The Week That Was
February 26, 2000


We bring you an abbreviated report of a panel discussion from a recent meeting of the American Nuclear Society, dealing with the inadequacy of the LNT (linear-no-threshold) hypothesis.


The Clinton Administration repeated its threat to veto legislation establishing a permanent disposal site in Nevada for spent fuel from nuclear power plants: 40,000 metric tons of highly radioactive fuel rods, now stored at 103 commercial nuclear power plants across the country. Until the permanent depository is built inside Yucca Mountain, located about 90 miles from Las Vegas, the legislation would allow the waste to be stored temporarily above ground at the site. The Administration opposes the legislation because it would authorize the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, instead of the Environmental Protection Agency, to set maximum radiation standards for a permanent waste site. And we all know why that is: EPA has set virtually impossible radiation limits based on the outdated LNT hypothesis.

In any case, we at SEPP have been opposed to an underground permanent repository for spent fuel. Instead, we have argued for continued on-site storage at the reactor sites for the next few decades, with the option of reprocessing whenever economic conditions permit. [See op-ed in Wall Street Journal 3/29/85; "...spent nuclear fuel should be considered a valuable resource not waste..."].  By now, the nuclear plants (i.e. rate payers) have paid the government $16 billion, and have nothing to show for it except a lot of studies. Do you think the money will ever be returned? Do you believe in the tooth fairy….


TWTW does have a knowledgeable audience. We have been informed that the report to which Matthew Wald refers in his NYT article (of Jan 29) is available on the Government Accountability Project (GAP) website. It says that the excess cancers come from about 40,000 chemicals and nuclear materials. It also says that the only evidence of radiation-induced cancer is among small populations (<5 people) and for only the highest exposures in the study. The draft report states that most of those 40,000 chemicals haven't been studied at all. DOE Secretary Richardson's statement, if correctly quoted by Wald, is not based on information in the draft report.

Against considerable opposition from environmental groups and many politicians, MOX (mixed oxide) nuclear fuel, manufactured with the inclusion of weapons-grade plutonium from Los Alamos, arrived safely at the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. AECL will use the fuel in its heavy-water research reactor to determine if military plutonium can be burned in commercial Canadian CANDU power reactors. As reported by Electricity Daily, the project is the brainchild of Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who has touted it as a "nuclear non-proliferation" initiative since the Moscow summit of G-8 leaders in 1996. Canada eventually plans to buy, burn up, and thereby eliminate Russian plutonium in its commercial reactors. Sounds OK to us....


Well, the January data are in and they show that it was the fourth coldest month down under in the last 21 years, and this time the NH seems to have crept below the mean too. Globally, January 2000 was the 6th coldest month in the MSU record, only beaten by the months immediately following Pinatubo. It'll be very exciting to see what happens in the months to come. Will the NH stay below the mean or will it bounce back? A few more months of La Niña, and the SH will have experienced the coldest 12-month period in 21 years. We can't wait for Bill Stevens to broadcast the good news in the NY Times….


The manager of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District is quoted [Science 286, p.2280, 1999] as saying: "This year we installed [photovoltaic] systems at $5.30 a watt." You may remember our story in 1999. With the present price of PV cells at $5 a peak watt, he doesn't explain how he gets the installation and systems components for only 30 cents. But never mind that. What about the claimed production cost of 16 to 18 cents per kWh (which is nearly 10 times that of conventional energy)? It needs a trouble-free life of at least 20 years and zero interest. Good luck to you SMUD, and may you have sunny weather and no snow for the next 20 years!

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