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[cdn-nucl-l] Albuquerque is up in arms about nuclear waste shipments
Silver City Daily press - Silver City New Mexico
Last Updated: Jul 29th, 2004 - 18:05:32
Inside the Capitol
Jay Miller - Syndicated Columnist
Jul 29, 2004, 18:04
SANTA FE - Albuquerque is up in arms about nuclear waste shipments starting
up again through its fair city. Somehow, Albuquerque is special and
shouldn't have to endure what many other communities have dealt with for
They say they are bigger than the rest of us so more people are at risk.
They fail to note that much of that growth was due to nuclear energy.
Actually, there are numerous factors opponents of nuclear waste shipments
fail to recognize.
One of those factors is that no one has ever suffered harm as a result of a
mishap - or any other shipment of nuclear material.
And that brings up a very major point. Nuclear materials have been carted
around this nation for more than 60 years now - without anyone being hurt
and without anyone complaining. Of course, the reason no one complained is
that, wisely, the government didn't talk about the shipments going to Los
Alamos and other nuclear labs, as it has about the shipment of nuclear
If all those shipments going to Los Alamos over the years had been revealed,
the Soviet Union likely would have been the only nuclear superpower and no
telling where we would be now - speaking Russian, maybe. Anti-nuke
protesters would have had the trucks bottled up just like they did with the
WIPP trucks for so many years.
It was 10 years ago that federal Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary revealed
that as many as 140 plutonium shipments a year had been trucked to Los
Alamos during the previous half century. O'Leary didn't run her department
very well, but one thing she did bring to it was some real candor about how
much of the government's withheld information was really in the national
Nuclear activists were furious at O'Leary's revelation. At a public meeting
in Santa Fe, many of them expressed outrage at being kept in the dark for so
long. Evidently, the anti-nuke folks thought scientists were growing
plutonium up on The Hill.
Since that time, 25 to 50 shipments of plutonium a year have been going up
the hill, about 285 pounds of plutonium a year. Much of that material was in
the form of plutonium "pits," the radioactive metal sphere at the heart of
The pits were subjected to performance and aging tests under the
government's pit surveillance program. After testing, they were shipped out
again, mostly to the Rocky Flats plant near Denver. When it closed, some of
the pit making was shifted to Los Alamos.
We aren't sure exactly how much of the pit making was done there, or whether
it was just experimental modifications being made on the pits. The
government was rather secretive about that because it had learned its lesson
with the waste disposal issue not to give anti-nuke protesters too big a
But the point is all the fuss about pit making at Los Alamos because these
highly radioactive cores of nuclear bombs had long been worked on up there
and they had long been transported in and out.
So it is hard to understand how people can get so upset about shipments of
gloves, rags and lab coats that have been exposed to contamination, when
they realize that more powerful stuff is sneaking past them all the time.
Since Secretary O'Leary's disclosure a decade ago, protesters seem to have
forgotten about the material traveling to our national labs. So it is
amusing to consider the concerned citizens, who want to know exactly when
nuclear waste shipments will be traveling near them, blithely passing
unmarked trucks full of plutonium on their way to the health food store.
Maybe what they should be even more worried about is the hazardous material,
such as gasoline, that travels our highways and passes through all
communities every day that is not monitored at all like our nuclear waste
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