter Reed

The famed Walter Reed Army Medical Center met the blade of BRAC (Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission) this month, meaning it could be shuttered as part of a multi-year review, restructuring and redeployment of military assets around the world.

What many fellow Washingtonians don't know is that Walter Reed is home to a nuclear reactor -- yes, it was closed and sealed, but only a few years ago. Mayor Anthony Williams expressed real concern earlier this month about Walter Reed's potentially toxic legacy to the District should the Pentagon really close the facility down. He's right.

For those of you considering home-buying in the northern reaches of the District in a lastgasp bid to stay ahead of the city's ridiculous housing market, be warned.

6 Comments:

Blogger strategery4 said...

Oh, come on. For all the whining about nuclear waste has it been shown to cause any actual -- rather than theoretical -- harm? Stop watching The China Syndrome or reading 25-year old dispatches from Three Mile Island.

And by the way, who is it who is shamelessly opposing the nuclear waste storage facility? None other Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Keep that in mind next time you are whining about nuclear waste in your backyard.

7/28/2005 10:43 PM  
Blogger cornhuskerblogger said...

whining about nuclear waste in my backyard? really?

if it's just a bunch of sugar drops and rainbows, how about we store it in your backyard? i think the shameless opposition to nuclear waste storage by Reid is fueled by two things: the very real parochial/reelection issues of a senator from Nevada; and the very real issues of safety-test rigging and document forgery that have accompanied the ongoing Yucca Mountain development.

7/29/2005 7:30 AM  
Anonymous bu$h ate my baby said...

Safety-test rigging and document forgery? I hadn't heard about either. Do you have a link? And if those are very real issues, then whey is it shameless opposition by Reid?

7/29/2005 1:25 PM  
Blogger cornhuskerblogger said...

BushAteMyBaby: here's a little abstract on the matter. Consider that this might be the most expensive hole ever dug (including Boston's big dig) and this one might not ever get filled. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0616FA3E580C728EDDAE0894DD404482

7/29/2005 1:46 PM  
Anonymous bu$h ate my baby said...

Interesting. I found the full article:

Matthew L. Wald, New York Times
07/21/2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/21/politics/21denver.html

The House subcommittee that is investigating falsification of research at the government project to bury nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada issued a subpoena to the Energy Department on Wednesday.
In their effort to clarify whether the falsification made the work unreliable, Congressional staff members said they were seeking more technical studies, as well as organizational charts and lists of acronyms. In a dispute that has lasted more than three months, the Energy Department has resisted, and department officials have complained about the committee's earlier release of e-mail messages detailing the falsifications.

In those e-mail messages government workers talked about manipulating their work to meet quality-assurance standards.

Representative Jon Porter, Republican of Nevada, who is chairman of the Subcommittee on the Federal Work Force of the Government Reform Committee, said in a statement, "I will not be deterred by the lack of responsiveness, and remain committed to pursuing and finishing what we began, a thorough and complete investigation of the safety behind the Yucca Mountain project."

A spokesman for the Energy Department, Craig Stevens, said the department had offered to let committee members see the documents, but not to have copies.

"All the documents, everything the chairman has asked for, has been here for him to come down and seek, as well as any member of the committee or staff, to view and take notes on," Mr. Stevens said.

He noted that the department was eight blocks from Capitol Hill.

In a letter to the committee, the department's acting general counsel, Eric J. Fygi, said that the Energy Department would eventually submit much of the material requested to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to apply for a license, but that it could be subject to attorney-client privilege. A department spokesman said the decision about what could be made public was up to the regulatory commission.

But at the regulatory commission, a spokeswoman, Sue Gagner, said the initial decision to keep material secret would come from the Energy Department. The department could make a list of documents it did not want to disclose, Ms. Gagner said, and if some party to the licensing hearings, like the State of Nevada, wanted to see them, the issue would be decided by regulatory commission hearing officer.

Mr. Stevens of the Energy Department then said that the department wanted to assure the confidentiality of whistle-blowers who had made accusations under promise of anonymity.

He added, "The department has made every effort to provide the information the congressman has requested while ensuring that the documents are handled in a way that does not impair the department's ability to carry out its responsibility under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act."

The Yucca Mountain repository is already far behind schedule; it was supposed to begin accepting waste in 1998 but seems unlikely to do so for many years.

This is a financial problem for the Energy Department because it signed contracts with the companies that run nuclear reactors, promising to take the wastes in exchange for a payment for each kilowatt-hour generated in a reactor.

Now the reactor owners are suing for billions of dollars. But the department is not yet ready to file an application for a license to operate the repository.

The heart of the issue is government calculations about how fast radioactive material would dissolve into rainwater, percolate through the rock and then travel outside the boundaries of the repository, which is about 100 miles from Las Vegas.

Under the system set up by Congress to develop a burial place for radioactive waste, the Energy Department is supposed to conduct a scientific study and then apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license, and persuade the commission that the rate of travel is slow enough so that no one will be exposed to illegal amounts of radiation during the period when regulations apply.

The government has spent more than $6 billion looking for a place to bury nuclear waste.

7/29/2005 2:21 PM  
Blogger strategery4 said...

Isn't the underlying issue with Yucca Mountiain whether the gov't has to show it's safe forever or only for 10,000 years? That is, I thought the current dispute was whether the legislation required safety only for 10,000 years (which was the standard the Energy Dep't had been using, with or without fudged numbers) or until infinity.

Do these people have no faith in technological progress? Is it not likely that in, oh, maybe the next 1,000 or 2,000 years we'll come up with a means for dealing with whatever problems Yucca develops?

More broadly, if we want to reduce our use of oil for environmental and strategic reasons, isn't nuclear the best way to go? Clearly it's not cost-effective now at full prices -- so let's subsidize the shit out of it. Should be something the greenies and the neocons can get together on (thus isolating the craven pro-Haliburton faction). And yet we're holding things up over this?

Stardate 2005: These earthings appear highly illogical. Beam me up, Scotty!

7/30/2005 12:30 AM  

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