Nuclear waste is the kind of problem that goes away the longer we ignore it, jokes noted scientist
BERKELEY, California, May 14, 2010. In the United States, with 70% of all electricity generated by non-fossil fuels coming from nuclear power, and 30 new nuclear plants being planned, fears over storage of toxic wastes are back stronger than ever.
“I enjoy those problems,” says fusion specialist Dr. Edward Morse, UC Berkeley Department of Nuclear Engineering, “and if you ignore them long enough they go away.” Dr. Morse contends problems storing toxic wastes are not a concern when comparing clean nuclear to other energy sources. “Clean coal doesn’t exist,” he said. Then Morse pointed to the current catastrophic oil spill by British Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast, and recent coal mine disasters, as only the latest examples of using fuels more dangerous than nuclear. “Nuclear power has an unblemished record. No one has ever been killed in commercial nuclear power operations in this country,” he pointed out.
Dr. Morse spoke from his office at the University by phone on the science news radio network program, the Promise of Tomorrow with Colonel Mason, now archived where his interview can be heard online.
Under hard questioning, Morse was pressed about the 53 million gallons of radioactive waste being stored at the Hanford, Washington, nuclear reservation that so far has leached over a million gallons into the desert. Morse replied that we are comparing “apples and oranges,” saying that is legacy military waste, has nothing to do with nuclear power plants, is the US government’s obligation to dispose of, and will probably be made into glass rods or buried in salt to make it stable. Morse said he regretted President Obama gave in to Nevada senator Harry Reed and killed the Yucca Mountain project. But he admitted being uncomfortable putting waste underground anyway, saying he likes it better on the surface where we can keep an eye on it.
That prompted the question about terrorists someday getting control of waste and making a bomb, but Morse said that isn’t a concern because it is nearly impossible to make a bomb from nuclear waste. But it is working the other way around, Morse said, deactivated Soviet warheads with weapons grade plutonium are being used to generate electricity in Europe.