Friday, July 2, 2010

Jonah Goldberg says, "Who Cares about 10,000 years from Now" re Yucca Mountain"

His contention is will it go bad in  50 years? or when.  From his Goldberg File (newsletter) he says:
Yuccan't Take the Nukes Out of Yucca
First of all, the science is settled: You can't be 20 on Yucca Mountain. Oh wait, wrong mountain. On Yucca Mountain, you can't be 10,000. Or something like that.
I bring this up because there's news on the Yucca front. A judicial panel held that the law requires the application process go forward even though the Obama administration has decided to kill the project. Yucca will probably still never open, but as fate would have it, the Yucca process has a half-life all its own.
Which brings me back to this 10,000 years thing. I'm not going to get deep in the weeds on Yucca mountain (where I've been and reported from). Suffice it to say, a strange coalition of Nevada tourism officials, nimbyers, casino owners, national environmental groups, the Democratic party, and American liberals generally all conspired to kill Yucca Mountain. I don't think all of the arguments against Yucca are idiotic, but many of them are for a simple reason: Who the Hell cares if it will work 10,000 years from now?
Much of the debate over Yucca Mountain has revolved around this absolutely batty issue. Here's how I put it in the magazine eight years ago:
Seriously: Critics of constructing a subterranean repository for nuclear waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain argue that if the fictional Lothar decides to live in this godforsaken patch of desert 100 centuries from now, he must not be exposed to more radiation per year than you or I receive from a single chest x-ray. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agree: Their minimum standard is for containment of the waste for no less than 10,000 years -- at which point, even if the waste did seep into the groundwater and make its way back into the environment, its radioactivity would have decayed enough to be safe.
But here's the thing: Who cares whether it will be safe 10,000 years from now? The question is: Would it be safe 50 years from now? A hundred years from now? Five hundred years from now? And the answers to all of these questions is: Yes. Perfectly safe? No, of course not. But nuclear waste is not perfectly safe in the dozens of messy stockpiles scattered across the U.S. now. Does anyone doubt that, a century from now, we'll be unable to fix this stuff? We can recycle some of it now. All we need Yucca Mountain for is to leapfrog our current ignorance. In 10,000 years, we'll either all be dead (well, you folks will be dead -- my un-frozen head will be doing just fine) or we'll consider radiation sickness one of those ancient problems, like the mercury poisoning that once gave us "mad hatters" and Helen Thomas.
Meanwhile, there are serious people who think the Yucca project was ill-conceived from the start because the waste won't be safe for a million years. A million years! In a million years, humans will have giant foreheads shaped like Jennifer Lopez's ass and we'll be able to turn plutonium into Nutter Butter with our minds. We won't even be on earth; we'll have leased it out to super-intelligent bees -- and even they won't be worried about Yucca Mountain.
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