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Dirty Energy & FuelHealth

Uranium Cleanup in Ohio Costs the Taxpayer Billions

Just another reason why uranium isn’t the way to go, it costs the taxpayer way too much money for what he receives.

Take the former Fernald Feed Materials Production Center at Fernald, Ohio, that’s about 20 miles northwest of Cincinnati.  The former uranium processing site opened in complete secrecy during the Cold War in 1951.  The plant fabricated uranium fuel cores for the U.S. nuclear weapons production complex until 1989, when it shut the doors.

Releases from the plant exposed residents of the small community of Fernald to radon, soluble and insoluble forms of uranium and various chemicals, both in groundwater and from blowing dust.  The health consequences to residents and former workers are still being evaluated.

True, the Cold War was settled peacefully, with jangled nerves and a plethora of nuclear weapons as a threat to total annihilation of anyone who attacks our shores.  But the taxpayers who worked at and lived near the plant were exposed to dangerous elements, as described above.  Some payoff, especially for the 50 years it took to get the mess cleaned up.

How much did it cost, you ask?  Well, the Energy Department has finished the removal of 1.5 million tons of waste at a cost of $4.4 billion.  And, after 22 years, remember that number, 22 years, the feds have agreed to pay $13.7 million settlement over contaminated ground water at the site.

True, this isn’t about a nuclear power generating station, it’s about nuclear energy and the stuff that makes it run, uranium.  Once disturbed from it’s natural state, entered into the mainstream of American life, it can be dangerous at best.

Don’t forget, this is only one of maybe a hundred or more sites where mighty uranium has been mined, processed, fabricated or used in some way that has yet to be cleaned up and restored.  Nuclear isn’t clean, it’s dirty, invasive and dangerous, but we’ve got it and there’s no way to change it.

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Image:   www.lm.doe.gov/…/ fernald_orig/Future/flu.htm

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3 comments
  1. red craig

    Save your typing fingers, Kestrel. Max and his clones beat up on the weapons program because they can’t find anything to criticize about nuclear energy.

    What’s the difference? Weapons costs were paid out of the defense budget. One group, probably including Max, demanded that the defense budget be cut. Another group wanted more weapons systems. The only people who wanted the job done right were the people charged with doing the work, and no one listened to them, especially not the Maxes.

    In contrast, nuclear energy’s costs are covered up front. For example, the nuclear waste fund has billions of dollars waiting to be spent. All that’s holding it up is anti-nuke pressure from political groups like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Public Citizen.

    Max doesn’t care. He’ll never admit he was wrong.

  2. Jim47

    Kestrel, insults are not the way to make your point. I’ve disagreed with Max for a while on this topic, but we’ve managed to carry on a reasonable discussion without resorting to insults. Certainly, I’ve criticized him on a point or two, but I don’t think I’ve ever called him an idiot. I don’t believe that he is; he makes some good points. Please stick to the points you wish to make, and leave it at that.

    OK, Max, at least you were honest about this not being about a nuclear power station. And you are correct; nuclear clean-up can be expensive and dirty. But I still don’t see why you think that this is a reason to deep-six nuclear power production. Look at the very facts that you presented: built in 1951, in secrecy; used solely for weapons production. Having lived near several Air Force Bases, I know first-hand how sloppy the U.S. Military is about on-site, at-that-time clean-up of *anything*. I was slightly involved in the conversion of Norton AFB, in San Bernardino, CA, into a civilian airport. I was part of a crew that was charged with inventorying old supplies stockpiles, some of which were near old waste disposal areas. In a couple of spots, we were not allowed to stay for more than a half-hour or so (can’t remember exactly; this was 20+ years ago), as there were a number of toxic chemicals which had been poured into open pits, or dumped into tanks which were leaking. Clean-up on this stuff was several years down the line. And to my knowledge, Norton had very little, if anything, to do with nuclear weapons; it was mostly a supply and logistics base. But this is the the way that the military has generally dealt with waste: out of sight, out of mind. Find a hole away from anything else and dump the stuff in the hole. If you can’t find a hole, dig one.

    On a side note, let me mention Oxnard AFB, which is just a few miles from our home. It was decommissioned in 1969 after a decade of housing of tactical nuclear weapons, which were carried on F-101B Voodoos. Granted, this was not a production facility, but it was a military base for more than 20 years. It took nearly another decade after it was closed before all the legal wrangling ended that allowed the facility to become a general use airport. The clean-up was very small, and there is no residual chemical or nuclear waste on-site nor in the ground-water, which is monitored strenuously, being a major source of water for both agriculture and human use. One cannot make a strict one-to-one comparison, but I bring this up to show that things *can* be done better than this one site in Ohio.

    Which is my main point, and always has been. You cannot compare what started in 1951 with what we can do now. We have the technology and engineering skills to prevent what happened 40-50-60 years ago. The French have been doing it for decades, with no problems. And believe me, if there were problems in France, we would know about it, as fussy as the French are. They scream and whine about every little thing; they’d be hollering if there was any trouble with their nuclear plants. I do not want to see the messes of the past any more than you do, Max. I know that they can be avoided and prevented. You persist in believing that they cannot, or at best, will not, due to the natural propensity of Humans to Screw Things Up. I won’t argue with you on that last point; humans do a great job of ignoring safety warnings and cutting corners. So let’s make sure that those corners aren’t cut.

  3. Kestrel

    Blah Blah Blah…. Yet another idiot whining about nuclear energy. Tell me Max, whats the alternative? How else are we going to produce the amount of energy required? Oh! Thats Right! We need to spread the magic unicorn dust and energy fairies will pop into existence and each of them will give us sugar cookies, and 4500 MW of power.

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